A Note About the Ads

You have no doubt noticed that some of the ads here at Freethought Blogs have changed. As of Sunday, we are using a different company to provide the ads for the site, one with a much better track record than the one we were with before. And I want to explain both why this is important and offer you the opportunity to help us optimize the ads and strike an appropriate balance between revenue and user experience.

First, let me make clear why this is necessary. We just rolled out a redesign that cost about 3 times as much as it was supposed to and then, only a few weeks later, lost nearly a full month’s revenue (you may have noticed the lack of ads for several weeks, which was due to Google shutting them off because some of our bloggers had put up violent images of reactionary Muslim violence; rather than taking down that content, we have shut off the ads to those blogs entirely).

The ad revenue with the old company had gone down steadily over the last few months, while revenue for the new company has been going up. And if we hadn’t made that switch, FTB might well not be here for long. This network isn’t cheap to run and there is no alternative to having ads on the site. At the same time, we don’t want to make the user experience so annoying that they don’t come here anymore, so we’re always trying to strike the balance between revenue and readability. So, a few notes on that.

First, we’re experimenting with that slider ad you see from the left. It looks to me like it’s showing far too often right now and I’ve asked our ad provider to set it for only once or twice per day. It should click off easily and go away, but I’ve seen a few comments from people who say it’s messed up their navigation scroll bars and forced them to reload the page. That we certainly don’t want. If that is happening to you, please leave a comment and give us both the browser and operating system you’re using and the versions of each. That will help us get that fixed.

Second, the subject of autoplay ads. There is nothing I hate more than autoplay audio and we have explicitly banned such ads, but once in a while one is going to sneak through (this was a huge problem a few months ago, but is less so now). You may see ads with autoplay video, but the audio should only play if you hold your mouse over the ad. That I’m okay with, as it’s easily ignored as long as the audio doesn’t play automatically. If you see an autoplay audio ad, please use the tech support email (see link at the top of the page) and give us all the information about it you can. Don’t just say “Hey, I saw an autoplay ad.” Right click on the ad and, if you can, get any URL it forwards to. At the very least, tell us what the ad was for. Without that information, it’s impossible to track it down and get it out of the feed.

It’s going to take us a few weeks to get the ads optimized and we may be experimenting with some different types of ads, but always with a view toward striking an appropriate balance between generating necessary revenue and keeping the user experience as pleasant as possible. Even in the deep hole we’re in, I don’t want to alienate or anger our readers. But ads are a necessary evil and we can’t just get rid of them. I appreciate you all helping us tweak them to get that balance right.

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  • natashatasha

    What about pop-up ads? I find those the most annoying, especially on mobile devices where they can be incredibly image-heavy and thus chew up a lot of bandwidth.

  • carlie

    I noticed the nav. scrollbar disappearing after the left-side ad came up and closed, using Chrome on Windows 7. It didn’t happen when I then tested it in IE.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches Ed Brayton

    Natasha — We’re implementing a mobile-only ad strategy that should avoid that problem in the next week or so (it requires some coding work on our end and by the ad provider). That’s something we’ve never had before and I know it’s been annoying for mobile users. So hopefully you won’t have that problem much longer.

  • Bearded One

    With IE11 and Win 8.1 Pro I had to refresh the page a half dozen times before I could even bring up the comments section to complain! The left side scroll add kept popping up and killing my scroll bar on the right. Even the cursor and mouse wheel wouldn’t allow me to scroll.

  • oualawouzou

    I don’t know if you can share this info, but do you get revenue from views or from clicks? I tend to ignore ads altogether, but if clicking on one every once in a while is useful, I’ll make a special effort to let my thoughts be shaped by colorful images and catchy taglines.

  • diesel213

    Hi Ed,

    Just a quick note to say that I’ve been having problems with the ads on the left shifting the format of the blog off the screen. It sounds a bit like what Carlie had posted about, and I’m running Chrome/Win 8.1. Sounds like it’s a Chrome issue at large perhaps? While I’m at it, thanks for the blog, I check it daily and appreciate the work you and the other bloggers do.

  • http://omegamom.com OmegaMom

    I’m using mobile mostly now (iPhone with Newsify), and you have pop-up ads that on mobile load a whole new page. And the load is delayed, so what happens is I start reading an FTB post, the pop-up pops up, and I have to back out of the ad to get back to the post. Not a big deal, but irritating.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches Ed Brayton

    I’m using Chrome too and haven’t had any problems with it. Others have had it happen on IE, apparently.

  • Lithified Detritus

    Showing my ignorance here regarding how these ads work. I use Adblock Plus, so I don’t see the ads. Does that mean that FTB does not get paid for them? If that is the case, I think there is a way to enable ads for a particular site, which I am willing to do for the good of the cause.

  • dingojack

    Bearded One – same here.


  • Pierce R. Butler

    Running Firefox 32.0.1 on MacOSX 10.6.8 with the NoScript add-on set to “Allow all this page” for FtB (to enable ad revenue as per Lithified Detritus’s concerns @ # 9), I haven’t seen any ads here since the site update – except for a series of pop-behind ads for some sort of mortgage hustle, and those went away over a week ago.

  • magistramarla

    I’ve been seeing ads that seem to be driven by my online shopping habits – Chicos, Soma, Soft Surroundings, Blue Buffalo Dog Food, etc. That definitely works for me. Since those are companies with whom I happily spend my money, I have no problem with clicking on them to help FTB.

  • Trebuchet

    I’m disappointed that Ed didn’t mention the ad-free option. Click the link right above his picture.

  • http://adventuresinzymology.blogspot.com JJ831

    So I was going to ask, and Trebuchet @13 touched on it – but does going ad-free work better for FTB? I’m a regular reader, on multiple devices (Some with ABP or the like), and I never click on ads.

    So, was the ad-free option added to sate those with issues with as content, or because it financially works better for the blog, and as someone who see’s ad’s but doesn’t click – which is the best for the network?

    At this point, I’m happy to go ad-free, but I don’t care about the ads (minus the auto plays mentioned, but I’ve never had a problem with those here personally).

  • http://adventuresinzymology.blogspot.com JJ831

    Grrrr…. Read before I click submit..

    So, was the ad-free option added to sate those with issues with as content, or because it financially works better for the blog, and as someone who see’s ad’s but doesn’t click – which is the best for the network?

    Should Read:

    was the ad-free option added to sate those with issues with the ad content, or because it financially works better for the blog? And as someone who sees ads but does not click them– which is the best for the network?

  • Doc Bill

    No, Ed, fuck you! The new ads slide across my screen and prevent scrolling. They are awfully done technically.

    At least I could click on the pop up ad once and it would go away. The new system is awful.

  • peterh

    Ads? I got me some Adbock Plus™. Life’s bad enough without popup ads. Never see a single one of them. If they show up, I’m gone.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches Ed Brayton

    Doc Bill: Well fuck you too.

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    I’m using Firefox, and I notice everything is slower than molasses. Even basic scrolling.

  • Lonely Panda, e.s.l.

    On all but my tablet I’m using NoScript, which tends to shut out a lot of ads because no one I trust seems to want to actually serve the ad; they want to run yet another 3rd party’s script to find the ad from yet some other server. But I do value FTB, so I did sign up for the ad-free experience that I was defacto already enjoying. There may be a problem with the accounting on the ad-free subscription though; it still says “you have 365 days remaining” even though it was purchased over a month ago.

  • Onamission5

    I am still getting the left slider ad that fucks up navigation but good until I have reloaded a couple times. It comes about every three to five page clicks. IE Windows 8 here.

  • Grumpy Cthulhu (just woke up)

    Is there a way to log into FTB directly that I’m not seeing, or do I always have to go through the “Get FTB Ad-Free”-button to access my ad-free version?

  • Trebuchet

    @22: Once enrolled, you’ll be ad-free whenever you’re logged in. You do have to re-log in once in a while. A log-in on the main page would be nice, however. Currently you have to go to the commenting portion of a blog.

  • Suido

    Happily subscribed, so no need to feel bad about enabling adblocker for FTB. What ads?

  • krisrhodes

    Hey Ed-

    So, as a daily reader, and an adblock only web user, it’s difficult for me even contemplate your ads. Reading FTB on mobile is a PITA because of the ads I get. Most of what I get there is ridiculous.

    I just turned ad block off to see what it is like; and let me just say, it’s horrible. Auto play video? Nope. Pop-up? Nope.

    I know you are trying to make ends meet, but those are such big turnoffs. I am more than happy to help support FTB but it can’t happen as ad dollars via popups and autoplays.

  • eric

    I’m one of the folks who recently complained about the pop-up ads making the scroll bars disappear. I’d like to say: thumbs up, Ed! Even with the technical glitches, FTB with glitchy ads is better than no FTB at all, and I really appreciate that you’re trying to strike a balance.

    As an old fogie who grew up before computers, I’d like to say to some of our other, younger readers/poster: get the flock over it. Should you let FTB know when something with the ads is going wrong/reducing the quality of your experience? Absolutely, yes. But appreciate the fact that it’s there. Pages like these with annoying ads is still a practically amazing development from 30-40 years ago.

  • Dark Jaguar

    You’ve had popup ads on this site from day one here, it’s not new. What gets me is that the popups get triggered by such basic activity as clicking on a link or even normal text. Why can’t that coding be removed outright, so that you’re only showing ads coded into the page itself and not popping things up?

  • gAytheist

    I’d be willing to become an ad-free subscriber, but I don’t see any way to do it. I’m using Ad Blocker plus. Could it also be blocking the link that would make it possible for me to subscribe? I really value FTB and don’t want it to go away, but pop-up ads are just too annoying to be tolerated.

  • borax

    Hey ED, If I pay for no ads will that effect how much revenue the bloggers here will receive. I’d like to go ad free but I know that many of the bloggers are struggling to get by. I may not like the ads but I’ll gladly put up with them if it gives them more money. Thanks in advance.

  • celticwulf

    Ed, the biggest problem with the side ads is when you refresh comments. The ad slides in up at the top of the article, which causes the scroll bar to disappear until you can clear the ad, but since it’s a the top of the page you can’t scroll up to it in order to close it. This is using chrome on windows 7. I use ad block on other sites, but have it turned off for all FTB sites since it helps you pay the bills, and it’s always interesting seeing what I browsed last on Amazon that the ad want’s to pop in front of me 😉

  • Dave Maier

    Thank you for your attention to the autoplay audio problem, which is the only type of ad that really bugs me. Also, running Chrome on a Macbook I have had no scrolling problems.

  • abb3w

    @28, gAytheist

    I’d be willing to become an ad-free subscriber, but I don’t see any way to do it.

    There’s a Get FTB ad-free link on the upper left of most of the site pages.

    I don’t use Ad Blocker Plus myself, but Noscript informs me that there seems to be some scripting involved in the payment. (Ed might want to have the FTB webmonkey look into how far that can be minimized.) My suggestion would be to open that subscriber link in a blocker-free browser, that you only use for very limited sessions on sites which you trust for an urgent scripting need. (I reserve use of IE for that; but you could also install Opera just for that.) Once you’ve gotten your subscription, you should be able to sign in with the browser that uses your preferred ad-blocking add-on.

  • Who Cares

    I myself run Ghostery and have specifically whitelisted FTB.

    The new side bar with an add I can live with seeing that it does pull attention to it but isn’t as odious as a pop-up/under or those block the entire page adds (granted I don’t use Chrome where it eats the scrollbars).

    What I won’t do is turn of FlashBlock for an add. Might want to send that as a comment to the company you contracted for the adds.

  • Infophile

    @5 oualawouzou:

    Typically, sites get a certain amount per ad view, and a much greater amount per ad click. However, the contracts with ad companies typically forbid them from asking you to click on ads in pretty much any way (and might even forbid Ed from answering your question). Back in the early days of the internet, it wasn’t uncommon at all to see sites pleading for ad clicks, but it seems the ad agencies wised up to the fact that a lot of people were clicking just to support sites, and not due to any interest in the product, so it’s been forbidden for quite a while to plead for clicks.

    @27 DarkJaguar:

    The functionality to pop ads up on clicking somewhere on the page is a way to get around pop-up blockers, which are often turned on automatically in browsers. If a pop-up comes up on page load, it usually gets caught, but it can get around that by coming up on some user action on the page.

    @28 gyAtheist:

    Oddly, the ad-free link does seem to be blocked by adblockers (or perhaps NoScript, or something else I’m running on my work computer here). This is most likely unintentional, and it’s certainly a good idea for it to be fixed (and perhaps more prominent).

    @0 Ed:

    I believe AdBlock Plus by default allows unobtrusive ads to go through, though these do tend to pay less. If the number of people blocking ads seems to be cutting into ad revenue a lot, it might be worth looking into this option, to at least get something out of their page views.

    It also seems to be more common for people to run a flash blocker but not an adblocker as a compromise. I do this myself on my home computer, so I at least support sites somewhat, but I don’t have to deal with flash’s security holes, glitches, slowdowns, and the general extra annoyance of flash-based ads. So again, keeping ads flash-free will be able to target a larger audience. But for both of these, I’ll leave it to you to do the math on if it’s worthwhile.

  • Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    I turned off AdBlockPlus for this site, but NoScript is still blocking the ads. I’m not going to click on “allow all this page,” because I don’t need to let facebook (for example) see what I’m doing; do you have a list of the actual relevant sites that would let you get revenue for this (rather than, say, helping google track my every step)?

  • geocatherder

    In general I’m not bothered by FtB ads. I might even have clicked on one or two. I really appreciate not running the audio automatically!

    I did have some trouble with the slider yesterday, when it decided to bring up the same ad 4 times so there were 4 occupying the screen at the same time, but I figured that was just a glitch.

  • paulparnell

    My god the site has become unusable. I currently have two different autoplay ads running the same commercial put time shifted by about five seconds. Firefox slows down and then freezes.

    I know you need money and I don’t mind ads. But shit…

  • dugglebogey

    I love the site and I will never stop reading and commenting. But the ads are very annoying.

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    One of the ads or driver scripts is really, really buggy. As soon as I open a tab for Dispatches in FireFox, the Flash player that gets launched by FF starts to chew up CPU (an average of 3% on a quad-core, hyper-threaded 4Ghz box, so that’s actually a lot) and the memory goes way, way up before it crashes. It takes about 10 minutes to hit 1GB working set size, which is enormous unless you’re doing 3D rendering. I’m constantly getting errors from FF about runaway scripts, like this one: http://redir.adap.tv/redir/javascript/adaptvInfo.js:1

    Suppressing the audio on the autoplay ads is ok, but it’s clear, at least to me, that the autoplay is still causing problems, just silent ones.

    Yes, I’ve reported this through the Tech Support link.

    Sorry to say, but if this doesn’t resolve soon, I’ll have to take a hiatus from FtB.

  • http://changerofbits.blogspot.com/ changerofbits

    This is a bit of a diversion, not trying to derail from the vital role that well-functioning ads play. But if you’ve got the means and appreciate the content on FtB, consider purchasing the ad-free option. It works well and it’s cheap, $2.50 a month when you purchase a year at $30.

    Carry on fixing the ads!

  • blf

    I am in France, using Opera (usually) on Linux (always) and have essentially no problems with ads. (There is, sometimes, a pop-up, but it’s no problem to shutdown.) I have not noticed any ad-related change in behaviour.

    Having said that, it does seem many of the ads I am seeing — typically French — are “related” to my interests. Not that I will ever(?) click on garbage (née ads).

    I do hope FtB is paid by the ads company for every ad which is not clicked on and therefore useless, probably false, and presumably an annoyance. With penalties if it is “infected” with malware. That is, “you advertise on our site, so you’d better be fecking interesting to our readers, not a spammer or other criminal, and tolerable to ‘reasonable’ people.”

  • narciblog

    Personally, I would appreciate it if the ads for scams went away. I get that ads and revenue are necessary, but this is supposedly a science-friendly site. The ads I’m seeing are almost always (1) a bit of celebrity clickbait to make it look like the list of links is news, not ads, (2) a fat-burning-pill scam, (3) a testosterone-boosting-AND-fat-burning pill scam, and (4) a penny stock get rich quick scam.

  • infovore

    A problem with ads using some kind of video is that they make a browser really slow and/or unstable, especially if you open many tabs with such ads. (Subscribing is a workaround, but might not be feasible for everyone.)

    What I miss, since the redesign, is some kind of “new on FTB” list on the front page.

    What (I at least think) would be really nice is to have have links to “next/previous in FTB” in addition to the next/previous links for the individual blogs. That way I could clink on the current headline post, then follow the links until I get to a post I’ve seen before, and not miss anything by any poster.

  • teele

    HELP! I would like to get the ad-free subscription, because my daily foray to FTB is rapidly becoming a chore rather than a delight. I cannot, however, pay via PayPal. I can’t find an e-mail address where I can contact you directly, and the tech contact plainly states that it is not for questions of this nature. So, can you either give me a snail-mail address where I can send a check, or let me know how I can pay by credit card? Please? Thank you.

  • Onamission5

    Hey, Ed? I am still having issues with the left sidebar slider, in that I have to refresh the site up to three times each visit (and sometimes repeatedly during visits) before a page is functional. Also, in the last few days I have started having trouble with pop-ups that won’t allow me to close them and give an additional little “are you sure you want to leave this page? click cancel right now to get rejuvaderm!” box, neither of which will go away unless I restart my computer. Currently the ad which is doing that (can’t right click, infernal text box is in the way) is the “Celebrity Secrets” ad, but before it was one for Viagra. Doesn’t seem to matter what cookies or temp files I dump, or what security settings I use, or how many times a day I run my adware, right now, FtB is less functional for me than Patheos. :/

    And now that I have typed out my comment, I shall restart my computer to rid myself of that damned text box. Again.