By John Gruber
Plan your novel, finish your dissertation, launch a product. You need Tinderbox.
Effective Tuesday evening, I abandoned Google’s AdSense program, in favor of selling my own sponsorships. If you’ll take a look at the bottom of my sidebar, you’ll see an ad from Daring Fireball’s first sponsor: Coudal Partners’ Jewelboxing.
It’s not so much that AdSense is bad, per se, but simply that it isn’t very good for a site like Daring Fireball. The “targeted” ads selected for this site by Google’s algorithms were, much more often than not, poorly targeted. It’s my guess that the vast majority of the Google ads served at Daring Fireball were of very little interest to you, my regular readers.
In terms of revenue, it wasn’t terrible (which is I why I stuck with it for a little over a year), but it wasn’t great, either. I feel confident that — considering the size, quality, and loyalty of Daring Fireball’s readership — I should have been making more.
Thus, Daring Fireball sponsorships. Here’s the deal:
Just one ad per page.
There are only five sponsorship slots available. Thus, each active sponsor is guaranteed at least 20 percent of Daring Fireball’s page-views for the duration of the sponsorship. If there are fewer than 5 sponsors, you may get more, but I reserve the right to use empty slots for other purposes. (As of this writing, Jewelboxing is getting 100 percent of the page-views.)
Sponsorship ads are placed prominently on every page, “above the fold”. (Unlike the underneath-the-first article placement where I stashed the Google ads.)
I will only accept sponsorships for products or services that I believe will be of interest to Daring Fireball readers, and which are worth their attention.
Ads should be around 80 characters long; 100 is the upper limit.
Starting price: $200 per week; $500 for four weeks.
If you’re interested, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ad-driven web sites seldom publish their rates, apparently driven by paranoia that doing so will put them at a competitive disadvantage. This has always struck me as foolish; hiding information, especially the price, never makes people happy. If demand is low, I’ll lower the prices, if it’s high, I’ll raise them. Welcome to microeconomics.
The ads are text-only — a decision I believe is in the best interests of everyone: publisher, reader, and sponsor. All three groups for the same reason: it keeps the page design from getting junky. That’s good for me, because I don’t want this site to look like a tramp. It’s good for readers, because they don’t want to be distracted by animation, or insulted by large and/or garish ads placed directly within the article text of the page.
For those two groups, the benefits of text ads are obvious. For advertisers, I believe the benefits are equally strong, albeit perhaps not instinctively obvious. What’s essential to remember is that the web is not print, and it’s not TV. There is no such thing as an inside-front-cover spread for a web site. There’s no such thing as a 30-second spot. But on the other hand, there’s no such thing as a print ad that runs alongside every single article for a month.
The value in Daring Fireball’s sponsorships is that they’re exclusive. With just a single non-obnoxious ad per page, combined with this site’s minimal layout, that means there are only four visible elements at the top of each page: the logo, the article, the sidebar menu, and a single ad. (Five if you count my byline as a separate element.)
Most ad-driven web sites sell multiple ads per page, in different sizes. If we’re going to draw a comparison to print advertising, this practice is more analogous to the cheap, tiny ads placed in the back pages of a magazine; not the front pages where the full-page ads go. (NYTimes.com, I’m looking in your direction.)
If you’re skeptical about the effectiveness of text ads, please consider The Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack III, a study of how web site visitors’ eyes move around the screen. With regard to advertising, they declare (emphasis theirs):
Text ads were viewed most intently, of all the types we tested. On our test pages, text ads got an average eye duration time of nearly 7 seconds; the best display-type ad got only 1.6 seconds, on average.
(For what it’s worth, they also state that ads on the left side of the page are more effective than those on the right.)
If you’re an advertiser, simply send me email. If you work for a company that you think might do well sponsoring Daring Fireball, but you’re not responsible for advertising, it’d be much appreciated if you suggested it to someone who is. Yes, engineers, I’m asking you to visit someone in marketing.
Obviously, I’m going ever-so-slightly out on a limb here by announcing a sponsorship opportunity with just one sponsor lined up. If you see nothing but Jewelboxing ads for the next month, it’ll be fairly obvious that it isn’t going well. But, if this is successful, the sponsorships will be sold first-come, first-serve. He who hesitates has to wait.
If you’re ready to sign up, or if you’re interested but have questions, here’s the address: email@example.com.