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Ad-Free Blog.org

Adfreebutton2 My neighbors down the street started adfreeblog.org for bloggers who do not run advertising on their blogs.  It's a simple little icon that means:

I am opposed to the use of corporate advertising on blogs.

I feel the use of corporate advertising on blogs devalues the medium.

I do not accept money in return for advertising space on my blog.

This is especially interesting with the controversy surrounding whisper campaigns on blogs, where bloggers are paid to talk up specific products in the content of their sites.  This type of advertising goes a step beyond banner ads usually found on the web, because the ad is disguised in the content as the authors authentic opinion.  The advertisers count on the trust and dedication readers have to the author, and the advertiser exploits that trust. 

The "AdFreeBlog" button is a quiet way bloggers can assure their readers.  If you have a blog, you can quickly download the buttons

Posted by Steve Lambert on 01/23/2006 | Permalink

Comments

Not related to this post in the least, sorry, but still thought you'd really get a kick out of it: Pope Sues To Prevent Spreading The Good Word.

Posted by: Elayne | Jan 24, 2006 11:06:00 AM

I've had a web ring of this nature for quite a while, now, it's the No Ads Ring.

Posted by: Astarte | Jan 24, 2006 1:46:42 PM

I was all ready to download the icon and put it up on visualresistance.org when I thought of blogads and how many of the sites I read do take non-corporate ads, with varying degrees of control or care about what is being advertised (usually other blogs or anti-Bush t-shirts).

I am in line with Stay Free on the evils of marketing and advertising but am also concerned with the challenges that face writers and non-profit organizations figuring out how to pay their bills.

Having been involved in some grassroots media efforts that ate themselves up over the advertising question I'm wondering about SF's experience confronting these questions...

Posted by: eliot | Jan 24, 2006 4:33:51 PM

Eliot,

The folks at No Ads Ring go into the problems of advertising in more detail and include statements from Keri and Jeff of Ad-Free Blog. http://utopianhell.com/blog/the-business-of-being-ad-free Take a look.

As far as challenges that face non profits and writers in paying their bills, yeah, it's a challenge. Integrity doesn't always make one a lot of money. Ultimately it's up to you, but there are other ways of meeting that challenge. The real challenge is finding the other ways.

Posted by: Steve Lambert | Jan 24, 2006 4:50:54 PM

With the link to its creators at the bottom, doesn't the site end up serving as an ad for its makers? If they were truly hardcore about being adfree they'd do it anonymously.

Posted by: thespunker | Jan 25, 2006 10:03:11 AM

This is a cool idea. I don't like the proliferation of advertising either, expecially when it becomes ubiquitous across every medium. On the other hand, I'm not completely opposed to all forms of advertising. I've tried Google ads on my blog, but I'm going to withdraw them once I hit a certain threshold. I've also been paid to put in a link to an ad for a TV show, but when I did so I made it clear that I was doing it as a promotion for them.

I don't want to exclude the idea of every having a sponsor or of ever making paid endorsements. But I also don't want people to be suspicious of the brands or companies that I name in my blog. My solution is to post a sponsorships and endorsements policy on my blog that anybody can find via a link in the side bar. I also have a comments policy posted.

Here's the sponsorships policy, if anyone's interested:
http://www.blork.org/blog/policy-sponsors-endorsements.html

Posted by: Blork | Jan 25, 2006 10:37:25 AM

Ben,
being "truly hardcore" isn't the goal. There's a difference between self promotion and taking responsibility or being accountable for your project. I don't think Ad-Free Blog requires anonymity to be taken seriously. If people want to find the people behind the work, they should be able to.

Posted by: Steve Lambert | Jan 25, 2006 12:09:16 PM

steve (and others) --

i'm going to put the ad-free banner on our site because it suits our project. i was more wondering about the challenge facing print publications whose operating costs are orders of magnitude higher than even a high-traffic blog's.

hosting visualresistance.org costs about $150/year. when i helped run a radical quarterly newspaper, the annual cost was about $3,000. for an all-volunteer biweekly newspaper with a distribution of 10,000, i imagine the annual burget would come in at least $20,000, perhaps double that depending on paper quality, color, length, mailing costs, etc.

eliminate foundation money and you've got a real funding challenge. subscriptions have a low profit margin, newstand sales are a hard market to break into, so how do you sustain yourself?

i'm sure that stay free has confronted all these questions in its long existence. you've managed to put out a pretty dope magazine with no ads, so my real question is: what's your secret?

Posted by: eliot | Jan 25, 2006 5:29:48 PM

Actually, Stay Free! does have ads (though, granted, not many). I don't think there's anything wrong with advertising in itself... or selling stuff, for that matter. (I like stuff!) The problems are in the method and the context.

Truth be told, I wish the magazine had MORE ads - it would allow me to spend more time on the org. While I dig the ad-free campaign, I haven't ruled out having ads here at some point. I think Google ads are a fine idea for people who find the cash helpful. With them, you don't have to worry about any direct interference from the sponsor, which is my main concern with all consumer advertising.

The reason we don't have something like Google ads here isn't an ethical stance; rather, it's because I think they're ugly, they give a commercial feel to a site, and they wouldn't pay us enough to counter those (primarily aesthetic) cons. Web ads would also muddy our ability to communicate our mission... so, while I'd support other groups who use them, I just don't think they'd not for us (unless, y'know, advertisers give us a million dollars....)

We do, I should point out, have an Amazon search box on our monthly blog archives... I put that there to raise money from book sales, though it hasn't been very lucrative.

Posted by: carrie | Jan 26, 2006 12:07:27 PM

Steve, while I appreciate the spirit of what you write, I think the linked accredation at the bottom undermines the force of their message. If people really want to know who's behind the work, they can WHOIS the site.

Posted by: thespunker | Jan 26, 2006 8:31:38 PM

carrie, thanks for chiming in. just to be clear, i support the ad-free blog initiative. our site focuses on street art a lot, and the emount of marketing infiltrating that community is more than a little troubling...

my only concern was avoiding the impression that by signing on to the ad-free blog we're standing in judgement of other people's decisions.

-----

ben, there's an immense difference between an advertisement and a credit. for instance, there's a link to my typekey profile in the signature to this comment -- that's a signature, not an ad. are you arguing that websites shouldn't disclose their own authors?

Posted by: eliot | Jan 26, 2006 10:17:50 PM

Websites that are all about being anti-advertising on blogs needn't provide such a fluid means for driving traffic to its author's blogs. I disagree that the difference between a credit an advertisement is as immense as you say. A classic advertising tactic is to write, in a completely non-salesy way, a white paper or treatise on an industry event phenomenon or reveal strategies that can help other businesses. The sponsoring company doesn't put their website or street address or phone number in the material, simply their company name discreetly in the bottom corner. This piece of communication is just as much an ad as a Burger King commercial.

Posted by: thespunker | Jan 27, 2006 11:19:00 AM

That's a bit nuts. There absolutely is a huge difference between "[that] piece of communication" and "a Burger King commercial." Attribution is not an advertisement for yourself - it's a way for readers to know who you are. Should people wear burquas in public to increase anonymity there too?

Maybe fascist liberals really do exist...

Posted by: Eliot Van Buskirk | Jan 30, 2006 5:55:16 PM

How does attribution not advertise the authors? Please parse the difference. Let's not confuse connative and denotative definitions, especially if for you, personally, advertising has a negative connotation. The American Heritage Dictionary defines advertising as
1. To make public announcement of, especially to proclaim the qualities or advantages of (a product or business) so as to increase sales. See Synonyms at announce.
2. To make known; call attention to: advertised my intention to resign.
3. To warn or notify: “This event advertises me that there is such a fact as death” (Henry David Thoreau).

Nowhere do I see the distinction you claim. Please illuminate the matter.

You say, “Attribution is not an advertisement for yourself - it's a way for readers to know who you are.” That may be your *purpose* in using attribution, but *functionally* it also serves as an advertisement.

Furthermore, your "mandatory burqua wearing" analogy doesn't work. People, in the general sense, randomly walking around in public, have little to nothing to do with advertising, authorship, full disclosure, or attribution. I'm not advocating ubiquitous anonymity! Transparency is fantastic *except* when you make a site that says ads on blogs are bad and the hyperlinked attribution at the bottom functions as an ad. I have nothing against ad-free blogs, people can make blogs however they want, that’s what’s great about ‘em. Simply put, it would better serve Kerri and Jeff’s message to communicate their campaign anonymously.

Have you seen these parodies of ad-freeblog?
pro-adblog…
http://proadblog.com/
and pro-sloth blog…
http://www.citrusmoon.net/mecha/eh/

I understand the concern about corporate dollars swaying the keystrokes of lily-livered bloggers as utopianhell worries about, http://utopianhell.com/blog/the-business-of-being-ad-free. For an example of blog advertising right, watch the Rocketboom kids. They’re ebaying adspace on their hugely successful vlog and requiring that they produce the ads, maintain full creative control and the right to reject any advertiser they see fit.

I genuinely like your "fascist liberal" line. I'd like to make it into a t-shirt and/or a graphitti stencil. Would you like me to include a URL to your blog on it?

Posted by: thespunker | Jan 30, 2006 7:15:14 PM

"Let's not confuse connative" - *sp* connotative.

Posted by: thespunker | Jan 30, 2006 7:34:30 PM

Quoting the dictionary as final authority is a good sign of a specious argument. Certain foolish liberals like to point out that the dictionary defines "liberal" as generous, tolerant, etc. Besides, the reason dictionaries give multiple definitions for a word is to highlight that a word can mean different things.

It's difference between putting a photo of Martin Luther King on the cover of a book he wrote and on an ad for Apple computers.

Anyway, I've adopted the Ad Free banner and gave my reasons for doing so above. If I was involved in a more expensive project I'd take ads in a heartbeat. I admire Rocketboom's ability to control their ad policy and think publications that take ads should have a written policy and stick to it. A common one is not to take ads from political parties or candidates, or from companies that profit from bad labor, environmental, or health practices.

Posted by: eliot | Jan 31, 2006 10:42:55 AM

Ben, you have answered your own question by quoting the dictionary. The word advertising has three distinct, though related meanings. The common understanding of advertising-of-products ["proclaim the qualities or advantages of"] falls squarely under definition 1.

The author credits are just names, no descriptions or comments. They are at worst definition 2 ["call attention to"], but could even be seen more benignly as def. 3 ["to notify"]. Not being anonymous isn't advertising.

I appreciate that you love advertising; bully for you. That doesn't mean that every time someone takes credit for their own work they are doing what you do.

Posted by: Charles Star | Jan 31, 2006 10:44:23 AM

ps, "eliot van buskirk" is not me, in case that was confusing.

Posted by: eliot | Jan 31, 2006 10:44:33 AM

Agreed. Dictionary quoting is hacky. It was an attempt to bring the conversation back to the real issues and away from me making everyone wear garbage bags.

Charles, so if something fulfills two out of three definitions for a word, it doesn't share that word's meaning?

I also disagree that definition one doesn't apply. If my example of "A classic advertising tactic is to write, in a completely non-salesy way, a white paper or treatise on an industry event phenomenon or reveal strategies that can help other businesses. The sponsoring company doesn't put their website or street address or phone number in the material, simply their company name discreetly in the bottom corner" is advertising, then why isn't this?

"That doesn't mean that every time someone takes credit for their own work they are doing what you do."

Actually, it does. I don't work in advertising, I just blog about it.

Posted by: thespunker | Feb 3, 2006 10:55:33 AM

What it doesn't share, Ben, is the common understanding of that meaning. You are playing a semantic game that may be amusing to you, but isn't serious. Taking credit may meet a literal definition of advertising without being "advertising" - the phenomenon and industry that we are talking about.

In the same way that saying that someone is a racist because they "discriminate" between Coke and Pepsi, a person who takes credit for their work isn't engaged in "advertising." And I don't agree that all corporate white papers are advertising either, even if it is an established advertising technique.

Posted by: Charles Star | Feb 3, 2006 12:42:05 PM

What is the "common understanding" of advertising? I'm guessing it may be a little outdated from the strategies and tactics that are being employed to further products these days. Tell me that the "leaked" pics of the Burger King with Brooke Burke aren't advertising.

I fail to see how if the definitions of two things are the same that the two are not then synonymous.

I'm not playing a game, I do take the matter seriously, even if it looks like I'm having fun while doing so.

It's not just corporate white papers - there's actual ads that I was thinking about, this British Petroleum ad featured in "Olgivy On Advertising" comes to mind - I will post some scans to show what I'm talking about.

Posted by: thespunker | Feb 3, 2006 2:34:44 PM

Ben, are you forgetting that you're equating the authors of a site called Ad-Free Blog to the strategies of corporate advertising firms? Read that again.

You've posted 7 comments and haven't yet made a convincing enough argument for Charles and I (and probably many others). I think it might be time to step away from this and get some perspective.

Posted by: Steve Lambert | Feb 3, 2006 3:08:28 PM

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