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TidBITS Membership Ad-Removal Challenge Finished

Two months ago, in “Become a TidBITS Member and Banish Banner Ads from Our Site” (7 December 2015), I proposed that if TidBITS membership revenues could increase by roughly $5,000, we’d eliminate graphical banner ads from our Web site for everyone. The December numbers were ever so slightly lower (“TidBITS Membership Ad-Removal Challenge Update,” 4 January 2016), and although we’re pleased that the January numbers were up, it wasn’t enough.

TidBITS picked up about 50 more memberships in January compared to last year, and some members renewed at a higher level, for an overall increase of about $1,900. Plus, we were surprised and honored to receive an anonymous $500 donation. Even so, because the funds received were a bit less than half the challenge amount, we’ll continue with our current approach, which is to remove ad banners from the site only for logged-in TidBITS members.

I’m pondering a few reasons that might explain the results of this challenge:

  • This was a “greater good” situation, in that the people who paid to become TidBITS members in support of the challenge did so to help everyone who comes to our Web site, not specifically to derive benefit for themselves (although personal benefit was the effective outcome, given that members don’t see the banner ads). People may not have been sufficiently interested in bolstering the greater good in this way.

  • Along those lines, it’s possible that most regular TidBITS readers aren’t that perturbed by the ads on our site. The current design has only two slots — a leaderboard at the top and a rectangle on the right, and they may not be obtrusive enough to drive people to action.

  • Taking that line of reasoning further, it’s conceivable that TidBITS readers see low-key advertising as a business model to support, and feel that it’s better to have sites like TidBITS displaying ads as a positive example of how to integrate advertising into a site. Of course, the logical conclusion in that case would be to click the banner ads whenever you see them, since we earn money only when they’re clicked.

  • Could the rise of ad blockers have played a role? For those using an ad blocker, hiding ads might not have seemed important in the decision of whether or not to become a TidBITS member. I have no sense of how many of our readers use ad blockers.

Regardless, we’re moving ahead with a full site redesign, and while it will have space to show banner ads to those who aren’t TidBITS members, it won’t be one of those designs where ads are more important than content.


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Comments about TidBITS Membership Ad-Removal Challenge Finished
(Comments are closed.)

Donald V Hertzler  2016-02-01 16:44
I became a paying member of Tidbits a few years ago - not to get rid of the adds but to support a Mac information source that I found helpful. The truth is, the adds were a source of additional information - software that is available for the Mac. I wouldn't want to read MacWorld w/o advertisements. I get ideas about what might be helpful from the advertisements. I tend to skip advertisements in most journals (and on TV), but not in a journal devoted to the Mac. My guess is that most people who pay, don't do it to get rid of the advertisements.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-02-01 16:53
Thanks for the support!

I'm glad to hear the ads were helpful - I too miss the days of the print magazines and their ads, which were often as useful as the editorial for people trying to wrap their heads around the Mac industry.

With banner ads, we don't have a lot of control over what appears, unfortunately, and it's likely to be different for different people.
WILLIAM COLVIN  2016-02-01 20:41
Totally agree.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2016-02-01 22:45
I, too, joined to support TidBITS; the lack of ads is a bonus but not the main reason I pay.

Some people may just read the TidBITS e-mail newsletter and visit the site infrequently. In any case, as far as ads go, TidBITS is an example of best practices. Some sites, like MacUpdate, have degenerated in recent years and are now drenched in advertising which they coyly call offers, as if that fools anyone. Sadly they are following CNet's example of worst practices: Anything For a Buck. Fortunately, I use a Mac and don't have to visit CNet very often. They ruined a really good Mac software site a few years ago when they scooped up Version Tracker. RIP

Another Mac news site I really like is MacIssues. It was developed by Topher Kessler, who used to manage the old Mac troubleshooting site MacFixit. But MacFixit was also gobbled up by CNet and unceremoniously shut down.
Michel Hedley  2016-02-01 23:11
Like the others I wanted to support Tidbits as it had supported me over the years in helping maximise my computing system and keeping me abreast with Mac/Apple news.

I don't mind the advertisements as there are not many and I actually made purchases because of them.

Most of the Mac magazines have disappeared and that makes Tidbits more valuable than ever.
nicky y schleider  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-02-02 02:08
i don't have a problem with ads. i understand that businesses need to make money, and i prefer ads to paid subscriptions in many cases for reasons i won't go into. i do mind ads that pop up when i'm trying to read something. very often, i just stop reading and delete whatever it was.
Paul Brown  2016-02-02 06:45
I became a supporting member of TidBits because it's a source of information that I find valuable. As with Wikipedia, or some public radio stations, I contribute funds because I want those services to continue -- I would miss them if they ceased to exist. The banner ads on TidBits were not excessive, or an irritation to me, although I do use ad blockers elsewhere to stop the more obnoxious stuff.
Although the TidBits member discounts was not the primary motivation for my membership, I have made occasional use of the discounts. And it seems that the discounts are beneficial in three ways -- good for the member, good for Tidbits, and a good way of calling attention to (and bringing sales to) products useful to the typical TidBits reader.
David Redfearn  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2016-02-02 11:13
As others commenting here, I joined Tidbits because I value the content - not to avoid a few advertisements. A few advertisements don't bother me at all - and I would be willing to Whitelist the Tidbits site in my Ad Blocker program if advertisements reappeared even for members. I understand how difficult it is to get users to pay (even a little) for content - and if a few advertisements helped keep the site going and healthy, I would support that. I pay for other sites, but I think Tidbits has the best value proposition.

Randy Spydell  An apple icon for a TidBITS Angel 2016-02-03 16:25
I too, have no problem with ads. However, please draw the line at auto-start videos. They are among the most annoying part of the modern web. I understand ClickToFlash is supposed to control them, but I can't seem to get it to work reliably.

I do miss the days of being able to escape from the technology, feel the paper between my fingers and stare off into space digesting an article's suggestions, or imagining that product's features and their possible application for me.

Now, a reasonable balance between the focussed article's text and some on-screen ads is just fine. Keep up the good work.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-02-03 18:02
Oh goodness yes - auto-start videos are an abomination. I don't believe any of the systems we use to put ads on our site will do them, but if any ever show up, please let me know so I can stomp them out of existence.