Why I'm ditching adverts on Graham Cluley Security News

tl;dr I'm ditching adverts on this site from next week, and switching to a weekly sponsor instead. Let me know if your company is interested in grabbing one of the exclusive sponsorship slots. More details of my thinking below, or check out how to sponsor. Thanks!

Update: There are still some sponsorship slots available for this month. Get in touch if you want to grab them!

Graham CluleyIt's 18 months since I quit my day job at Sophos and set up as an independent, working for myself. And with the start of a new year I thought it was worth spending a couple of minutes reflecting on where I've been, and where I hope to get to.

It's been an extraordinary experience running this site, and I feel like I'm learning things all the time about running my own business which I would never have had the chance to if I'd kept the desk job. It has been hard work, but it's also been a lot of fun - and I don't regret the switch.

For one thing, I've been enormously encouraged by the thousands of people who visit the site every day (in a typical week this website receives 50,000+ unique visitors, adding up to over 300,000 page views each month), the tip-offs that are sent in, and those who spend some time leaving a comment ("Hi Coyote!") or have been generous enough to write a guest article.

Of course, I have to pay for my bandwidth and some other costs. I have a "Rolls Royce" hosting firm (WPEngine) to keep my site up and running, and safe from DDoS attacks and hackers.

WPEngine is far from cheap, but - in my opinion - they're the best in the business when it comes to secure WordPress hosting. And it's a lovely feeling knowing that your site won't be busted or compromised when you wake up in the morning.

Some people have asked "How do you make any cash?".

The answer is that I give talks at company events and conferences about computer security, privacy and hacking. Surprisingly, they can be quite fun and entertaining! Well, I enjoy them at least...

I also write guest articles for various security vendors (you will see them linked to from this site, alongside the ones I write for myself).

And then there's advertising.

I must admit, like many techies, I'm not a huge fan of web advertising. I've had adverts in the sidebar of my website for a while but I've never been convinced that it's a good experience for either the advertiser or the website's visitors.

Adverts can be irritating. They can get in the way of the content you want to read, and have flashy animations which can act as a distraction.

Furthermore, clued-up web users know how easy it is to block advertising on a website through using a browser plugin. It doesn't just speed up the web, it also reduces the chances of your computer being hit by malvertising.

Finally, in my experience, graphic ads simply don't work well on smaller devices such as smartphones - where there is always tight competition for space.

I may be persuaded otherwise one day, but my feeling is that display ads on websites aren't worth the small amount of cash they bring my website, don't bring good enough value to the advertisers, and are disliked by readers.

But it would be nice to make a little money from the site, because that would free me up to do more things that folks like - such as make more videos.

So, what to do?

#Drum roll... #

Introducing site sponsorship!

Next week I'll be removing the sidebar ad from my website. Instead there will be an exclusive weekly sponsor for the entire site - promoted at the top of every page.

Sponsorship on desktops

In my opinion, the sponsorship line is less irritating than a display ad, benefits from not being animated (huzzah!) and there's no chance of an ad-blocker making any sponsors feel unloved.

Oh, and it works equally well on mobile devices.

Mobile sponsorship

In addition, the weekly sponsor receives an article thanking them for their sponsorship, an item in the site's RSS feed at the beginning of the week, an item in GCHQ (Graham Cluley's Security Newsletter) sent to over 5,000 subscribers, and a tweet thanking the sponsor from Graham's personal Twitter account (currently 68,135 followers).

Special thanks to GeoSurf for being my initial sponsor. I appreciate your support guys!

Of course, I won't allow site sponsorship change the independent nature of the content that is published here. Frankly, if XYZ Inc gets hacked and they happen to be a sponsor - you'll definitely still be hearing about it. :)

More details about sponsorship, including a media pack, can be found on the new sponsorship page.

All I need now are some more sponsors... ;-)

Thanks again to all the readers who make this site possible, I really appreciate you visiting every day and sharing advice and alerts with your friends, colleagues and family.

If you have any thoughts on how the site can be improved - what's working and what's not working - please feel free to drop me a line or leave a comment.

Cheers!

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12 Responses

  1. Kieron

    January 2, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

    Sounds like a good plan to me, hope it goes well

  2. Glenn Jordan

    January 2, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

    "One day", Graham. Not "Once day". Also, good luck to you, and I respect your decision.

  3. Mark

    January 2, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    Yay!!! I hate ads. Now to convince the other tetraquadzillion websites to do that same…

    • Quinn in reply to Mark.

      January 6, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

      Boy, you can say that again! The internet has become a cesspool of bad ads that would definitely influence my shopping behavior….in a negative way!

      I'm old enough to remember that cable was supposed to be ad free (that's why you have to pay for it….right….)

      I even remember that TV was supposed to be the greatest educational media of all time, the information highway, the world wide net, was going to do the same…woo, woo!

      We need another alternative, I'm thinking, this one's beyond repair. ;^)

  4. Coyote

    January 2, 2015 at 6:37 pm #

    I must admit, like many techies, I’m not a huge fan of web advertising.

    You know, it is funny. But that is so true. I'm the same way. While I don't have a company (which would change things) the other part of me – being pro open-source (and more so pro contribution simply to contribute (a lot of which has to do with it being for me, too)) – can be a problem at times ("I don't want to do that… it feels wrong and against what I stand for") yet it also feels right (and so I follow what feels right: contributing to causes that matter to me). I definitely agree with you there (and no it doesn't really add to the vistior's experience, at least not positive experience). Best of luck the new way, though. It is amazing how what seems might be a small change can actually cause big changes (domino effect/chain reaction/etc.). I imagine this change, however, can only be good (but of course there is always the possibility).

    and those who spend some time leaving a comment (“Hi Coyote!”)

    Well thanks (again). I'm glad you do appreciate things, no matter how small or large it may be. For someone like me who really takes time to say (and more importantly, show) appreciation (and finds it sad that some can't say 'thank you' for things that someone went out of their way to do for them), the above means more than one might think (especially when they find out I'm fairly asocial, especially in real life (real life? what is that again?)). In any case, you're quite welcome and I'll continue to do so as long as I'm able to. I enjoy the visits and the variety of topics (yet all focused on security) is both hard to imagine and impressive (it might be said that this is the security 'entertainment weekly' (more like 'daily') or whatever exists out there (I actually don't know except I seem to have heard those two words together before), only that it is so much more than entertainment: it is rather important and the more people that see the importance, the better (for themselves and others)).

  5. William Clulow

    January 5, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    How about asking for Bitcoin "tips" for each post from your thousands of followers? Secure (you know that already of course), next to no fees when payments are made direct to your wallet and you can cash them in quickly if you are concerned about price fluctuations. The Internet has been waiting for micro payments and now it is possible. Simples!

  6. David

    January 5, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Hi,

    You might look into getting on Flipboard. Eset did just that recently for their "we live security" website. Not only that,but you could make your own magazine. Tons of options. Well,Goodluck in the new year.

    Also, going https like Nakedsecurity did with their site. Mozilla and others will be sponsoring a program this year to make the switch free and easy with accompanying software too.

  7. Roger Leyland

    January 6, 2015 at 12:10 am #

    That sounds good. Advertising is necessary, we know, but it needs to not intrude upon the enjoyment of whatever is being read. Hopefully you have done this..

  8. Facebegone

    January 6, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    Really like your site Graham, very readable with a good range of interesting articles and stories – thanks!

  9. Dave Payne

    January 6, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

    I don't mind static ads like in a magazine or newspaper, but I hate all scrolling, writhing & other animated ads. As for clicking on something like that? Huh! How do I know what that will do?

    So good move to ditch the moving ads, I hope your righteous act will be well rewarded.

    I have another suggestion which may improve your image more than you suspect. Be perhaps the first in your field to stop abusing the term "hacker" & explain how the mass-media distorted & effectively redefined the term.

    Your readers & others deserve to know about how often media copy each other's assumptions.
    The pioneering computing "hackers", their successors & admirers of both deserve to have their word back without the pejorative abuse that would be widely illegal if they were an ethnic subculture.

    Not all salespeople knock on doors. Not everyone who knocks on your door is a salesperson.
    Whether they are depends on their motivation.
    Not all hackers try to break in to online systems. Not everyone who tries to is a hacker.
    Whether they are depends on their motivation.

  10. Quinn

    January 6, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    Graham,
    I think that ads can be tasteful is you can control the content. A good example, in my experience, of this approach is another security site, krebsonsecurity.

    Those ads never bother me (which is good because as an individual who does not need enterprise level security, most do not apply to me ;^)

    It's all about control of ad content. If you have Asian/Russian/African babes enticing you to share genetic material, they are, to me at least, demeaning, annoyingly distracting, immoral, degrading, etc.

    If you have ads that are obviously aimed at parting the average net surfer from his/her money by promising a sensational cure, solution, etc. the same applies.

    The sites, or promoters (Google) are simple not filtering the content for the kind of traffic coming to the site. Most of the ads are generating negative reactions from a lot of that traffic, I suspect.

    But, ads for a banking security company, for example, if it's non-invasive, does not affect me one way or the other. It's the way its presented.

    The linked word ads are by far the worst to me, when you accidentally trigger one & an annoying popup interfers with your reading . Grrrrrr! ;^)

    Thanks for the site & the information.

    Best wishes for future success.

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