Forum: HASA General Notices

Discussing: Advertisements on HASA

Advertisements on HASA

HASA will start displaying advertisements in next few weeks. It was a hard decision to make. This post is to explain the reasoning for the change to the site's previously ad-free environment.

One of the reasons HASA was created was to provide a place to read Tolkien fanfiction that did not bombard the site visitors with obnoxious advertisements. In the early Naughties, web advertisements were hitting their stride with invasive, annoying, bad-mannered and downright offensive crud. Web browsers didn't have ad-blocking capabilities, so the only refuge was an ad-free site.

For seven years, I've been able to keep the site advertisement free. I've been able to rely on voluntary donations by site members and the reading public alike. HASA's hosting fees are $150 US per month, which provides a dedicated server, unlimited bandwidth, and gigabytes of database space. The actual monthly bill I pay is more than that because I use the server as a development space for other things and host a few other small sites, such as my own archive, and it doesn't seem right to have HASA readers pay for that.

In the last year, however, donations have fallen off, due in great part to the global economic recession. People have to watch their personal finances closely and donations to sites like HASA are not nearly as important as fixing a car or feeding a family. I hate having to bombard site readers with appeals for funds in times like these.

The hosting bill still needs to be paid, however, and I've had to think about how to do this. Things I've considered:

  • Find cheaper hosting. I researched this. While I can find cheaper base hosting deals, even with dedicated servers, the minute I include database storage and unlimited bandwidth, savings vanish. The current deal is cost competitive.
  • Pay it myself. I built the infrastructure that needs the robust hosting, after all. That's kind of what I do now, paying the bills and paying myself back when the donations come in. I'm not able to pay all of this indefinitely out of my own pocket, though I can cover shortfalls for the rest of the year.
  • Charge for membership. HASA will not charge for membership. Period. This is non-negotiable. HASA is open to any fandom author without tests, fees or restrictions on writing topic.
  • Pay for posting. In the past, people have suggested that authors have to pay to post more than X number of stories. This is just a membership fee by another name, as far as I'm concerned, as well as a logistical and accounting nightmare.
  • Quit. If it costs too much to run, then it has to stop.
  • Ads. Try to get some revenue by using advertisements.

That's all I could come up with, and the advertisements are the only option I can see that would not impose unreasonable burdens on readers and members. Ad revenue is marginal with just text ads (the amount of payment per click pretty much is directly correlated with the obtrusiveness of the ad), so I don't know if this would pay the whole bill. My hope is that it will cover at least half the hosting bill.

To be effective, ads would need to be placed on the pages that get the most traffic. This would include the site home page, Stories home, Stories Sort, Stories Keyword search, story chapter pages, and some additional pages in the research library. After studying the ad options, I might put some image ads into little trafficked areas of the site, like About, but have only text ads in content areas. The images are obnoxious and sometimes show video links, but they can generate more revenue per click than text ads.

I have some control over general ad topics so HASA doesn't get infested with adult-themed ads. I'm also able to set some color choices so they blend in with the site. There are a few samples on the Privacy page in the About section if you'd like to take a look. Two are text only while another shows mostly images with a few text ads.

So, that is the reason, after seven years, HASA will run some ads. I'd prefer not to because ads are obnoxious, but it's also getting obnoxious to beg people for money they can't spare. This will give the site a way to support itself, if you will, by allowing visitors to click on advertisements of interest to them.


Update: There are now text ads in place in the Stories section and text and image ads in the About section. The advertisements you see will depend on which page you are on and where you are located. For example, I am seeing San Diego, California area ads. The news pages have news links, the privacy page has privacy/security links, and most pages have something about LotR Halloween costumes. In the Stories section, I see a lot of ads for self-publishing and for other story sites. Please look  and let me know what is appearing on your screen.



No Advertisements on HASA

Well, that was a failed experiment.

The ads ran for less than seven days, there were a bunch of clicks on the Sunday and Monday after the ads launched, the traffic slowed to a few clicks a day the rest of the week, then Google shut it down on Friday the 15th for "invalid activity."

What's invalid activity? They won't say, and they have locked me out of the reports so I can't look at what has or hasn't occurred. I filed an appeal and there has been no response, though it may take another week for a review.

Piecing together what I can from various sources, I think there are three factors - one, HASA has a very stable user audience, which means that the same person is likely to click on multiple ads, recording the same IP address; two, since the ads were new, people clicked on them just to see what would happen, increasing ad clicks by the same person; three - and this is speculation on my part - I don't think advertisers knew how to target HASA, which means Google wasn't able to sell the right mix of advertisements. This became apparent to me when I filed the appeal form, when they asked in several ways why HASA would be a good location for ads. I know I saw a lot of public service ads over the week, which means those spaces could not be sold. I had opted for public service ads for unsold spaces during the ad set up since the other options were leave blank spaces or allow Google to bring in third party ads that I would have no control over.

In light of the ban, I've removed the empty advertisement panels from the site until I hear back from Google about the appeal. My presumption is between the click patterns and the ad placements, HASA's account will not be reinstated.




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