Y’all don’t even understand how much I hate display ads. For how long I’ve had to grudgingly put up with them in the sidebar, embedded into articles, *under* articles making my site look a hot ass mess. For how many years my longtime web designer — an unassuming Canadian man — has fervently begged me to get rid of them so he could really put his design skills to work. And this is not even to mention the malware issues I’ve battled periodically courtesy of shady online ads. But it’s over. Display ads will be gone and done by the end of the year, early next year the latest. But it took me a long time to get here…
I entered blogging in 2008, right before the big display ad boom. By 2010, you could start a blog that was halfway decent with a few thousand readers, throw up a few display ads, and be earning 5 figures a month easy. I didn’t get into blogging for the money (well not really. I quit newspaper journalism in part because I was so broke. I figured if I was going to be broke in my career I might as well be self-employed.) but the money came as a surprise. I’m not a ‘flossing’ type of girl, so I saved most of it. Which really came in handy when I needed to put money down on a storefront in Brooklyn.
But it wasn’t long before the display ad bubble began to pop. Around 2015 my monthly revenue per ad began to dip, which meant I needed to add more and more to the site to hit my revenue goals. I clogged up my sidebar, header, articles and under article space with ads. Wherever there was extra space, I crammed an ad.
And while this stemmed the revenue hemorrhaging a little bit, it didn’t stop it completely. Boutique display ad agencies began to fold left and right. Perhaps most shocking was Mode Media — a leading display ad company for woman-run blogs — that abruptly shut down in September 2016. There was a $17,000 payout left on my Mode Media contract that I will never see. (And yes I could sue them but a. they’re broke and b. the cost of retaining a lawyer would largely wipe out the very amount I’m trying to get back.)
I would say that BGLH is now on the other side of the display ad bubble and my ads earn about a quarter of what they did at their prime. About a year ago I got the idea to replace all my display ads with BGLH Marketplace ads. But that kind of defeats the purpose of having a clean layout. So instead, I am taking my developer’s suggestion and merging BGLH Marketplace with BGLH in a completely ad-free layout. It’s a marriage of e-commerce and digital media that will keep both brands thriving and strong.
As a preview of what’s to come, I’ve been posting a few of our articles on BGLH Marketplace. You can see here what things will look like: No ugly ads, no pop ups, just the clean content. This is just a test preview, and not what the final thing will look like. BGLH will retain its branding within BGLH Marketplace, as well as its URL (although it will likely redirect). And of course the writing team of me, Elle, Chinwe and Portia is still in place, as well as the quality and frequency of our content.
It’s a scary time right now for blogging and digital media. DNA Info just shut down, presumably because its billionaire owner was mad at the writers for unionizing. Teen Vogue just shuttered its print component. Medium can’t seem to figure out a sustainable revenue model. And Ebony isn’t paying its writers. While a fresh crop of brands are showing up on social media, it is hard to tell whether this is a viable long-term strategy. Remember when Vine got shut down out the blue? And Facebook and Instagram CEO Mark Zuckerberg is notorious for changing the rules of social media on a whim.
As a small-time content creator I’ve had to be as smart and creative as I can possibly be to survive out here in these mean digital media streets. But I am relieved that, after almost a full decade in this game I can take back control of my revenue and keep doing what I love — creating community for black women online.