Waxy Hits the Deck

In the past, I’ve never been a big fan of advertising. It’s very often irrelevant, obnoxious, and almost always diminishes user experience. While there are clever TV commercials, print ads, and outdoor campaigns that win worldwide acclaim, I’m not sure any user would shed a tear if every ad banner disappeared overnight. (It’s no wonder that the Firefox Adblock extension is downloaded 100,000 times weekly.)

The rapid rise of contextual advertising takes a step in the right direction by attempting to recommend ads related to the page you’re currently reading. I’ve been minimally running Google Ads on the Waxy.org archives since May 2004, and I’ve generally been happy with the results. The ads themselves were still a bit ugly and only occasionally relevant, but it was an acceptable sacrifice since they covered my hosting bill every month. (About $150/month, if you’re curious.)

Now, a little bit of news. Late last year, Jim Coudal started a boutique advertising network called The Deck. A few things make The Deck’s approach unique among other online ad networks I’ve seen.

First, every advertiser must offer a product or service that the Deck members have used or paid for, and we’re very picky people. Second, the ad slots themselves are very limited (currently only six slots), forcing us to choose best candidates. And the ads are cleanly designed and unobtrusive, without animation and limited to one per page.

I’d like to see a world where online ads are meaningful, representing the ideals of the writer and the interests of the reader. Careful moderation and unobtrusive presentation will hopefully lead to a better experience for everyone, which in turn means better results for advertisers. It’s an interesting experiment, and I’m proud to be in the company of net legends like Jeffrey Zeldman, Jason Fried, and John Gruber. Neat guys with very good taste.

Anyway, I’ll report back in a few months with the results. For more information, read John’s explanation of why he switched, and Mister Snitch’s analysis some trends in blogger ad networks. And if you have something to advertise you think we’d like, get in touch.

12 thoughts on “Waxy Hits the Deck

  1. Interesting. By hand-picking ads only for products and services that you’ve actually used and liked, it stops being an ad feed and starts being a personally branded recommendations channel. It’s closer to an affiliate relationship with the advertiser – like the millions of people that mention a book in a blog post and then link to amazon with their affiliate ID.

    Ultimately, the only value in advertising (from the consumer’s perspective, so we’ll ignore brand reinforcement) is product discovery. But ad targeting sucks (push model) compared to recommendations from humans with whom you have a proven track record of common taste and interest (pull model – I choose to read waxy.org). When a friend recommends a new product to me, it doesn’t feel like an ad, it feels like news.

    If every online “publisher” (ezines, blogs, etc) were to adopt the same “only products I’ve used and liked” model, advertising would start to become a valuable part of the publication – enough so that it would be to our benefit to NOT run AdBlock. Afterall, you don’t run PostBlock, because you believe you’ll be interested in what that author has to say.

    Here’s my point in a nutshell. I friggin hate advertising, but capitalists defend it with “how else can companies inform consumers about new products?” This is the practical alternative, and I’m all for it.

  2. Excellent choice, Andy. The Deck is a very good fit for waxy.

    However, it looks like the ad needs a little formatting help. The HRs are extending about 10px past the column margin on the right, at least in my WinFireFox 1.5.0.1.

  3. It sounds like a pretty decent compromise between income and site integrity. I admire the minimalism of the one small ad per page, and I think it works better than the NASCAR approach: I always see that one ad, whereas when there are 20 I tune them out.

    However, I’m still put off by seeing the lush monochrome of Daring Fireball pierced by a sudden blast of orange.

  4. Hi, Andy. I did think ‘The Deck’ looked to be the high-end of this sort of advertising. Yours is the sort of site that would seem to be a good fit. I do hope you do well with it, and look forward to seeing your progress report.

  5. Hi Andy,

    The Deck sounds good to me. Do you have any information if this project will be available international? I guess it would be very successful in Germany.

    Regards

  6. The Deck sounds like a cool idea. It’s always great to hear of innovative advertising models that are working to improve the relevance of ads. After all, it’s usually not the ads themselves that are annoying — it’s the non-relevance that drives us bonkers.

    The Deck sounds cool in that it empowers site owners to dipslay relevant advertising, I guess my question is this — when are the advertisers going to empower end-users to determine for themselves what type of ads he/she wants to see? Why not empower users to determine which ads are relevant/not relevant.

  7. “I’d like to see a world where online ads are meaningful, representing the ideals of the writer and the interests of the reader.”

    I think you’re talking about adsense.

  8. “I think you’re talking about adsense.”

    affirmative, i’ve been using adsense for months and these ads really fit to the page perfectly..

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