Remove third-party advertising & implement community ads
Short, concise description of the idea
Remove third-party advertising networks from ads run on the site, and in their place implement advertising bought by LiveJournal members.
Full description of the idea
There was recently quite a bit of brouhaha over LiveJournal serving ads that may have directed people to malware, and there has been ongoing brouhaha over flash ads, interstitials, and other tactics that people don't really like.
I suggest that we do the two things listed below, with rationale for them after:
- get rid of the 3rd party ad networks; only show LJ-hosted and directly approved campaigns and community ads
- make "ad supporter" a public option and provide a carrot for it (a free vgift coupon every month or something)
The main reason behind removing 3rd-party ads is simple - they are often garbage. Loud, animated, flashing whirligigs going on about CENTIPEDES IN YOUR PC and the like -- ads that are infected with malware that attempts to exploit Flash player -- interstitials that annoy and stop users from enjoying the site ---- all of these things are from 3rd-party ad networks. Sure, the more annoying and intrusive the ad, the more LiveJournal gets paid for it (generally,) but if the ads get too obnoxious and annoying, people will stop using the site. Since it's apparently impossible to find a 3rd-party ad network that isn't scuzzy, I propose we get rid of them altogether.
To make up for the missing revenue, I propose the implementation of a community-based advertising system. Ads hosted by the system would be small (file-size wise) files, and would not have Flash or sound. GIFs, PNGs, or JPGs only.
To purchase an ad, you'd need a paid account, and there would be two price tiers - 1 (lower) to link the ad to a page on LJ that doesn't exist for commercial purposes (e.g., "Hey, check out my travel journal!" "Vote for frank for the Advisory Board!") and 2 (higher) to link the ad to a LiveJournal page with commercial intent. To prevent gaming the system, the entries that ads link to would be locked to prevent editing them while the ad campaign is running.
Community ads would clearly identify who purchased them in the ad footer (i.e. ADVERTISEMENT by gerg). This would enable action to be taken against users who, say, edit an image in their ad landing page to be goatse or something.
Additionally, before they went live, all community ads and the entries they link to would be reviewed by someone to make sure that they are safe for work, do not violate the ToS (e.g. aren't directly harassing,) etc.
So, that's community ads. After these have been in place for a while, I am confident that they will start raising significant revenue - I have been on several other sites that use this system and are profitable without any 3rd-party ads.
Additionally, many of the most active users on LiveJournal don't see or host ads right now, because they have permanent or paid accounts. This makes ad sales very hard (all of the 'good users' aren't included in your target market anymore.) The second prong of this suggestion is to make the "Ad Supporter" user level public. This enables paid/permanent accounts to opt-in to display ads on their journals to Basic, Plus, and logged-out users. In exchange for doing this, users who join the level could receive some small token to thank them (e.g., a vgift coupon or something monthly.)
If enough large journals opted in to this level, it would make it easier for LiveJournal to sell ads without having to worry about flash punch the donkey ads, and it would help users show some support to the community that we've built here. It would also help increase the value of (and thereby the price of) community ads, helping keep the site profitable longer.
- Substantially decreased security risks
- Happier users because of less annoying ads
- More income for the site in the long run
- More trust from users
- Increased uptake of Paid Accounts
- Increased use of LiveJournal as people discover new communities/posters/etc.
- Pricing of community ads may be prohibitive to meet current income
- LJI may be in contracts with 3rd-party providers
- May require an additional person to review community ads/manage ad sales (although I think we have a person to do this on staff)
- Users may be confused if they are viewing a Paid Ad Supporter journal and see ads on it
- May need some edits to the ToS to determine how to handle people purchasing accounts solely to run ads