Some Thoughts on Daring Fireball’s New Display Ads

Daring Fireball

Last week I read John Gruber’s announcement of his new in-house advertising model on Daring Fireball. Unsurprisingly, I really like the way his mind works:

A maximum of 5 sponsors per month. Each sponsor will get 20 percent of all page views on DF (including the very popular Markdown Syntax Documentation and online Dingus pages). […] For sponsors, you get to be the only graphical ad on the page each time your ad is shown. […] Not only is there no tracking involved, there is not JavaScript involved. They’re just images, text, and HTML links.

In a lot of ways he’s going with a new system that’s not unlike what I first attempted when I launched Chorus. A smaller number of ads, sold at a higher price point. (And the ad unit is very similar to what we offer here: a graphic, link, text, and we don’t track users.) I had a few people ask me why I recently moved from this model to a slightly different self-serve advertising model that allows anyone to buy an ad on the site at a lower price. The answer’s pretty simple: the other model didn’t work for us, but yes, I think this will be very successful for Daring Fireball.

Based on the last stats I could find, this website does more pageviews a month than Daring Fireball; however, it’s two different audiences and two different sets of advertisers. A lot of the advertisements on this website are bands, record labels, producers, and clothing companies. While I’d love to have advertisers like Squarespace, Blue Apron, and other bigger companies see the value in reaching our audience, I don’t really see that happening unless I hire a dedicated person to run advertising and cultivate those relationships. Daring Fireball has a fantastic (and well-deserved) reputation, and a real cachet within the technology industry. It makes a lot of sense for some bigger tech companies to want to have their ads on 20% of Daring Fireball for the month. Whereas here, I think we’ve found the sweet spot in offering a quality ad unit that remains affordable to virtually any budget. And because of that, it’s way easier for me to run as a one person show.

Basically, I think what John Gruber is doing at Daring Fireball is fantastic and right in line with what more websites should be attempting. I think that an ad unit that respects the viewer is a better ad unit. I think our click-through rate and how many people I’ve seen talk about how they are more willing to check out a band, album, or service because of our specific kinds of ads, is proof of that.

I think that the first month or so of moving to a self-service ad model has convinced me that it’s correct move for Chorus right now as well. It’s working for us, it’s working for advertisers, and if you’d like to purchase an advertisement: you should check it out.