I Have an Ad and I'm Okay With That

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fractal cauliflowerYou’ll notice something new. It’s an ad, on the right, from BlogHer Publishing Network.

I know. I’ve crossed over to the other side, and I’m thrilled. It’s because I have redefined myself.  I’m no longer just a blogger whose subject is food writing. I’m the publisher of my blog.

Being in charge overall is new for me. When I was a magazine editor, I headed my department. I directed the editorial content, assigned and edited stories, worked with the art director on layout and images, and strategized how to grow readership. The other heads of departments were in charge of marketing, advertising, production, design (although sometimes reporting to me) and circulation.

Fast-forward to the Internet, where, as a blogger,  I am in charge of editorial and all the other departments too. I might as well also be the publisher, since I am ultimately responsible for the publication, success and quality of my blog.

So, continuing the magazine analogy, since magazines take ads, so does my blog. And since I’m the publisher, I will personally quash any conflicts of interest. There will be no fawning editorial related directly to ads, nor will I blog for pay. Whew! That was easier than when I was only the head of editorial. It’s great to be in charge.

Why  BlogHer? I’ve met the founders, three powerful, super-smart women whom I admire. Also because they’ve invited me to be part of BlogHer by speaking at their conferences, and it’s been a professional, respectful and well-organized experience.

Some food bloggers think ads clutter their site or signify some kind of journalistic lack of integrity. But others have been taking ads for ages. Where do you come down?

Photo courtesy Flickr Creative Commons.


  1. says

    I think ads are ok. I use them on my site. The fact is, it costs money to purchase a domain name, host a site, develop a site. Then if you’re doing recipes, to buy the ingredients, sometimes two, three times doing the recipe ’till it’s right. Your time as a photographer, cook, writer.

    I routinely click on ads on food sites. Sometimes I’m really interested in the product/site. Other times, well… I know it’ll likely provide a bit of revenue to the site owner. I also tend to purchase items from Amazon.com through sites that offer these items where they’ll get a “cut”.

    Of course if the site ends up so cluttered and full of advertising, that’s a different barrel of fish. I tend not to do repeat visits, as the content is rarely top quality on those sites anyway.

    • diannejacob says

      Right, Nic. Food bloggers routinely incur more expense than I do, buying and making food and photographing it. All the more reason to have ads to help pay. Of course, you need to attract a lot of page views to cover those expenses, but that’s another subject.

      So you actually click on ads on food sites! I knew there were people like you. And on behalf of people with Amazon links, I salute you. Every little bit helps.

  2. says

    Nice post, Dianne. I’d never really thought of it in those terms before: that I, as the owner and chief bottle washer of my blog, am also the ‘publisher’. What you wrote makes total sense. I see no problem with having advertising on my blog and will be adding more over time I expect.

    • diannejacob says

      Yep, you’re certainly much more than the writer. Good luck with adding more, Charles.

  3. says

    The food blogging community may think I’m an idiot, but I just can’t bring myself to run ads. My blog is an ad. An ad for me. It has brought me tons of work and I don’t want anyone getting distracted from my content. I also don’t want my name associated with crap like KFC which is currently running on BlogHer. I feel it would compromise my integrity. Am I walking away from $$$? Sure. But it’s worth it.

    • diannejacob says

      Yeah, I have to admit that I was not pleased when I saw a pink KFC bucket. But I’m dealing with it. It won’t be there forever, and it’s for a good cause. I did check the “no fast food” button when I was selecting what kinds of ads I wanted on my site. At least I got to pick and choose.

      But Amy, I certainly don’t think you’re an idiot. You have a super-successful blog, and if you don’t want ads on it, that’s your right. And yes, you’re walking away from $$$, whereas I do not have your page views so will get about 1/millionth of the $.

      • says

        Great topic! But did I miss something in the story..?
        What does page views have to do with ads unless yr using Google ads..? I’d love to know. Thanks

        • diannejacob says

          With BlogHer, I had to name the number of page views I get to be considered for an ad.

    • says

      Wow, I really thought *I* was the only one. Amy, we should form a club. (But no dues, please, because neither of us had ad-income to defray the costs.)

      • diannejacob says

        Hah. No, there are a few of you left. Blog Appetit is another one. What is your objection, Cheryl?

  4. says

    I blog about Disney, parenting, and special eduction (they overlap, I promise). A friend asked me to run an ad for something personal in her life, and I had to gracefully say no, because I haven’t yet figured out my approach to monetizing. I did ask her to guest blog on the topic which I hope to see soon. Did I wimp out and go “produce placement”? Perhaps.
    Your ad is cute, and aligns nicely with your mission. I don’t find it distracting. In fact, I’m hungry, which was the point, across the board, right?
    Best wishes. I like your writing style, so I’ll be back!

    • diannejacob says

      Thank you, Shannon. Hope to hear from you often. I have nothing to do with whether the ad is cute, just for the record. That’s up to BlogHer. I just chose the size and clicked on which types of ads I would find annoying (ex. weight loss).

      It took me a while to come to this decision, so I think you had every right to not just slap an ad on your site because a friend asked you to do so. But it sounds like you feel a little guilty about allowing her to write a product placement on your blog. That’s yet another minefield. I wish you luck.

  5. says

    I figure if Burger King money funds my effort to tell people that there are places in the world where industrial crap doesn’t dominate the entire food market and normal folks who demand tasty and wholesome food can eat well and enjoy life without spending a fortune on groceries, well, that’s a darn good thing.


  6. says

    I think the ads / no ads discussion is a little old now and isn’t so much of a question of integrity or “keeping it real” – we have expenses, most of us aren’t doing this as a full-time job and therefore the little income we can bring in with ads helps us take more risks (like buying a new camera or a trip somewhere) and in the end generates more quality content for our readers.

    Ads are also for mainly casual visitors – those that subscribe via RSS or email will never see them unless you activate them in your feed, too.

    • diannejacob says

      It was a big deal for me, but yes, old hat to many. I had to figure out how to activate it in my feed, so people could see it.

  7. says

    No question, no problem. I don’t see anything wrong with ads at all. You might as well be getting some payment for all the work that goes into the care and feeding of a blog!

    • diannejacob says

      My thoughts exactly! Although the payment does not match the effort, that’s for sure.

  8. says

    What a wonderful post Diane, and I’m glad to see how well and succinctly you put it. The beauty of blogging is that we can create exactly what we want and I do think of my blog as a magazine sometimes.

    And yea, exactly what Sara said!

    • diannejacob says

      Thank you, Matt. I know the subject is old hat for you, but I’m a latecomer to the party.

  9. says

    No ads for me, thanks–at least not the automatically generated kind sold by third parties. I don’t want fast food or products/services I don’t support to be advertised near my words. It’s always disheartening to me as a reader to encounter awful, processed-food ads on blogs about “honest home cooking”. Yeah, yeah, I know I’m in the minority, but the whole point of self-publishing is control, isn’t it?

    • diannejacob says

      Here’s the thing, Celeste. You can specify that you don’t want fast food ads. You can specify all kinds of things: ex. no ads from Republicans and no ads from Democrats. That made me feel like I had a lot more control.

  10. Betsy says

    Go for it, Diane. You provide interesting content, and that takes WORK. I write a newsletter for 450 employees in a non-food-related industry, and so far, I have been doing it for free. Coming up with content is a A CHORE. It is palatable only because I love what I am doing. I appreciate and benefit from your efforts, and you should be compensated for it. Getting ad revenue from others helps guarantee that I continue to benefit. I wouldn’t expect you or anyone else to work for free. And if you enjoy your work, that’s just a fringe benefit. (I am a member of a labor union in my other, non-foodie life. Can’t you tell?) 😉

    • diannejacob says

      Thank you. I’m glad you enjoy my blog. Being a writer, I don’t find coming up with content a chore, most of the time. It’s challenging, it’s exciting, it’s fun most of the time. But like you, I love what I’m doing, and if I can get a small monetary benefit, I’m going from it.

  11. says

    Does the ad produce value to your viewers? If so, then I actually think they are beneficial. When I first started my website I was staunchly against ads, but kept receiving requests from companies in the industry. When I realized that I could select just those advertisers that I felt offered a good quality product, which my viewers would like to know about, I switched my attitude.

    Plus, our time is worth something. Many people have to quit websites or blogging because the time is all-consuming. Payment for that time makes it much easier to justify.

    • diannejacob says

      That is a good question. I think BlogHer is an excellent organization. I’m not much of an ad-clicker myself, though.

      Yes, our time is worth something. Mine is worth way more than what this ad will pay me, but I’d still do this blog for free if I didn’t have one.

  12. MM Pack says

    Hi Dianne, I’m all for everyone figuring out how to make writing pay, since most of the traditional ways don’t work very well anymore. I’m not much of an ad-clicker either, but I do realize that most of the online content I consume (a huge amount) is provided to me without direct cost. So if ads (particularly ones that are relevant to the site and clearly designated as ads) help a writer/content provider fund their work, then right on.

    I appreciate that you took the bull by the horns with a frank discussion about your decision, as well as the professional journalism standards you apply to your work. Inspirational.

    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Mary Margaret! Now I’m wondering what will happen if and when I cover a BlogHer event. I’ll have to write a disclaimer at the bottom of my post, I guess.

  13. says

    You’ve had me thinking about this since my comments last week (or was it the week before?) Still don’t know where I land, but I do thank-you for your persepctive. I hadn’t thought of it that way. I’m still leaning, like Amy, to the blog being an ad for me. Ah, shameless self promotion. But so far it is working for me.

    • diannejacob says

      Hey, if it’s working for you, no need to change it, Cheryl. My entire website is an ad for me, including the blog. But I have to say, hardly anyone went to my website until I started a blog.

  14. says

    Well, what a great thought. You/we/I are/am the publisher. Very well put. And I am glad to hear about the BlogHer team. I am attending their conference this summer and am looking forward to it even more since I’ve read your post. Thanks.

    • diannejacob says

      Maybe I’ll see you there, Penni. I was a speaker at last year’s BlogHer Food.

  15. says

    You and I have hashed this out in person as we both decide which way to go on this one. And, as you know, I opted NOT to run ads on my recently moved site, so I’m part of the Amy & Cheryl club, for now.

    Here’s the beauty of this blogging business: Since we are, as you correctly point out, our own publisher’s we get to make our own decisions about such things. I can understand why running an ad makes sense for you and zillions of other bloggers.

    Equally, I appreciate the reasons folks articulate here about why they decline to do so, and share many of the same sentiments.

    That said, it’s a big ol’ world out in Blogland and there’s room for all of us, methinks.

    • diannejacob says

      Yes. Agreed. You’re welcome to publish your way and I’m welcome to publish mine.

    • diannejacob says

      Sounds logical, although for the people who choose not to put ads, there are other issues at stake. I can understand it.

  16. says

    I would be mortified if an ad for Kentucky Fried Chicken showed up on my healthy local vegetarian blog. KFC and Susan Komen–that link between the two organizations is odd too. If you don’t directly control which specific ads appear then you aren’t really in control. I could only host ads that aren’t related to companies with giant carbon footprints and I don’t suppose that was an offered option.

    • diannejacob says

      I don’t think it is an option, at least not yet. I suppose if enough bloggers ask for it, it will become one.

      • says

        Some ad networks will allow you to see ads before they’re published, so you can approve them before they go up on your site. Also there is a ‘green’ ad network, called Natural Path Media, that is aligned with advertisers and blog publishers in that category.

    • diannejacob says

      Wow. You’ve done pretty well, Carol. Also interesting about creating one’s own ads. I’ve heard it’s too time consuming, but now that I’m a publisher, I should reconsider that.

  17. says

    I found this post very interesting. I sometimes get people writing me an angry email or two about ads. I have ads on my site. My site, and its costs are well past a hobby stage for me. They are real costs. I would be willing to say more costs than most people would be willing to shell out for their hobbies each and every month. This is minus my time, my cooking, writing recipes, shooting photos and the like. Again, these same people would be the ones that would never pay for content either.

    Good for you in trying to get your blog to help support itself!


    • diannejacob says

      Thanks Stephanie! I appreciate your support.

      I talked with Amy about this issue more when we saw each other at the IACP conference in Portland this past week. She said she wants her site to remain “pure,” that it was an ad for her and her work. Corporate sites (ex. Nike) do not have ads on them. I agree. The rest of my web site pages don’t have ads on them. Then she said she was worried about ethics. Ex. If I want to criticize BlogHer, now that they’re paying me, I wouldn’t have the nerve? I think I would. I dealt with this issue when I was a magazine editor, when we would review an advertiser’s product, and then we’d have to be very careful about what we said. We still told the truth.