There’s a lot to be said for blogs out there that don’t carry much – or any – advertising. The experience of reading those blogs is almost invariably better, allowing the reader to focus on the content or ideas being presented. Indeed, these sites speak to their owners’ dedication to unfettered communication and their desire to present their work to their audience without distraction.
A surprising number of those blogs are also very well-designed… or, at least, the blog’s owner uses a blogging platform like WordPress – with its large user and developer base – that has allowed them to select from a large assortment of clean, up-to-date themes for their website. The owner of these sites, at any rate, clearly care about more than just the content, and have taken the time to present it in a manner that reflects their own (good) taste.
Equally as surprising, at least to me, is that although many of these blogs are both highly trafficked and that their owners are aware of this fact – often evidenced by comment volume or, more intriguingly, through a post in which the site owner or blogger reflects on his findings from his site’s analytics – they continue to hold off on monetizing that traffic. With a combination of good design, good content, and enough technical savvy to go data hunting in a tool like Google Analytics, I have to wonder why! Ads are probably the easiest way of recovering the operating costs for a site, not to mention a great source of legitimate income.
After doing some research, however, it’s clear to me that pre-built themes that accommodate ads are not nearly on par, in terms of design quality, with themes that no not include ads – at least in the marketplace for WordPress themes. This poses a challenge to less technically-oriented bloggers who, like their readers, would probably rather focus on their content once they’ve reached an acceptable threshold of presentation quality instead of focusing on learning enough to tweak an existing theme to accommodate ads.
The other factors to consider are that ads are still relatively inflexible and difficult to adapt to clean visual design. With ubiquitous standards-governed ad sizes that make it easy to deliver ads from many publishers at once, the trade-off is that ads rarely blend effectively into the content and design of websites. With even high-profile media properties engaged in an ongoing ideological struggle to improve the ad experiences on their sites, it’s no wonder that independent bloggers run into roadblocks.
What this means in my case is that – while I’ve got standard ad units ready to go for this blog in Google AdSense – I’m going to continue for a little while longer to look for a well-designed theme that does a good clean job of incorporating advertising for this little blog of mine. I’m also going to hold off putting ads onto this site until I either find that theme or have the chance to adapt one of the better, well-maintained responsive themes to my advertising