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Community ads are a cool feature of Stack Exchange communities, but I have a feeling that in the last couple of years they've been somewhat nerfed, to the point that they're no longer worth it at all.

For the past few years, we've run the same ad on gaming, for the Child's Play charity. Here are the number of total hits per year for that ad:

2013: 1,606
2014: 1,338
2015: 147
2016: 1 (so far)

Maybe people are bored of this ad, and have stopped clicking it? No - none of the other ads on gaming have had any clicks at all (at time of posting - March 2016). If the current click-rate continues, we're aiming for a grand total of 6 ad clicks this year!

A quick glance at Stack Overflow's current ad stats shows that this phenomenon is not gaming-specific (remember that SO traffic outweighs gaming's by a large factor).

Are Community Ads being shown less often now? Is this a deliberate decision? If that's the case, it's really not worth the investment in creating them any more.

  • 6
    I see community ad very very rarely. Maybe once in 50 page hits, but don't remember how it was before. Careers ad is displayed 99% of the times. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Mar 4 '16 at 9:57
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    I've been noticing this year (on both arqade and other sites) that many of the old narrow ads from previous years have been showing instead of the new ones. Now that I think of it, I haven't seen a single community ad from this year yet - the only ads that show up for me (other than the narrow ones) are the automatic hot network questions and area 51 new proposal ads – angussidney Mar 4 '16 at 10:00
  • @Sally Maybe so, all our ads got ~10% of 2014's traffic in 2015. – fredley Mar 4 '16 at 13:51
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    For the record: @Sally is correct that the 2016 figure is an anomaly due to the switch not having been thrown yet. (Soon.) As for 2014-15, there was no decision made to reduce impressions or anything like that--but we'll look into it and see if something else we did inadvertently caused this. – hairboat Mar 7 '16 at 21:00
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    Pretty sure I know what happened here. Pinging the relevant parties. – David Fullerton Mar 8 '16 at 19:03
  • @David you mean stevvve? – Shadow The Burning Wizard Mar 8 '16 at 22:02
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    Yes, @stevvve has been summoned and thinks he has found the problem. – David Fullerton Mar 8 '16 at 22:37
15

Per David's comment above, I was in fact summoned.

We figured out what caused the 2016 numbers to be so low, and Oded took care of that. Traffic to Community Ads on those sites should already show an increase.

2015 numbers remain a mélange of mystery and likely culprits, without any clear single actor causing the reduction noted in OP's question. To prevent as many of those things as possible from happening again, I will implement a fix shortly.

To my great frustration, the controls over house ads (which includes community ads) were established a long time ago, before I was at the helm. In all fairness to those who set them up, each successive addition or adjustment was logical at the time. Over time, though, they became a rat's nest of settings, flights, campaigns, and controls.

Very soon, I'll be taking Richard Hammond's advice and shutting down the system. Of course, I'll bring it back-- just cleaner, easier to manage, and less messy. Let's just hope it goes better for me than it did for Mr. Arnold. Note that while I considered it, I refuse to put the lysine contingency into effect. This will help us keep a closer eye on delivery and allocations to increase the likelihood that I'll spot these issues before you do in the future. :-)

Allllllllll that said, I really appreciate the time and effort each of you put into this issue. It makes my job immeasurably easier, and I can't thank you enough. Please stay vigilant and keep an eye out for any irregularities.


Update: after a bit of a hiccup, we made a change that should smooth things over. Please continue to keep an eye out in the near future to make sure these ads deliver as intended. Thank you!

  • 3
    It's always the previous guy's fault :-P – fredley Mar 9 '16 at 17:23
  • n.b. (and correct me if I'm wrong, Stove) that this mystery applies only to Arqade; as far as we can tell, all other sites with community ads have not been affected. Except for the part where 2016 ads weren't hooked up until March. That was everywhere. – hairboat Mar 9 '16 at 20:38
  • @abbyhairboat Interesting, why just us? – fredley Mar 10 '16 at 20:46
16

Update: as it turns out, Community Ads were simply disabled until March 8, 2016 due to the sidebar design change, as explained in this answer by Oded. The below answer is not relevant anymore.

The answer is simple: nobody clicks it, because nobody see it. Those advertisements are almost never displayed. I thought it's just rare, but after reloading 50 times both logged in and logged out (Incognito mode) I reached the conclusion that SE does not serve those advertisements to logged in users at all (0 out of 50), and very rarely (3 out of 50) to anonymous visitors.

I just reloaded Arqade's homepage 50 times while logged in (1k+ rep), and here are the results:

  1. newsletter
  2. external advertisement
  3. hot question
  4. hot question
  5. hot question
  6. area 51 proposal
  7. hot question
  8. external advertisement
  9. external advertisement
  10. hot question
  11. hot question
  12. hot question
  13. hot question
  14. external advertisement
  15. hot question
  16. hot question
  17. hot question
  18. hot question
  19. hot question
  20. external advertisement
  21. external advertisement
  22. hot question
  23. hot question
  24. hot question
  25. hot question
  26. nothing
  27. hot question
  28. hot question
  29. hot question
  30. hot question
  31. hot question
  32. nothing
  33. external advertisement
  34. hot question
  35. hot question
  36. nothing
  37. external advertisement
  38. hot question
  39. hot question
  40. hot question
  41. external advertisement
  42. hot question
  43. area 51 proposal
  44. hot question
  45. hot question
  46. external advertisement
  47. hot question
  48. external advertisement
  49. hot question
  50. hot question

Now let's count:

  • 33 hot questions (66%)
  • 11 external advertisement (22%)
  • 3 nothing (6%)
  • 2 area 51 proposals (4%)
  • 1 newsletter (2%)

0 community promotion ads.

For anonymous visitors (reloaded 50 times in Incognito mode) there is big difference: much less hot questions, little more external ads, more area 51 proposals and even showing the community promotion ads. Summary:

  • 25 hot questions (50%)
  • 15 external advertisement (30%)
  • 5 area 51 proposals (10%)
  • 3 community ads (6%)
  • 2 nothing (4%)

Bug or by design? Not my place to say.

  • Were you logged in for this experiment? I know being logged in reduces ad amount, and possibly earning a bit of rep reduces it further. No idea whether this applies to community ads. – fredley Mar 5 '16 at 17:57
  • Yes, I was logged in. Will try again logged out soon and update. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Mar 5 '16 at 17:57
  • Now, that's something ...interesting... – Deer Hunter Mar 5 '16 at 19:41
  • Thanks @fredley there is indeed a big difference, updated my answer now. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Mar 5 '16 at 21:24
  • @ShadowWizard In that case the ads do seem to be being shown - so is the stats page wrong? – fredley Mar 6 '16 at 9:53
  • @fredley you mean the total clicks? No, 6% is really really rare. People won't reload until they see the ad just to click it. Suppose you are a random visitor of the site. 94% of the times you see Hot Question ad, or external ad, etc - even when there is something else, that otherwise might have been of interest, you won't notice it anymore, since you assume it's just another uninteresting advertisement. See my point now? – Shadow The Burning Wizard Mar 6 '16 at 10:05
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    @fredley in my opinion, to have any chance to get clicks, those ads must be displayed at least 30% of the times, i.e. one out of three page views, you'll see a Community Promotion ad. I believe that was the case in the past, and SE changed their algorithm to reduce the number every passing year. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Mar 6 '16 at 10:07
  • @shadow I disagree, and anyway the main issue seems to be that something about either the rate at which ads are being displayed or the measurement of clicks seems to have changed over the past year. – fredley Mar 6 '16 at 11:50
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    @fredley I fear only SE dev/employee can take it from here. Let's hope it will take less than 6-8 years. – Shadow The Burning Wizard Mar 6 '16 at 11:51
  • Bug or dumb mistake by me. I'll post an answer when I know for sure. – stevvve Mar 8 '16 at 19:06
  • @stevvve thanks, hopefully a bug... for your sake... ;) – Shadow The Burning Wizard Mar 8 '16 at 19:09
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On Mi Yodeya our click stats were pretty consistent for 2013, 2014, and 2015; we didn't see the big drop-off that you did in 2015. (2016 has has a rough start; it looks like those ads were not live for very long.)

Whatever happened in 2015 seems to have had some site-by-site variation.

0

These are my stats for Ask Ubuntu.

I refreshed 140 times, logged in and logged out.

Logged in:

  • Area 51: 23

  • Chat: 0

  • Community Ad: 4

  • Hot Network Question: 88

  • No ad: 16

  • Paid ads: 0

Logged out:

  • Area 51: 19

  • Chat: 9

  • Community Ad: 7

  • Hot Network Question: 99

  • No ad: 12

  • Paid ads: 3

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