We knew that the Stack Exchange Network would eventually play a bigger role in contributing to the financial end of our business, but we didn't know how long that would take. Turns out, it was roughly six years from the time that we decided to put all of you in charge of the topics that Stack Exchange serves.
TL;DR: See the title, and scan this post for a bulleted list of sites that will soon be showing advertisements. "Display Ads" are advertisements that aren't job listings.
We always knew that the value of the Stack Exchange network of sites would be realized in ways that translate into things that are way more important than money. We're home to over 150 of the safest communities on the internet where anyone seeking knowledge can learn from very high-quality information, a fact that makes me (and I believe many of you) insanely proud of what we've done.
But money is important, too, at least for now. It helps us do things like pay our data-center bill, keep Joel caffeinated, and continue to grow the company so that we can continue to find new ways to serve your needs that aren't being very well served elsewhere.
Without further ado, here's a list of sites that will soon be displaying excessively considerate, ludicrously on-topic advertisements:
- Electrical Engineering (formerly "Chip Hacker" from the Stack Exchange 1.0 days!)
- Raspberry Pi
- Code Review
- User Experience
- Geographic Information Systems
- Cross Validated
Hey, you – stop looking at arbitrary numbers in order to figure out why these sites were selected; I'm going to get into that now. The first thing that is important to note is our client base consists entirely of companies that want to reach or hire programmers.
The above sites share the following characteristics:
- The topic serves developers in ways that Stack Overflow didn't or couldn't when they were created,
- They have a minimum of 50,000 questions and answers combined,
- They receive a minimum of 15,000 visits per day (on average),
- It became clear that our clients were not going to stop asking us if we'd be expanding our inventory to also cover these sites (to which the answer was a very firm "no" until now).
We do not, and will never define the success of a Stack Exchange site by the fact that it became part of our advertisement inventory.
And it's very important that none of you do that, too. Advertisements aren't in any way a measure of success of the site. Success for your site remains people being able to ask questions and learn in the safe environment that our moderation philosophy fosters. Keep the focus on quality, friendliness, safety – that's what works.
Will my favorite site be showing ads one day?
The answer to that question is most likely going to remain probably not for a very long time. Let's imagine that Pets overtook everyone else in its topic space and became the size of Super User. That'd be fantastic, because pet owners would all be looking at much better information! And that would remain the reason that it's fantastic for probably years to come.
Why? Because engagement at that level has to be consistent over a long period of time before we'd even dream of looking at advertisements, and we'd need quite a few clients that want to reach programmer-y pet owners – that would take a while.
What do you mean by excessively considerate, ludicrously on-topic?
We annoy the heck out of our customers by telling them nope more often than saner for-profit organizations would be remotely comfortable doing. We have a very strict criterion for ad quality and relevance and we positively refuse to lower that bar.
Instead, we work with our clients to better understand the folks that they'll be reaching, and help them design campaigns and creatives that are respectful and relevant to you, while being profitable for them. It's an insane amount of work.
Does this affect community ads?
No. Most of these sites have a dozen or so community selected ads in rotation; you'll just soon see advertisements from our clients, too.
Thank you, all of you.
We placed what our communities would mean to people ahead of any and all priorities to make money through facilitating their creation; every single one of you has helped us prove that this was the best possible choice that we could have made.
To those of you that so graciously give your time to our sites by helping others learn and keeping them the safest places on the Internet for people to do that, you should always be very proud of what you're doing.
Today, it got a little easier to keep the lights on, and a few extra treats in the snack jar. And for that, thank you.