-416

For several years we've had advertising solely on technology-related sites. But many of our sites aren't about technology at all, so we haven't sold ads for them. Traditionally, that hasn't been a hardship since Stack Exchange sites have required only a small investment from the company to set up and keep live.

However, as we've continued to grow, the resources needed to maintain our network have also increased. Thanks entirely to the efforts of the network's communities, we have become an amazing resource on the Internet. Generating revenue from non-technology sites will enable us to dedicate more resources to meeting your needs so this is good news!

The test has been in effect since May 21, 2019, and our advertising team will be monitoring to see how ads are performing. We don't know how many ads will run on each site, we're testing different solutions. It could be just a few or a bit more. In either case, these ads will be carefully vetted and we'll be keeping watch to continue to provide good content.

If you see any ads that are inappropriate or have any questions about this experiment, please let me know by starting a new question and tagging it with . This is a work in progress and we are expecting a time of learning and refinement as we move forward.

A few things to be aware of:

  • We've received reports about ads that redirect, and those have been removed. We've also received reports about ads that are spammy and those too have been removed.

  • If you wish to report an advertisement, please take a screenshot of the ad and paste the URL (if possible) along with the site where you saw it to a comment or answer. I'll report it to the ads team and we can track it down to investigate.

  • Some of the network sites will show more ads than others. This is not due to reduced ad privileges (which don't exist right now for the network) but rather to inventory allowances.

  • This is an experiment that will take us to about the end of the year. As such, we're learning about what advertiser networks will work for us and which can offer the quality of ads that we desire. I ask for your patience and understanding during this testing period.

  • Due to an already existing agreement, MathOverflow will not be getting ads and is not a part of this experiment.

Thank you for your help in reporting what you see and for forgiving us of the mess as we do some remodeling!

  • 245
    Can we please get some concrete revenue numbers that justify having to put up ads on the other sites? – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Jun 20 at 1:05
  • 176
    @SonictheBracketedHedgehog No, we're not going to do that. – Juan M Jun 20 at 1:43
  • 23
    If you tell people about the experiment won't people act differently and thus the experiment is not well done? – Outsider Jun 20 at 2:00
  • 34
    @Outsider: Strictly speaking, that is correct. But it's impossible to prevent people from noticing the experiment (what, afterall, is the goal of ads?), so it's worthwhile to have a place for people to learn about it if they are curious. A bigger potential problem is the novelty effect. When the novelty has worn off, there's a better chance to get useful data. – Jon Ericson Jun 20 at 2:36
  • 210
    just a quick question. Instead of trying to rely on generic ads providers, have you even considered proposing ads space to actual companies that may interested to advertise here? I think Sony / Microsoft / EA / Nintendo etc could actually be interested to have ads on Arqade (and user would probably prefer those to an ads for some snake-oil... ). Same could be said for Canon / Nikon on a site like Photography.... Give the user info they can be interested in, and make those come from the actual producers. – Hitodama Jun 20 at 9:43
  • 16
    I mean.. you already have the community ads program going on many sites... no one would probably get mad if you pushed some reasonable ads thru the same channel. – Hitodama Jun 20 at 9:46
  • 130
    You may want to elaborate whether animated ads are considered inappropriate in general. – Wrzlprmft Jun 20 at 10:21
  • 64
    @Wrzlprmft two days ago they clarified in comments of related meta discussion: "Animated ads will be allowed during the experiment..." (not that this makes me happy) – gnat Jun 20 at 12:59
  • 121
    Why was my comment about malware serving ads removed? This is a genuine avenue for attacks en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malvertising. Since the ad networks don't stop this happening is SE? I come to this site to help me code against such things, not get infected by them. You already sandboz user submitted JS on SO - why not ads? – razethestray Jun 21 at 18:10
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    The same networks that use cookies to track you everywhere you go online. An absolute security and privacy nightmare indeed. – razethestray Jun 22 at 0:10
  • 86
    "We've received reports about ads that redirect, and those have been removed." It disturbs me that you had to wait to receive reports for such things to be removed. What is SE doing to actively, rather than reactively, prevent misbehaving and malicious ads? – Kyralessa Jun 25 at 11:45
  • 25
    @JuanM Hmm...well, I will be leaving my ad and stats blockers enabled: cubicspot.blogspot.com/2014/03/… You've already failed test #1! It's 5 years after I wrote that post and ad server operators haven't changed in the slightest bit. If anything, the situation is worse than ever because now you think you've achieved "high standards". Your standards are clearly not even remotely close to the minimum standards where I'll consider unblocking SE. This is a website security, safety, and DOM performance issue, not a monetary issue. – CubicleSoft Jun 26 at 13:20
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    Stackoverflow already has problems with their ads attempting to track users. What sort of protections will be built-in to this expansion in order to protect users against this sort of misbehavior? That is, what will StackExchange do to make it actually safe for us to view these ads in the first place? – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Jun 26 at 18:11
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    @JuanM Clearly the standards are not high enough. You guys used to have a very high standard: nothing but a static image (or text) was permitted, period. No video. No audio. No JavaScript. Now you're letting networks place ads with JavaScript on here, and we're getting the same malvertising that plagues the rest of the Web. Well... stop it! Put the standards back where they were. No JS on any ad for any reason, no exceptions, no excuses. – Mason Wheeler Jun 26 at 21:57
  • 33
    @ProQ well..... if it wasn't for users shouting at SE, this post would have never been posted. They were going to make this 100% silent without telling anybody about it, hoping nobody will notice or care. So no, I am not glad people need to shout and complain in order to get a response. It's bad in all aspects. If they would have posted this BEFORE starting the "test" things could indeed be very different. But they didn't. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Jul 1 at 10:51

43 Answers 43

11

All of the content on this entire network is provided by users, not by the owners of the website. You are talking about taking content provided free of charge by site members; placing adverts upon it to annoy casual users and contributing members alike; and pocketing the money. That is, at the very least, unethical.

If you allow animated adverts and adverts completely unrelated to the subject matter, people will use adblockers in droves.

If you block people using adblockers, they will either work around your block, or leave.

I, for one, refuse point-blank to tolerate ads; especially animated ones.

  • 6
    "That is, at the very least, unethical." Probably depends on how many ads they place. If they would place only a few ads to cover the running costs I would consider it ethical. The more money they make for themselves, the more questionable it becomes. The real "good news" is that the content is free. At any point in time others or the community can continue without or maybe with less ads. We have competition around the free content. – Trilarion Jun 25 at 9:58
  • 2
    @Trilarion We have competition around the free content. - do we? Who is the competition? Is anything comparable to SE? – shiny-metal Jun 25 at 15:33
  • @shiny-metal "Who is the competition?" Sorry. I meant it more like, there could be competition. I don't think there is actually currently. There some sites copying content from StackOverflow and as long as they give attribution they are even completely legal. But that's it more or less, I think. – Trilarion Jun 25 at 15:42
  • 9
    The content comes from users, but the servers, maintenance, and SEO that provides essential visibility come from SE. It's not unethical for them to try to earn revenue from the sites. Where ethics get more dicey is when the user contracts that have been in place for years (like the one about ad quality) start falling by the wayside. It's still their network, but poor decisions can erode trust. Users are free to take the content and set up elsewhere (per the license), but making that work is not trivial. – Monica Cellio Jun 25 at 16:16
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    @MonicaCellio It depends on the balance I would say. Wikipedia also has servers, maintenance and SEO and they could show topical ads, but they don't. They probably could earn more from their site but nobody really likes ads. They distract the reader and lower the value of the presented content. The higher the profit for the owners of the network here, the lower the value for the users (and content creators). The right balance is okay, the wrong balance not. In the end, ads are a necessary evil not "good news" as Juan wrote. Let's just hope, the network keeps the balance. – Trilarion Jun 26 at 8:18
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    @Trilarion Wikipedia also has an annual pledge drive and a non-profit corporation behind it (which reduces the taxes they pay). I'm not saying that ads are the only answer; I'd prefer to avoid them too. I'm just saying that it's a stretch to jump to the ethics claim you made. – Monica Cellio Jun 26 at 15:18
  • @MonicaCellio It all depends on the actual extent. What I like about the Wikipedia approach is that it maximizes the value for the user. How much advertisement is okay and how much is too much - I guess that is up to debate and personal taste but just look at the score of this announcement, it's quite negative. People don't like ads. Facebook, StackExchange, Wikipedia - they all evolve around user generated content. Some are more evil, others more good. StackExchange is somewhere in the middle of them, I would say. – Trilarion Jun 27 at 8:12
11

List of the "topical ads".

Somehow NSFW, and Animated

1. 2019 09 16: On SciFi.SE .

enter image description here

2. 2019 09 17: On Workplace.SE, and Travel.SE .

enter image description here

with animation here https://sgreen.erne.co/creatives?id=Qz0vFA1iZriUIOLHhxqE

3. 2019 09 18: On Workplace.SE, Academia.SE .

enter image description here

with animation here https://sgreen.erne.co/creatives?id=SqKf2HoBhvvuQTmWIPn4

4. 2019 09 19: On Music.SE

enter image description here

with animation here https://sgreen.erne.co/creatives?id=Qz0vFA1iZriUIOLHhxqE

8


The advertisement in between the post is hidden when the zoom size is increased more than 100%. But the advertisement in the side bar is not hidden for the 100%+ zoom. Also, when reduced the zoom size it is displaying the advertisement in between the post and the side bar.

As I aware Stack Exchange is not supporting other than 100% zoom. But displaying the advertisement based on the zoom size is looks like bug.

GIF for evidence:

Zoom 100%+

  • That's one way to block an ad. – user474678 Jul 6 at 2:18
8

If you were to have ads, I would like them to be designed to the same look and feel of the Stack Exchange network. Ads are designed to pull our attention away from what we want to see.

Also to prevent these ad exchanges from buying the slot to resell.

  • 1
    Not sure what you mean about preventing ad exchanges from reselling the slots...that is primarily what they do! – WBT Jul 8 at 16:37
7

Option 2 - paid subscription

It's obvious that you need to earn money so that we can use this great network.

However, ads is only one side of the medal so I'd like to suggest an alternative for people who can stand them but still value the network.

I'd be happy if there was an alternative to ads as a paid subscription plan so that people who don't want to see that irrelevant spam just can pay for using the website and focus only on the content.


No matter how friendly ads are, they are always distracting.

I also agree with this answer that contributors should be spared from seeing ads.

Option 3 - dedicated ad pages

There is one more option but it might be a too outside-of-the-box one.

Build a dedicated page with only ads and put a link to it somewhere so that people feeling like seeing some ads can go there and focus only on that and let the rest of the content clean.

  • 9
    Option 3 is expressly forbidden by most ad providers. I've seen it myself with AdSense and a couple of other ones. Agreeing that you should be able to pay to remove ads – linuxandria Jun 24 at 2:05
  • 2
    @INLOwnerInnonetlife wow, I didn't know that :-o this would be so much more efficient and people wouldn't hate ads so much. Maybe some day they will understand. – shiny-metal Jun 24 at 14:35
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    If StackExchange is getting desperate enough to test ads that aren't job ads or ads for their own products, at this point Option 4 is "ask for donations". The model is working well for Wikipedia? – Rudolf Olah Jun 24 at 16:17
  • 3
    @RudolfOlah I like the idea of Option 4, and I think there's a way they could encourage donations. They could add an icon next to the username of donors (similar to how the diamond goes next to moderators). Donors can opt in to show the amount of server time they've paid for on mouse-over of the icon. This will encourage people to show off how much they've invested in keeping the site funded to prevent ads, and that will in turn encourage others to donate as well. – called2voyage Jun 24 at 18:22
  • 2
    Maybe even bronze, silver, and gold badges for recurring donations. Bronze badge would be "donated once", silver badge would be "annual donations", and gold badge would be "monthly donations". – called2voyage Jun 24 at 18:24
  • @called2voyage this could be followed by some additional privileges... I like that donation idea too. – shiny-metal Jun 24 at 18:26
  • @shiny-metal I don't like the idea of basically paying for advanced privileges, but maybe it could give access to bonus features. – called2voyage Jun 24 at 18:27
  • @called2voyage sure, the privileges should be neutral, statistics, seeing voting counts etc. There are many people who mostly read, have accounts, vote a lot but otherwise rarely contribute. They could be able to do simple extra stuff. – shiny-metal Jun 24 at 18:29
  • I'm voting up for option 2 (for users that don't achieve a reduced ads privilege). I would also like to block links to other SE sites (without resorting to an adblocker). – Jonathan Jul 2 at 14:03
7

I would suggest to create some network-wide "reduced ads privilege" for your most active contributors.

Actually, I see your ads only rarely (if my adblocker needs some tuning). However, many of your worthy contributors won't do that. I suspect, you don't want to lose them.

7

I'm rather on the fence with this one.

On one hand, at work I block all ads and trackers, no exceptions. This is for security reasons as well as to prevent ridiculous unethical ads. And I only use SO at work, so in essence I will never see the ads. (and if I do, I will manually block each one)

On the other, at home, I generally wouldn't mind ads, as long as they aren't distracting. Same with cellphone apps and games. I don't mind ads as long as they aren't distracting. (I use adblock+ (default setings), and so non-distracting ads do show up from time to time, and I don't mind.)

I emphasize the distracting bit, because on a site with distracting ads, I either put it through Firefox Focus (removes all ads and trackers, clears cookies), or use reading view.

The bottom line here is if you want ads to be effective, they have to be tailored to the specific site, and be opt-in

I haven't clicked an ad (more than the number of fingers on one hand) in my entire internet career, except by accident because it was one of the annoying ones. That's 20+ years of almost 24/7 internet. But I sometimes later go to the store to buy whatever it was that was advertised if I really wanted it. Advertisers must hate me.

  • "But I sometimes later go to the store to buy whatever it was that was advertised if I really wanted it. Advertisers must hate me." Not really. They got what they wanted (to alter your spending habits to buy their product) and and probably didn't even need to pay the website owner for the privilege, because you didn't click on the ad. Ads aren't (usually) designed to get you to click them, they're designed to get you to remember the thing being advertised when you see it later (i.e. in a store) because there was an ad about it earlier. – Servy Jul 3 at 21:58
  • 3
    To be fair, I wouldn't mind ads if they weren't damaging. Damage include visual damage (ie: too much visual distraction, flashing colors, screen occupation percentage etc), audio damage (autoplay audio), privacy damage (tryes to fingerprint your machine), malware damage (the ads tries to install malware on your system) and so on... – Hitodama Jul 4 at 8:40
6

I Support this Choice

I for one think it's time the site starts to mirror the appearance of other sites with equally useful information, like Buzzfeed and the Gawkster of yore.

They're not corporate overloads, they're concerned father figures looking out for our digital Fatherland.

enter image description here

5

There is a Microsoft ad (Microsoft Azure) that causes strange behaviour on the browser back button. For a full report see: Returning from question requires to go back twice, ad causing extra (identical) entry in history

This ad is also present on other sites in the network, and causes similar behaviour there. See: Microsoft Azure advertisement breaks the back button behaviour

4

I'm seeing a high number of heavily animated ads now like the following:

https://s0.2mdn.net/8467101/1561981085980/AUD_Branding_072018_728_90_DC/index.html

There were some worse ones, but I didn't grab the link for them.

0

I think it is a good idea if it puts food on the table. Just get the user feedbacks and implement this properly.

-15

YouTube offers its content creators a way to monetize their efforts - the ad revenue that the company earns is in part earned by content creators' efforts; and as such they get a fraction of ad revenue.

Have you considered that approach for ads displayed on the SE network?

  • If you do so, you encourage quality content

  • If you fail to do so, you actively demoralize and discourage content creators who made the sites work, by earning money off the backs of their efforts.

  • 4
    I don't think they will ever implement this idea. But if it is implemented then i'm sure that many people will start seeing SE network as a source of income like YT and it will eventually benefit the whole network. – CodeIt Jun 22 at 5:36
  • 34
    @CodeIt ...and invite a ton of bullshit content with the sole intention to make money, not too much unlike YouTube. To battle this you have to find a way to make only the contributors who deserve it to gain profit and this in turn isn't particularly easy to measure. Use votes or views? Yeah, now people won't just post clickbait crap for HNQ rep but for money. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Jun 22 at 9:48
  • @ChristianRau You are absolutely right. That's why i wrote in the beginning that i don't think they will ever implement this idea. – CodeIt Jun 22 at 11:15
  • 2
    @CodeIt It was the end of your comment that prompted my response, not the beginning of it, unless there was a word missing in that sentence. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Jun 22 at 11:17
  • @ChristianRau There are individual developers who are spending a lot of time in sites in SO to help fellow developers. I still think if SE is able to correctly implement this idea, it will eventually benefit those people. – CodeIt Jun 22 at 11:20
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    @ChristianRau - that part is easy, there's TONS of great proposals to fix the BS effects of HNQ. SE simply doesn't care enough to fix them. – DVK Jun 22 at 13:34
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    This isn't solely an HNQ problem, in fact the HNQs are entirely orthogonal to this. Once you bring in a monetary motivation, people will go out of their way to get the quick buck. While even now some people might get obsessed with reputation a little too much, wanting to make a quick buck by writing a few words on the internet is a whole 'nother level of wrong motivation. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Jun 22 at 14:14
  • 1
    "If you do so, you encourage quality content" Oh please, is there a site with worse quality of content than Youtube? I can't think of one. The monetizing is one of the main reasons why there's so much trash there. – Lundin Jun 24 at 8:43
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    @Lundin - not the channels I'm interested in (musicians, for most part). I see amazing performances for free, because they make money off ads. Most of the issues with Youtube are due to its algorithms not the fact of monetization – DVK Jun 24 at 13:06
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    Quora has gone this route, and it's terrible. – Robert Grant Jun 24 at 13:14
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    @Lundin There is an enourmouse amount of extremely high quality content that wouldn't exist without YouTube providing money to creators. The model just doesn't translate well to providing accurate and useful practical programming solutions the way it does to entertainment, and it's also such a stark contrast to the site's design and values that it wouldn't work here. But in the field of entertainment media on a platform specifically constructed around the model of paying people for doing a good job of entertaining others, it's a great model. – Servy Jun 24 at 13:56
  • +1 I think this is the way forward, users who consistently provide "great" answers should get a miniscule percentage of any generated revenue their answer appears on, I stress, a token, a penny dropped in the fountain, not a salary. Until their answer gets upvoted >1,000 in which case... reward the user with quality merchandise or swag? – Mari-Lou A Jun 25 at 5:20
  • 3
    But the answer is misplaced, it veers off to a different topic, specifically How does SE=SO generate revenue? Maybe you might want to consider posting here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/329846/… – Mari-Lou A Jun 25 at 5:25
  • 2
    Yet on SE we strive to generally uphold quality and optimize for pearls rather than sand. I'd much rather the site already optimizes for that (which it at least calims as their goal to do) rather than me having to do that. You picking yourself the pearls among all the crap YouTube has to offer is all well and good, but also largely incidental. – Chris says Reinstate Monica Jun 26 at 15:33
  • 5
    @Servy, if YouTube doesn't have the majority of the world's video content, it's not for lack of trying. When you've got that much content, it's not surprising that you've got enormous amounts of extremely high quality content. The problem with YouTube is the density of quality content: pick a video at random, and it's probably going to be a steaming pile. SE, on the other hand, tries to optimize for density of quality content rather than raw numbers. – Mark Jun 26 at 20:03
-36

Please block ad-blocker users, but allow them to pay for the service (costing no more than fixed subscription costs + average advertisement income) if they don't want to see advertisements. That way the rest of us won't see more ads to pay for their access to the SE services and you actually provide a solution for those who are unhappy to see advertisements in general (whether for valid privacy reasons or just because they don't like them).

The reason I am proposing that is just because it feels somewhat unfair that the focus here seems to be to earn more money from the users who are already earning you money, rather than focusing on the users who are currently using your services and not paying for it in any shape or form.

(And lastly: Please ensure that the default is a non-privacy infringing option where no user profiles will be built and no (user) targeted advertising will happen by default. If a user wants to opt-in for their personal data to be used for more relevant advertisements, then go them! That however should be an opt-in choice (luckily a lot of interpretations of GDPR require this, but the big ad networks are trying to slip through with a legitimate interest based argument))

  • 19
    I'm not paying SE for the little benefit I get from it, and I'm not exposing myself to the risk that Google Ads are. I guess I'll just stop answering altogether. – John Dvorak Jun 27 at 8:47
  • 17
    All the people who volunteer their time to keep the site clean will go home, too. The CV queue is overflowing as is. – John Dvorak Jun 27 at 8:49
  • @JohnDvorak Yeah, definitely makes sense, please also don't read the answers then 😉 . Totally makes sense that not each service is valuable to each person. If it's not valuable to you then that's totally okay. And yes, I agree that active contributors should see less/no ads. – David Mulder Jun 27 at 8:50
  • 10
    Without moderators, this site won't be valuable to any expert. Without experts, this site won't be valuable to homework dumpers either. Without the pillar of SO, the rest of the network won't hold either. – John Dvorak Jun 27 at 8:52
  • 47
    Please block ad-blocker users, but allow them to pay for the service (costing no more than fixed subscription costs + average advertisement income) if they don't want to see advertisements. How to wreck your entire community in less then 10 seconds. Contributors already pay for SE's bottom line with their time and energy. – mag Jun 27 at 9:00
  • @Magisch Maybe payment would be an option to get the "no-ad privilege" without being a worthy contributor ("worthy contributor" could be defined in this sense by some rep/badge/etc criteria). Worthy contributors would get the "no-ad privilege" automatically, without payment. – peterh says reinstate Monica Jun 28 at 16:12
  • 4
    Some people only use adblockers for accessibility. Having to pay to make a site accessible places a burden on folks with disabilities. – autistOfSpot Jul 1 at 1:55
  • 4
    ಠ_ಠ Please block ad-blocker users, but allow them to pay for the service (costing no more than fixed subscription costs + average advertisement income) if they don't want to see advertisements. - If I don't want to see advertisements I will not come to your website, simple as that. – reportgunner Jul 2 at 13:53
  • 2
    If SE blocks ad-blockers, I'm deleting my accounts. – user474678 Jul 6 at 2:14

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