We have recently been contacted by several advertisers who wish to place ads on our online properties. Though we will always strive to offer our advertisers personalized services, we feel that setting a few minimum standards applicable to all will make our communication more effective and straightforward. Furthermore, this document is a work in progress and will evolve as our relationships change. We are releasing it under a Creative Commons Attribution license so that it can be used by whomever wishes for whatever purposes, provided that they leave the footer intact or give credit (in the form of the footer) if republishing elsewhere.

Relationships

Advertisers

Google

Readers

Sponsorship

Variables

Auction

Standards

Donations

Guest articles

Examples

How do others do it?

Sources / More info

Relationships

Our primary goals for almost all our web properties consist of self-expression, honest reporting and “mind-mapping / bread-crumbing” - i.e., we love going back to old articles and see where our opinions come from and how they evolved in time. Even on free platforms, publishing costs money either directly, in direct payments for domain names and other hosting-associated tasks or indirectly, in terms of lost opportunities to make a meaningful income. We consider readers / commenters equally important and forming our client base.

Advertisers

We see advertising income as a validation that our efforts are worthwhile, as a way of amortizing the investments we made in publishing and as an excellent opportunity to interact with and help start-ups and up-and-coming successes. We try our best to make our advertisers feel welcome and provide them with the best customer service we can.

Google

We do not consider Google evil nor do we think it is infallible. We will always voice our dissent w.r.t. some of their policies we consider irrational or outrageous, but we recognize that their influence on the online world is definitely positive on balance. We also think that sadly, they cannot be boycotted, so it is imperative to follow their rules and guidelines, as no online business can hope to survive while being in their black list for long.

Google is free to construct their index whichever way they want to and they are also free to not follow their own rules. Rebelling against them would only hurt oneself.
We nonetheless feel that their guidelines are lacking in some respects and in our online conduct we aim to uphold standards above and beyond their requirements.

Readers

Our readers are our friends. They can and should expect from us honesty and to be treated at least as well as they treat us, if not better. We hold in higher regard commenters and donors than silent readers. We are not interested in having readers who expect an ad-free experience, but we shall fulfill the expectation of clearly marked commercial speech by label / category.

Sponsorship

In designing a system to streamline communication with potential advertisers, we have the following goals.

  1. Transparency. Potential advertisers should be able to easily check and understand how we award advertising space on our properties.
  2. Efficiency. A good system should provide the lowest possible price advertisers while saving time for both the publisher and the advertiser.
  3. Flexibility. This document / system can and should be adaptable enough to be used with various blogs and platforms.

Variables

In the name of flexibility, our bidding / advertising concept requires the publisher to define the following variables, if different from the default values.

  1. Advertising period (Default: calendaristic month)
  2. Time-marker for bidding (Default: beginning of the month)
  3. Days to time-marker when bidding starts. (Default: 5)
  4. Timezone. (Default: EST)
  5. Reserve / starting bid - the minimum amount for first-time advertisers - banners. (Default: 5)
  6. Reserve / starting bid - the minimum amount for previous advertisers - banners. (Default: 0)
  7. Reserve / starting bid - the minimum amount for previous donors - banners. (Default: 0)
  8. Reserve / starting bid - the minimum amount for advertorials, first-time advertisers. (Default: 10)
  9. Reserve / starting bid - the minimum amount for advertorials, previous donors. (Default: 5)
  10. Reserve / starting bid - the minimum amount for advertorials, previous advertisers. (Default: 5)
  11. Number of monthly advertorials. (Default: 2)
  12. Advertorial increment. (Default: 20%)
  13. Minimum Monthly articles guarantee. (Default: 5)
  14. Minimum Monthly articles guarantee bid increment. (Default: 5)
  15. Payment Currency. (Default: USD; may consider Bitcoin and others on request)
  16. Payment Processor. (Default: PayPal + Interac Email; may consider others on request)
  17. Time of day payment limit. (Default: 5 pm)
  18. Time interval final details. (Default: 3h)
  19. Advertorial dofollow links. (Default: 1)
  20. Advertorial nofollow links. (Default: 2)
  21. Banner or ad creation cost. (Default: $20 on simple specs: size, logo, text, jpg + $5 for each modification)
  22. Advertising map. (Default: URL)
  23. General bid increment. (Default: 1)
  24. Additional links cost. (Default: 5)
  25. Banner non-standard image bonus (Default: 10)
  26. Banner animated gif bonus (Default: 20)
  27. Banner flash bonus (Default: 30)
  28. Unauthenticated Advertisers Boolean (Default: No)
  29. Donation / Surety Minimum (Default: $0.02)
  30. Surety Refund Boolean (Default: No)
  31. Advertiser Hosted Code Loading Delay Limit (Default: 50%)
  32. Days to end of month auction ends (Default: 1)
  33. Personal contact boolean (Default: Yes)
  34. Additional month discount  (Default: 5%)
  35. Additional month discount cumulative boolean (Default: Yes)
  36.  Porn ads acceptance boolean (Default: No)
  37. Gambling ads acceptance boolean (Default: No)
  38. Minimum monthly article guarantee words (Default: 300)
  39. General discount for more simultaneous ad placements (Default: 0)

Auction

Potential advertisers who want to participate in the bidding process must send (Y) money first - this is necessary to weed out people who might bid without having the means to pay - unless they have previously purchased advertising using the same email they use in their bidding profile if (X)=No. They may also contact the webmaster directly with special requests if (CC) is yes. The amount (Y) will be refunded for non-winners if (Z) is yes.

The auction starts for the next month (A) days in advance of the end of the current month and ends (BB) days before the end of the month. For example, if (A)=5, in the month of September (which has 30 days), the bidding would start September 25th (30 days minus (A) ⇔ 30 minus 5), at 0:01 or 12:01 am, in the last article published by the end of September 24th. If that blog has an article published September 10th, one article published September 20th at 3pm, another article published September 20th at 9pm, one article published September 25th at 2pm and one article published September 29th, the auction would be held in the comment section of the article published September 20th at 9pm and when a new article is published that month, such as the one on the 29th, no bidding would take place there. The bidding ends (BB) days in advance of the end of the month at 11:59 pm, to give the winner(s) time to send payment and, if necessary, their banners. If banners or other necessary details have not been sent by (M)+(N) - e.g., 8 pm - on the last day of the month, they will be published by (M) in the next business day following their receival. If payment has not been received by (M) - 5 pm by default - the next highest bidder is invited to take their place.

The auction needs not be opened by the webmaster. Potential advertisers, if interested, can and should start bidding after reading and understanding the previous paragraph.

To bid, one places a comment that should contain, at a minimum, the banner(s) from the advertising map (R), whether they want a minimum monthly article guarantee and how many blocks of articles (I) which increases (or should increase) their bid automatically by (J) x blocks of (I). The banner(s) first bid must be greater or equal to (D) or, if (X) is yes, greater or equal to (C). They can also bid for a number of advertorials less than or equal to (G). Similarly, the advertorial(s) first bid must be greater or equal to (E) for first timers and (F) for known donor or advertisers, the latter only as long as (X) is yes. Whoever wins the advertorial auction will pay the winning bid for the first advertorial, and price equal to the winning bid a cumulative advertorial increment (H) for each additional advertorial, up to the monthly maximum (G). If they are not interested in the full number of available advertorials for the month, the next bidder(s) is considered winner for the advertorial(s) left, until the monthly maximum (G) is allocated.

Unless modified by minimum article guarantee requests, in which case bids increase by blocks of (J) x (I), each bid must be higher than the previous by the general bid increment (S). For instance, let us assume the previous banners bid for a particular ad was $20. If you are bidding for the same location, you specify the location from the banner map and enter your bid for $21 or more. If you would like to get a minimum articles guarantee with your ad placement, you note that (I) is 5 and (J) is $5 and (HH) is 300 words. If you want to be sure that the blog will publish a minimum of 33 articles of at least 300 words each, you may purchase such a guarantee when sending payment for your winning bid. You would add an extra of $35 to your winning bid, effectively buying a guarantee of 7 blocks of (I) articles, for a total of 35 articles, each of 300 words or more (unrelated to the brand or product you’re advertising). Should the webmaster fail to produce at least this many articles, not only your $35, but your winning bids as well will be refunded in full.

A winning bid for a month of advertising also gives you the right to purchase additional months at a cumulative (if EE is yes) discount DD. For our example and defaults (cumulative discount of 5%), if you win a bidding with $21 and want to purchase 3 months instead of just one, you can pay $21 + $21 - (5%) + $21 - (10%)= $21x3-$1.05-$2.10=$59.85

Bids are considered for individual ad placements, independently, unless (II) is not zero. This means that if someone bids, for example, $10 for 3 placements, each ad placement carries a bid of $10; if the bid is a winning bid there would be a total of $30 due. If II is not zero and cumulative discount is yes, then there would be the same calculation as above. Anybody could outbid such a bid for just one or more ad placements - the bid for the other ad placements would stand.

Potential advertisers should have connected somehow in advance the email addressed they used to make the previous payment to their commenting profile. Most commenting platforms such as Disqus, Wordpress and, sometimes, Facebook and Google Plus disclose the email address of the commenter to the webmaster, so in those cases making that connection might not be necessary.

Standards

The following are a few rules spelled out in a way that may be easier to understand than the fragment above.

  1. Payment must be received before any ad or advertorial is placed on any of my sites. In the event we do not fulfill our part of the contract we will refund the payment in full.
  2. Advertorials will only be published in their own clearly marked category.
  3. We reserve the right to express a neutral or negative opinion about the product or brand in question and even mention competitors in advertorials.
  4. Any sponsored link on the entire site will be nofollow.
  5. Advertorials can contain a maximum of (O) dofollow links and (P) nofollow links. All additional links will be nofollow and will cost (T)/link.
  6. Auction winners who fail to pay by the deadline (M) may have their winning comment marked as spam and their email address blocked.
  7. If, at any time, advertiser-hosted code loads in a time that is (AA) more than the average of similar code already found on our website, as measured by a third party, verifiable service such as Pingdom Tools, that code is removed and no refund is given.

Donations

Donations can be sent via PayPal or, in Canada, via Interac Email to the email address associated with this blog (see the FAQ or About). Donors as well as previous advertisers have a better chance of being included in the password mailing list, as long as they complete our survey, and can start bidding for placing ads with $0. Donors can make requests or suggestions just like any other readers, but we make no guarantee that these will be followed.

Guest articles

We are always happy to receive guest articles. We introduce guest articles with a summary and we add a link back to the original author site at the end of the article. Guest articles must be original, unpublished and follow the general guidelines of our blog, as detailed in the blog About and FAQ. For the guest article that generated the most unique visitors in the previous month we place a small banner with a link back to their site in the blog sidebar. Additional links from the advertising map (R) may be placed throughout the blog on request.

Examples

Enforcing Google’s advice is virtually impossible. When advertisers contact us, they offer sometimes three-digit payments to “sponsor” an article, which usually means linking without nofollow. Consider the following email exchange between CH, a webmaster, and S, an advertiser (CH could very well be me):

>>>

S - Account Manager to ch  Jul 29

Hi,

I consult for a restaurant directory company that wants to improve its online presence. I’m interested in having a mention on this page of your website (..).. that links back to our website.

If this can be arranged we are more than willing to compensate you. Please let me know if you’re interested, and we can work out the details and conditions.

Thanks for your attention.

--

Best Regards,

S, Account Manager

>>>

CH to S Jul 29         

Thank you for your offer.

I can offer you such a link with "nofollow", as that is what Google requires of paid links and I could even publish it in a sidebar, if you so wish.

If this is desirable to you, please let me know.

Cheers,

Indelible Bonobo

>>>

Hi,

Unfortunately, we'd require for there not to be a nofollow tag. Thanks for your time.

S

It is frustrating foregoing advertising money, especially since publishing without advertising, though fulfilling, is mostly a time-sink and a money-losing venture.

How do others do it?

In 2009 when the “sponsored conversations” controversy boiled over, Matt Cutts gave an example of how this should be handled: the ReadWriteWeb. Indeed, it seems that in their articles (11, 12) they make a title of honour out of how they introduce sponsored articles:

Editor's note: this is a "Sponsor Post" by one of our long-term sponsors. These posts are clearly labeled as such, but we also want them to be useful and interesting to our readers. We hope you like the posts and we encourage you to support our sponsors by trying out their products.

(link inside article also nofollow)

If you enjoyed this post then check out [sponsor], the leading provider of ...

The link pointing to the sponsor website is nofollow. However, Techcrunch (incidentally, one of Matt Cutts’ fav sites) only started to “nofollow” their “thank you sponsors” pages only after the controversy. Most importantly, Google blogs themselves do not seem to follow what they preach (5). Here’s how the subject of the article is introduced:

This is a guest post by John Caplan, founder and CEO of [subject]. [Subject] allows bloggers, including all Blogger users, to discover unique products and sell those on their blogs. As we are interested in helping our users find various ways to monetize their blogs, we’ve asked John to introduce [subject] for our users. -- The Blogger team

None of the several links in the article is “nofollow”. This could be either because Google does not consider it necessary for them to follow their own rules, because that organization is either non-profit or co-owned by some Googler or simply because Google has different rules for different people. The way Google is implementing its rules is rather hard to follow (pun intended).

Sources / More info

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-nX2i-y2Es
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsGVibKpsgI 
  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScgXiqqxrM4 (compete)
  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SAPUx4Beh8 (nofollow internal)
  5. http://buzz.blogger.com/2010/10/guest-post-discover-amazing-products.html
  6. http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/sponsored-conversations/
  7. http://www.searchenginejournal.com/matt-cutts-confirms-paid-links-google-pagerank-update/5906/
  8. http://sebastians-pamphlets.com/blogger-abuses-rel-nofollow-due-to-ignorance/
  9. http://www.chrisbrogan.com/advertising-and-trust/
  10. http://izea.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/Forrester.pdf 
  11. http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/forrester_is_wrong_about_payin.php
  12. http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/mashery_secrets_behind_managing_an_api.php
  13. http://techcrunch.com/2008/10/17/thank-you-techcrunch-sponsors-5/ 

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