Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Woodworking blog ethics.

Looking at my possibilities of settings etc. that BlogSpot allows me to use on the blog, one is called "Adsense". They boldly state that you can make money by writing your blog. As far as I can understand by the description, you sell space on your blog for companies to use for advertising. You can choose types of ads that you don't want, e.g. "get rich quick" and "cheap medicine".

I suppose that other blog hosts such ad Wordpress etc. have got a similar system.

But trawling through different woodworking blogs, I can't remember having seen any other blog having those ads.
If the owner of the blog sells a product, e.g. an old tool, a piece of furniture etc. there is usually a link on the side to their own product.

So it made me wonder about a common understanding, that people like to read about the topic of the blog only and having to be distracted by flashing ads for new aluminium rims or dirt cheap gardening equipment or dating offers from exotic countries.

Do you know of any woodworking blogs with those automatic ads?

Would you like to see ads on the various blogs that you read?

Personally I like pages without ads.
That was one of the reasons I really liked the old Woodworking Magazine, all black and white and no ads.

So what are your thoughts on the subject? Are ads OK, should we all put ads on our blogs and donate the money to some charity work (e.g. reforestation or a museum), or should we put ads and keep the money so we could spend it on classes, tools and wood, or should we just leave it as it is now, with practically no ads on peoples own blogs?


  1. Hi Jonas,

    Interesting topic. I think that if I had ads on my blog for the items you suggest, I wouldn't make much if anything on them. In all reality, there aren't very many woodworking blogs that generate enough traffic to make that kind of advertising pay.

    I think most people would rather not see these kinds of ads on a woodworking blog (me included). To me, it feels like I am being sold something.

    In fact, I know of several people who do not read any of the blogs on Popular Woodworking's site, because their parent company has a popup ad that shows up when you go to that site. I do not link to it on my blog because of that.

    Usually it is for some woodworking-related content, but still. I am smart enough to find that stuff on my own if I want it.

    For me, woodworking is a hobby, not a business. At least it is now. Someday in the future who knows? But there is no point in making my woodworking friends sift through magazine subscription and vacation home commercials to see my content.

  2. Hi Brian

    Very well said.
    I agree completely with you.

    Funny that your should mention Popular Woodworking's site. I feel the same whenever I go there. Also looking at, where people are situated that reads your blog makes it kind of stupid to have ads for e.g. power tools. After all, it doesn't help my reader in Australia, that a company in US has got a bargain on a tablesaw.

    The thing that struck me as odd was that I don't think I have ever seen a woodworking blog with those ads. And I haven't seen it being discussed anywhere else, so I feel like there is a common understanding in the woodworking community, that people shouldn't be bothered with stuff like that.


    1. I have seen a couple by amateur woodworkers, and it is very distracting.

      The two professional blogs I can think of on the top of my head are the Wood Whisperer and Matt's Basement Workshop. However, these two have figured out a way to make it so those banners and endorsements do not get too much in the way. I can see why they do it, too. A guy has to earn a living!

  3. Ditto to Brian's comment. The only woodworking blogs that generate enough traffic to begin thinking about advertising are ones that people love because they are so raw, honest, and are not trying to sell you something. I think we all just love enthusiastic people sharing their enthusiasm. It seems to me ads would severely dampen that spirit.

  4. I have actually no idea about how much traffic is needed and how much money there is to be made. According to Google's own teaser about the product, there seems to be a lot of money, but I have a feeling that it too might be sort of a "get rich in a hurry without doing anything" project.
    But it seems as the common ethics of woodworking blogs all agree to an ad free zone which is absolutely great.

  5. As long as it doesn't interfere with the content I have no issue with a blogger generating supplemental income with ads. They are sharing their time and experience with me, so why not make a little cash from the big manufacturers? The only thing I would caution is that it is a slippery slope and that the ads should remain true to the spirit of the blog.

    1. I am afraid that it is very difficult to only get ads that are in the spirit of the blog. As far as I can see, you can choose types of ads that you don't want. But I don't think that you can say that: "I will only allow ads from the following companies xx, yy, zz, etc."
      So I would be afraid that one day there is an ad for something that I can't agree with, and then I would feel really bad if I was unable to remove it.
      Apart from that I think you have a very logical and well thought out point regarding the time issue.

  6. I would not accept ads on my blog. I know that Wordpress automatically puts ads on blogs sometimes and that is out of the users control. At the same time, if somebody wanted me to write a post for a magazine or another blog and pay me for it I would have no problem with that aspect, though I'm not so sure if a magazine would want a person like me to write a blog entry for their web page, I'm usually fairly critical of how they operate.
    Whoever may be reading my blog, I wouldn't think that they would want to see any advertisements on it and I agree, I can understand that magazines need to do it in order to make a profit, but for an amateur I don't agree with it.

    1. If you are writing for a magazine or a commercial page, then it is like work which you can accept to be paid for. Not that I think I will ever be in that league.
      Writing a blog entry at some friends blog / webpage is in my opinion kind of lending your friend a hand at a large project, you wouldn't want him to pay you, but you could use a beer or a cup of coffee afterwards.

  7. I also noticed this setting in the Blogger setup when setting up my blog. I came to the same conclusion as you (not enabled) though I did think about it and might reconsider if my traffic ever gets super high (unlikely) or if it might pay for some new LN planes...
    Using an RSS feed reader like Feedly helps clear the clutter anyway and most non-ad supported sites serve the whole article. I am fine with ads so long as they aren't in the way or obnoxious, and am happy if some bloggers (including PWW or yourself) Can make some money using ads to provide good content, so long as it's not biased (ad-sense doesn't care what you write about, it's following the users existing Google cookies I'd guess.)
    What I can't stand is a site that is constantly plugging itself for contributions etc. (see this often in photo blogs) to me that is way worse than a server selected ad, and turns me away.
    Likewise, I believe there are not that many woodworkers that aren't genuine in their comments about tools etc. that wouldn't sound like an advert.
    "I really think you should get this new 8.5HP* Black and Decker Router over the Festool. After comparing both with months of testing, clearly the B&D is hands down superior!" (ugh..stomach churn)

    1. Also some blogs have click-through ad's where anything you subsequently buy at amazon.com after clicking through one of their ads generates them some small amount of revenue (process explained well here http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2013/06/comment-1-vile-conspiracy.html ) I've used this as a "reward" for bloggers I appreciate, if I'm going to buy something from amazon anyway, why not use it to keep someone you like in business, like buying from a B&M store when you could just get an item on-line.

    2. I actually think that I once saw an Amazon link ad (or whatever the name is) on a woodworking page, but the page no longer exists. I like your point of view about supporting someone that way.
      Regarding tool reviews, If I was interested in buying a tool that I had seen being used on a blog I would, I would drop the author a line and ask for his/her opinion about the tool. They might make a small review of the tool for a post, and I guess they would be rather frank about the pros and cons of the tool. I know that I would (But then again I normally don't mind telling when I have made a stupid move like buying a crappy 40$ router).

      As I wrote earlier, I have no clue as to the money that a blog could generate. It could be 1$ per month or less, or it could be 100$ per week. But I suppose that it depends on the visitors, meaning that if they click on the ads you will get paid.
      But since most people will likely be smart enough to find whatever they are looking for by active search, I doubt that anyone will click on an ad for "lawn mover sale in the north of Denamrk" on my page.
      I have no experience with photo blogs, so maybe the "code of ethics" is different at those sites which is interesting, and again it could be completely different at e.g. gardening blogs?

  8. I don't like ads on blogs. I can understand that some bloggers may need the income generated from them but if I had to use ads to maintain a blog, I'd quit it. One of the reasons I stay with blogger is that I don't need ads to blog about my woodworking.

    1. I would probably also find another host if I was required to have ads on my blog.

      The thing that impresses me is that some of the popular (by numbers) blogs also stay away from ads.

      If you look at e.g. "Lost art press" or "Wisdom of the hands", then I imagine that they have thousands of views everyday, so those blogs could probably make a little extra money if they activated ads or in other ways allowed them.
      The same thing goes for "Unplugged shop". But the only ads on those pages are for the owners own products. So That is why I believe that there is some sort of unwritten code of ethics regarding ads.

  9. I don't have ads, but I have put a list of sites I am comfortable recommending at the side.

    1. I never thought of links like ads. It is kind of like telling your friend where you like to shop, and they can take the advice or ignore it.
      And the main thing is that it is a site that you yourself is comfortable with. It is not an obscure flashy ad for some product that you may not even like.

  10. Hi Jonas,

    This subject is particularly relevant to me, as my blog was only just reinstated by WordPress after an automated system mistakenly thought I was trying to get rich quick!

    When I skimmed the Blogger pages on affiliates & advertising I got the impression it was possible to choose the individual products and insert adverts where you want, but I may have misunderstood.

    As Bill says, if WordPress deem your blog to be attracting sufficient traffic to be worthwhile they can insert advertising, but I don't think they share any of the resultant revenue with you.

    I've always assumed that the high traffic blogs such as Lost Art press are already being used to drive sales of their own products and they don't want to dilute this with other people's advertising.

    Having worked in the Internet Service Provider space for nearly 15 years now I've come to the conclusion that adverts (and even spam :( ) are inevitable and someone is making money off most of your data and actions online, so cash back sites like quidco & topcashback and the more legitimate affiliate schemes are a way for the little guy to get in on this.

    I also agree with JMAW Works - if someone doesn't want to see adverts they can use Adblockers, if a blogger is creating favourable reviews simply to drive revenue then this is unethical (and usually obvious unless theirs is the only review on the subject!) and if someone wants to thank you for a useful piece of info by purchasing something they were going to buy from Amazon anyway via your affiliate link then it's free to them and everyone wins.

    (That said in the UK at the moment there is a lot of noise about Amazon and other online retailers driving smaller operators out of business, but IMHO as a consumer the only rational choice is to buy most products at the lowest price from a reputable vendor - the exceptions being where pre/post sale service is crucial or where the cheapest product is an own brand or counterfeit item item that isn't truly equivalent - propping up a failing company by paying over the odds is simply irrational and usually just delays the inevitable, particularly in the many companies with poor customer service and little to set them apart from the pile it high & sell it cheap merchants).

    Sorry for the wall of words - perhaps I've had too much caffeine today ... :)


    1. Hi John
      Thanks for providing some relevant and factual information. This is uncharted territory for my part.

      Actually it was you blog where I had once seen the "click on to amazon from this blog" system for the first time. But when I made the entry I couldn't access your site, Wordpress stated that it was closed..

      I have never even thought about an adblocker programme. Not that I like the ads, but I am always terrified of installing a programme on the computer. It is deemed to end in a catastrophe.

      I don't completely agree on the buying at the lowest price from a reputable vendor. I don't mind paying a little extra to keep a specialty shop nearby, provided off course that their service is A1. Actually a good service has become more and more important to me over the years. If I don't get a good service, then I can as easy help myself in one of the "pile it high and sell it cheap stores" (A fine expression by the way). But if there is only a margin of price difference, then I prefer the service and perhaps keeping a local shop in service for some more time.

      Jonas (Your comment didn't even get caught in the spam filter this time :-)

  11. Hi Jonas,

    I think we're in agreement - where advice is needed a store with good pre sales service will always get my business even if they're not the cheapest. I know some people will try out an item in a store and then buy online but I feel this is unethical, particularly when dealing with a small business.

    When I shop for a branded product that I don't need advice on, I worry more about what would happen if the item broke in transit or during use, so returns and customer service are important considerations, but I place more importance on price.

    When I can find a product cheaper than my preferred local suppliers online I will usually give them a chance to price match and will usually buy locally even if they don't quite match (this was the case with my band saw where the local company got within £20
    of my target price and charged a bit extra for set up and delivery)

    I think Amazon is a special case - in some ways they pile it high and sell it for very tight profit margins, but their customer service and returns are still really good and I trust them more than any other online retailer, having shopped with them for over 10 years now.
    (I'm only referring to items stocked and shipped by Amazon, not marketplace sellers, who I do not trust, even if "fulfilled by Amazon" there is little supply chain assurance to convince me they're not selling fake goods)

    This trust has been earned, but it could equally be lost if service declines or prices increase.

    I doubt they will ever enter the quality tool market in the UK as there wouldn't be sufficient volume for it to be worth their while.


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