Posts tagged business

New Ad Format Coming to Read the Docs Community Sites

We view our ad program as a way to keep Read the Docs itself sustainable, and to use it to better support the community. Advertising has allowed us to have full-time employees adding new features and responding to issues in our issue tracker. We have also been able to share thousands of dollars with the open source community via our revenue share program and grants.

Currently, about 30% of our site traffic does not have any advertising. When we first launched ethical advertising in 2016, we launched only on specific documentation themes. We purposely did this slowly to make sure our ads look integrated with Read the Docs and less obtrusive to users.

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Ad Funding at Read the Docs and What’s Next for Ethical Advertising

It has been three years since we first launched ads on Read the Docs and while we gave a limited update in our 2018 stats, we figured it was time to give an update on ethical advertising and how it is working.

Our ethical advertising model is still going strong. We proved that it is possible to build a business model on top of advertising without resorting to user tracking. Unlike most other ad-supported sites, we show advertising based on the context of the page, not by creating behavoral profiles of large numbers of individual users. If you are browsing documentation for a Python project, you might see a relevant ad about Python. It’s that simple and it works.

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Update on Ad Blocking and Acceptable Ads

A few weeks ago, we shared about the challenge ad blocking presented to our sustainability and what we were doing about it. On May 4th, Read the Docs was added to the Acceptable Ads list meaning that our visitors running ad blockers who choose to allow unintrusive advertising will see our ads again. The impact to our ad views, clicks, and revenue was immediate.

Estimates around the web vary regarding what percentage of people run ad blockers and it varies heavily by industry. We discussed this figure a bit in our previous post.

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Ads and Ad blockers

Last time, we shared how ethical advertising works to keep Read the Docs sustainable without creepy ad targeting. This time, we will share about one of our biggest challenges with advertising. At the beginning of April, Read the Docs was added to one of the most popular ad block lists: the Easylist.

Getting added to the EasyList had a significant and immediate impact on the bottom line at Read the Docs. Right around April 1, 32% of our ad views simply vanished. At first, we thought we had done something horribly wrong but then we discovered that this was due entirely to ad blocking. Our actual traffic wasn’t down at all.

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Ethical Advertising Works

It has been two years since we first launched ads on Read the Docs. We figured it was time to report on the results that we’ve seen, and say thanks to those who have helped us along the way.

To put it simply:

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