A year has gone by since GardenRant celebrated our 15th anniversary by revamping our logo and site, adding new voices, and showcasing our Guest Ranters. Around that time, we also partnered with Mediavine to allow ads on our website. As we’ve had occasional comments, we thought it would be a good idea to touch base with readers about the reasons behind that decision, rather than debating assumptions in unrelated posts. I drew the short straw.
I’m an unlikely defender of ads for the simple reason that I’ve always hated them. But I am also a staunch realist, and just because I don’t like something doesn’t negate its worth. I also dislike assumptions – and we’ve seen some interesting ones lately.
We may have been prickly. Sorry. When you’re working hard and doing your best and trying to negotiate one more hour out of a too-long workday, it’s tough not to react to assumptions with annoyance – hey, we’re human beings. Even Scott. But it’s much better to react with facts. Here are a couple:
Those Voices are Real People
First of all, GardenRant is not an amorphous corporate entity that uses and abuses seven unbelievably talented writers as content machines, locking us into home offices with laptops and lattes while it milks millions of dollars off a lucrative Mediavine contract and promises to vest our stock options in ten years.
Nope. It’s just us. Normal, horticulturally-bent, human beings with day jobs.
Second, none of us married and divorced Jeff Bezos. That, I admit, might have been a better life strategy, but that ship has sailed. Thus we must — vulgar though it may be — work for pay. Or at the very least, not pay to work. And that’s where we hit my third point.
If We Were a Rich Man…
Good, customized sites cost good, customized money. And not just in their creation. They cost good money to maintain. Once those initial checks have been shakily written, the real [annual] hurt begins – domain name registrations, hosting services, plug-ins, email distribution services, graphics, trademarking, accounting, technical experts; and, if a site has any form of shop for retail merchandise, commerce fees.
A great deal of these fees are tiered. The larger your email list, the larger your bill. The higher your traffic, the higher your fees. Big sites need big servers to deal with that traffic without hanging up or crashing. So, while www.insertcoolgardenblogname.com might be able to do just fine with a free site to cope with 900 visitors a month, or might perhaps pay a small fee to the hosting service to keep those visitors from seeing any ads at all, that model doesn’t work well when traffic is high.
And, we’re thankful to report that traffic is high.
GardenRant was created by four opinionated writers just over 15 years ago. It was a big hit. Not only did it take early advantage of a new way of communication called blogging – it was very different in the garden writing world. It didn’t feel it needed to add to the noise of “How to Pick the Best Weed and Feed,” and instead questioned the need for the damn stuff in the first place.
It’s why you’re here now. And we’re so glad you’re here. We’re proud of the legacy and culture of GardenRant. And every time we see commenters engaging not just with us, but with each other, we know we’re trustees of something important – a community.
Our voices have changed over the years, quite literally. And while we can never satisfy everyone’s thirst for their region’s voice at any one time, we welcome Guest Ranters and readers from all over the world to add their perspective to the discussion at hand. Many of your names and opinions have grown so familiar to us that we even talk about you behind your backs during Zoom meetings.
Only in a good way.
Media is changing. Our voice is not.
So now that you know what we do, it’s important to mention what we don’t do – certainly to our financial cost, if not to the cost of our integrity or your GardenRant experience.
→ We don’t choose posts based on clickability.
→ We don’t tell each other what to write and what not to write.
→ We don’t publish Guest Ranters based on name recognition or potential backlinks.
→ We don’t do lists.
→ We don’t focus on how-to.
→ We’re not Influencers (sadly even in our own homes).
→ We’re not Brand Ambassadors.
→ We don’t do paid subscriptions or webinars or Patreon.
→ We don’t gratuitously and artlessly stamp keywords all over individual posts to attract the roving eyes of Google. (Hell I can’t even get Scott to fill out his meta data, and don’t get me started about Allen and his beautifully obscure post titles.)
Most importantly perhaps, We don’t think of good writing as content. More fool we.
It’s a balancing game
Thus, for all that we do, and for all that we don’t, we ask that you sheath your swords and your adblockers (and for some of you, your tongues) and understand that through the grace of our advertisers and the occasional affiliate link, we are able to bring this community of thinkers and gardeners together.
At the moment, our ad revenue is generated by impressions and clicks, which means that each time you even scroll past an ad, it puts some fraction of a penny in the bank. Clicks on ads garner more, which is why we joined Mediavine as we felt it was a reliable middle man connecting real brands with real consumers – not a clearing house for viruses or spam. As a middle man, it also allows us to remain free of influence. It’s tough to take big companies to task when they’re holding sponsorship or ad revenue over your heads – especially when you’re as opinionated as Elizabeth Licata or Susan Harris. Or me for that matter.
We will of course continue to monitor ads and placement here and in the UK, and have made a few positive changes this week to your mobile experience. We also continue to encourage garden-related brands and services to advertise with us via Mediavine, in order to make these ads increasingly relevant to our audience and connect with real gardeners, not just consumers.
When you have a constructive concern, we want to hear it, but ask that you send it directly to email@example.com. And we gently request that, before your fingers hit the keyboard, please think about the many sites you visit on a daily basis and how many ads greet you there. Think of the magazines you read and the insane amount of ad content you passively consume in the process. And think of the thousands of newspapers across the nation that had to close up shop once Facebook Marketplace and Craig’s List replaced the bill-paying classifieds.
Ad-free sites are only ad-free because someone’s paying the bills – whether it’s blogger or brand. And who that person or company is, is not always so obvious, despite disclosures. [Music plays ominously.]
In the future, we may look at other ways of paying those bills, but our overriding concern is to keep the discussions at GardenRant accessible to everyone.
So thank you for being a loyal reader and supporter. Thank you for buying a GardenRant mug or for clicking an affiliate link or relevant ad, or for merely training your eyes to see past the non-relevant ones. Thank you for commenting, ranting, engaging with others, and often making us laugh. Thank you for allowing us to be different.
But most of all, thank you for sharing GardenRant with other engaged gardeners interested in moving beyond the how-to and finding their tribe. I can’t promise that we won’t piss them off occasionally, but I promise that here, they’ll find something worth discussing. – MW