Techdirt Is Now Entirely Without Any Google Ads Or Tracking Code
from the cleaning out the cobwebs dept
First things first: if you are interested in advertising on Techdirt in a non-intrusive, non-obnoxious way, please contact us. We’d love to work with you on cool, innovative advertising and sponsorship that engages, instead of annoys, our community. As some of you may recall, last summer, we had to pull all ads off of Techdirt, after we kept running into problems with Google, and its overly aggressive, overly sensitive (if somewhat arbitrary) advertising morality police (such as telling us all our stories about Google were “dangerous or derogatory”).
After announcing that, we had a few different companies approach us with possible alternatives, and earlier this year, we tried to put ads back on the site briefly, with a promise from a provider that they could both serve better quality ads as well as “deal with” Google if it started complaining again. Here’s the unfortunate secret underpinning nearly all of the internet advertising space: there are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies which will purport to put ads on your website. And all of them will promise “quality” ads and better rates. But the unfortunate reality is that they’re all just backstopped by Google, and the ads are all the same crappy ads in the end. Only the largest websites (or highly, highly specialized ones) can really pull their own weight on advertising. And, tragically, wonky tech/legal/policy blogs don’t cut it (unless we wanted to just start running reviews of every silly tech product out there, and that’s not our thing).
So, we worked with a new partner, with promises of higher quality… and it all turned out to just be the same awful Google ads again, and with it, the same automated emails every damn day from Google threatening to cut us off for our “dangerous and derogatory” content. This time around, we just ignored those threats, because at this point, we’re so damn sick of it that if Google cuts us off, so be it.
But, there was a larger issue. In our wrapup of the 2020 stats for Techdirt, I mentioned in passing that this would be the last year we used Google Analytics for tracking how people use the site. We’ve used a few different analytics systems in the life of Techdirt, and I think we used MeasureMap before Google bought it and wrapped it into Google Analytics. And, to be clear, Google Analytics worked decently well, had a nice interface (much nicer than most competitors) and, of course, was free for our use case. But that freedom came with a different kind of price — which is that Google was tracking users on our site. And that was becoming both more and more problematic, and more of a nuisance.
After becoming increasingly uncomfortable with that, we switched over to a different analytics package, and are now using both Plausible and Matomo (self-hosted), to make sure that we’re much more protective of the privacy of Techdirt’s readers. We actually pulled Google Analytics off the site in late January. But then we noticed something odd. In February, Google Analytics was still showing up even though we had pulled the tags. It turned out that, via the new ad partner we had, as soon as ads via Google show up on our site Google Analytics code showed up along with it. And that really sucks.
After going through a variety of options, we eventually realized that none of this was worth it. We ended our contract with our ad provider, and then had to scrub through all our code to make sure Google Analytics was truly gone (it’s amazing how it pops up in unexpected places). We didn’t post about this immediately, in part because we were busy with other stuff, but also because I wanted to make sure Google Analytics was really gone. And it is.
Of course, that also means we’re once again without any advertising on Techdirt, which is a hit to our revenue and our ability to keep going — at a time when that’s under threat from other things as well. We are hoping to try some more creative (less intrusive, less annoying) sponsorship and advertising methods in the near future, but at the very least we’re increasingly going to rely on you, our community, to help Techdirt stick around. If you are able to, and interested, the easiest way to directly support Techdirt is via the Friend of Techdirt option (basically a way to tip us however much you’d like), but we have a wide variety of ways to support us, and any one you choose is greatly appreciated.
Techdirt is one of the very, very, very few truly independent media brands around. Almost none of the independent media brands that existed when we started remain. Some have been sucked up into larger companies or shut down entirely. Others have decided to go behind expensive paywalls. We’ve had to adapt and change over the years in many ways just to stick around, but in the end the reason we do this is because of the community we’ve built up here. For us to stick around, I need to ask the community to help support us as well. We have some cool experiments and projects in the works, so stay tuned for that, but in the meantime, if you can help us out, it would be hugely appreciated.