Upcoming changes in ad placements

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Montana Matt
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Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Montana Matt » Thu May 03, 2018 8:39 pm

I thought it would be best to let people know that there will be some changes coming with regards to ads on SummitPost. With the server upgrade in January (that coincided with making the site mobile-friendly), SummitPost costs more to operate now and, for the first time since I've been working with SP starting in 2006, SummitPost didn't earn enough revenue cover its operating costs for the first quarter of 2018.

As such, action will need to be taken in order to increase revenue to the point where the site can support itself. The easiest way to do this is by modifying and/or increasing ad placement.

We will do our best to ensure that the user experience is affected as little as possible, as we do understand how frustrating too many ads can be, especially when they disrupt the flow of the content on a page.

After the changes go into effect, please report any ad placements that you feel are "too much" or make too significant of a negative impact on the user experience.

Thanks for your understanding.

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Scott
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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Scott » Sat May 12, 2018 6:06 pm

I don't know if the change has been made, but some of the ads are covering some of the content on all pages. This is true even if you close the ads, so there isn't a way to see some of the content.

Examples:

ad 1.JPG
ad 1.JPG (40.81 KiB) Viewed 1489 times


After closing:

ad 2.JPG
ad 2.JPG (27.38 KiB) Viewed 1489 times


This seems to true of all pages on SP, at least on my computer. It is impossible to view any page without having part of it obscured.

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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Klenke » Thu May 17, 2018 9:07 pm

Yeah, I completely agree with Scott here. It's one thing for an ad to block page content. It's another if the ad can't be closed to see the content. I am a guessing the size (pixel width) of the ad as placed is too big. I note that if I widen my window (wider than my monitor) the ad moves out of way by virtue of page stretching. But a user shouldn't have to do this to see a page's content. Because if the website becomes more about the ads than the content, then the value of the website becomes less to the point of not being useful.

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Montana Matt
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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Montana Matt » Fri May 18, 2018 6:56 pm

Thanks for reporting that. I've been able to verify that left side bar ad sometimes is too wide for the column if the browser is a fairly narrow width and it then covers some of the content. I'll let the ad network know and ask them to resolve it.

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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Matt Lemke » Mon May 21, 2018 1:09 am

There are many sites out there that manage to cover hosting costs just fine without all these ads. How much is hosting anyway? I am sure if it isn't that much a few people who are willing could easily donate the required amount. Let me make one thing clear...I am DONE supporting this website until these ads are gone. I have become more and more appalled regarding this, and to be frank, I think the whole "update" thing that happened in January completely ruined the site. It was a completely functional site and much more intuitive before, and profile pages looked much nicer before. this whole "modern" look cost all this money and actually degraded the site IMO. Why couldn't we have just implemented some of the easier improvements that Josh Lewis kept sending your way, that you continually ignored? Things like an easier way to insert photos into the editor...rather than a complete site overhaul.

I am disappointed...that's all I can say. I would hope losing support from some of the higher profile members would convince you to reconsider everything but alas, I think Aaron Johnson was right. This site will become dust in the wind soon enough.

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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Montana Matt » Mon May 21, 2018 4:30 pm

Matt Lemke wrote:There are many sites out there that manage to cover hosting costs just fine without all these ads.

Can you provide an example of a few?

Matt Lemke wrote:How much is hosting anyway?

It varies slightly month to month, but it's normally around $2000 per month.

Matt Lemke wrote:Why couldn't we have just implemented some of the easier improvements that Josh Lewis kept sending your way, that you continually ignored?

Because, unlike making the site modern and responsive, those things weren't critical to the long-term survival of the site. Anyone in the web world would tell you that after April 2016, you would be a fool not to have a plan to migrate a website to make it mobile-friendly. The majority of traffic on the web is mobile now (>50%) and sites that aren't mobile-friendly either won't rank at all or are severely penalized in search engine rankings. Given that 85% of the traffic for SummitPost comes from organic search, SP would stand to lose about 40% to 50% of its total traffic if it weren't made mobile-friendly.

Matt Lemke wrote:I would hope losing support from some of the higher profile members would convince you to reconsider everything

If you can provide a legitimate solution that will provide revenue on the order of $2000 to $2500 per month (the extra revenue would help pay the programmer we use or to save in order to cover months when revenue doesn't quite cover hosting costs), I'll happily listen and implement it if it is at all possible. Unfortunately, I don't see any other way, outside of running ads, to ensure that the site generates enough revenue to cover its operating costs.

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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by yatsek » Wed May 23, 2018 3:08 pm

Have costs increased dramatically in the last year? How did SP manage to function for so many years with practically no ads?

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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Montana Matt » Wed May 23, 2018 4:11 pm

yatsek wrote:Have costs increased dramatically in the last year?

Not dramatically, but they are always on the rise due to the ever-increasing size of the content on the site (storage costs money). And yes, they did increase a bit with the new site update of moving to a new server configuration with a web server and a separate database server (previously SP ran on one virtual server).

yatsek wrote:How did SP manage to function for so many years with practically no ads?

I'm not sure what you mean by "practically no ads." SP has always had about the same number of ad slots since I've been a part of the site (since around 2006). We've added a few ad slots in the last few years, but the majority of the most recent changes were simply to make the ad placements more prominent where they pay better.

In fact, despite the re-positioning of the ads, two things have happened that have led to a significant decline in ad revenue:

1) Ads are paying less now than they have historically. I haven't researched why. RPM (average earnings paid per 1000 impressions) is about one-quarter of what it was in 2015 and it has been on a steady decline the last 3 years.

2) The number of page views (and thus ad views) for SP is down more than half from what it was in 2015 and, again, it has been a steady decline over the last 3 years.

So between serving fewer ads (due to a decreased number of page views) and the ads paying far less than they used to, revenue hasn't been enough to cover the operating costs of the site the since late last year.

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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Klenke » Thu May 24, 2018 4:36 am

Well if you put two and two together this site and other forums like it that run on this funding model are doomed to eventually fail. And in a way a whole lot of the ad-driven Internet is doomed to fail. It's a Catch-22: more ad intrusion is required on a site to pay the site's bills, but said intrusion lowers users' (as a collective) positive experience, so users use the site less, which thereby lowers ad revenue, and the sad cycle continues. With this funding model, it doesn't matter what a site's owners do.

It's kind of ironic that the one thing that is required for sites to make money on the Internet is the one thing that might eventually kill it.

I can confirm that in the nescient days of Summitpost, there were no ads. What year it was that the first ads appeared, I don't remember (I've been around since 2002....say, it's my 16th Anniversary on the site today, May 23!). What was bugging everyone back then were the annoying 'games,' and the goofy chat function, and things of that nature that were imbedded in the site. Thankfully, those went away. And then the ads came.

Other prominent PNW forums such as NWhikers and Cascadeclimbers don't have ads (or not many of them, anyway). Granted, NWhikers doesn't host photos (as far as I know) but sources them elsewhere like Flickr. Cascadeclimbers does host its own photos, though likely nowhere near as many as summitpost does.

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Scott
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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Scott » Thu May 24, 2018 4:53 am

2.The number of page views (and thus ad views) for SP is down more than half from what it was in 2015 and, again, it has been a steady decline over the last 3 years.


I think this is the most pressing problem. People are losing interest in SP. Site interest has been steadily declining for years now.

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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Puma concolor » Thu May 24, 2018 1:19 pm

^^^^

There is more and more easily-digestible current beta out there on the internet for all sorts of mountains than you can find on the increasingly dated SP pages.

Made the mistake of using an old SP page for an obscure peak last year and found the info to be almost completely wrong. Fortunately, I had other sources (as well as my own sense of direction) I had taken along with me. Once someone has an experience like this, they are unlikely to use SP again.

I know the comments section and voting is supposed to offer an outlet for correcting this, but most of the traffic on the site (ie hits on mountain pages) is from non-members and there aren’t as many members to correct mistakes as there once were. Yes, there is a lot of good stuff on SP, but the average Joe just breezing through the site really has no way to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. If the site is even 10-percent unreliable, then it is basically 100-percent unreliable as a source of information.

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Montana Matt
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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Montana Matt » Thu May 24, 2018 3:58 pm

Klenke wrote:Other prominent PNW forums such as NWhikers and Cascadeclimbers don't have ads (or not many of them, anyway). Granted, NWhikers doesn't host photos (as far as I know) but sources them elsewhere like Flickr. Cascadeclimbers does host its own photos, though likely nowhere near as many as summitpost does.

Those sites are not at all comparable to SP. The database of SummitPost is absolutely huge at this point with nearly 900,000 pages, so it requires a powerful database machine to field queries to that large data set. And SP has several hundred thousand images that take up over 1TB of cloud storage. Along with that, the SP web server serves pages to over 1 million users a month during the peak months. The architecture to run such a configuration is far more complex and expensive than small websites like those two examples.

I host approximately 20 websites now. Nearly all of them are fairly small, either on the order of NWhikers and Cascadeclimbers or smaller. I can run about 15 of such websites on one server without requiring any additional cloud storage or a separate database server. The server I use to host those 15 websites costs about $200 per month or 1/10th what it costs to host SP. Many of those sites I don't run ads on and simply pay the server costs out of pocket. I'd imagine the same is true for most smaller websites.

Scott wrote:I think this is the most pressing problem. People are losing interest in SP. Site interest has been steadily declining for years now.

Puma concolor wrote:There is more and more easily-digestible current beta out there on the internet for all sorts of mountains than you can find on the increasingly dated SP pages.

This is certainly a problem that I have no answer for, and I agree that it is the most pressing problem for SP. The way people use the web is changing. Instead of contributing to a community database, people are posting more on Facebook, other forums or their own blogs. When SP started and for many years after that, there was a huge learning curve for someone wanting to start their own blog. Doing so now is extremely simple. Every day I approve accounts, there are several new SP users who basically write their own blogs about their experiences in the mountains. They join here and sometimes contribute, but often will either copy content from their own blog or simply post a link to their blog instead of contributing here. I think it's just the way things are heading these days and am not sure if there is anything that can be done about engaging new contributors here.

But I don't believe the decrease in traffic is 100% related to the decline in contributors and the staleness of the content. Much of the site content has been dated for some time, even before 2015 when traffic peaked. But starting in 2016, Google required sites to be mobile-friendly to rank in search results. It also started penalizing sites that took longer to load pages. That is when traffic to SP started to decline because it was both fairly slow to load pages and not mobile-friendly. I had intended to make this recent mobile-friendly upgrade 2 years ago, but I didn't have enough help or time to make it happen that quickly while trying to run my other businesses. Thanks to the mobile-friendly upgrade and making the pages load slightly faster now, I suspect that we will see some bump in traffic to SP this year as compared to the last 2 years. I just hope the bump in traffic will correlate to a bump in activity and page updates, but that seems unlikely.

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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by ZeeJay » Thu May 24, 2018 5:09 pm

Thank you for explaining reality Matt.

How much storage is taken up by images vs the entire rest of SP?

I just looked at 2 local peaks, Lone Peak and Kings Peak. One had 375 images and the other 392. Skimming through quickly, most seem to be uninteresting. What do people think about allowing page owners to delete pictures deemed uninteresting and uninformative if they are not otherwise attached, especially of those who haven't logged onto SP in years? If they are attached someplace else, but serve no perceived purpose to the page in question, let the page owner unattach them so that perhaps some one else may delete them.

What about some fixed limits to peoples personal pictures, i.e. those not attached to any pages?

What about a limit to how may pictures someone can attach to an album or trip report etc.?

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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by yatsek » Thu May 24, 2018 7:43 pm

ZeeJay wrote:What do people think about allowing page owners to delete pictures deemed uninteresting and uninformative if they are not otherwise attached, especially of those who haven't logged onto SP in years? If they are attached someplace else, but serve no perceived purpose to the page in question, let the page owner unattach them so that perhaps some one else may delete them.

I don't think detaching a photo from your page is a problem. I've done it many times.

ZeeJay wrote:What about some fixed limits to peoples personal pictures, i.e. those not attached to any pages?

What about a limit to how may pictures someone can attach to an album or trip report etc.?

Good ideas.

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Scott
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Re: Upcoming changes in ad placements

by Scott » Fri May 25, 2018 7:03 am

Anyway, the ads are getting way worse. It took me 7 scroll downs to even screen shot all the ads on the latest What's New page and it's not a very big page. Here's what it looks like even when I am logged in:

Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image
Image

And that's just from one short page. Good luck to anyone who wants to bother trying to print some information. There are way more ads than text on pages.

Here is the amount of text on the page above without the ads:

Overview
Hickory Ridge is a small but fairly prominent ridge adjacent to Oak Mountain.
It is not a real mountain to climb, but it prominent, and it does have good views at the top.

Getting There
Meadow Brook Road runs along the ridge.

Route
The ridge is often walked up via Hickory Ridge Drive.

Red Tape
N/A

When to Climb
Anytime.

Camping
The closest campsites are in Oak mountain state Park.[/quote]

---------------------------------------------

It takes seven pages of ads, much of it overlapping content, just to read a few lines of text.

=====================================================

I think it's just the way things are heading these days and am not sure if there is anything that can be done about engaging new contributors here.


I don't know what the solution is, but it needs to be easier to add a page. Even for long term members, it seems much more complicated. I assume that it would be pretty daunting for new members.

Besides that, a lot of it is beyond anyone's control. In many areas, most of the popular mountains were added years ago.

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