I'm trying a little bit of an experiment with a few projects of mine.
I am unashamed to admit that I run AdBlock almost all of the time that I'm online. I think that advertising is a shoddy and cheap, albeit necessary way for many online services to derive income, in general. I also think that, in general, ads are effective on a level that is perhaps not in line with the goals of an organization determined to be as introspective as possible, in a lot of ways. That is, they don't necessarily fit with the goal of the projects I have in mind. Flashy art and animations are great for artists because they show off art and animation skills. They're wonderful for organizations such as Rabbit Valley and Sofawolf, that offer products for sale because they showcase the products. Even so, I'm left with a few questions about the way advertising works within the furry fandom, and how information is transmitted within a potential audience.
How does one advertise a blog that offers nothing for sale and provides a non-essential service?
How does one advertise for a survey, and in what ways does that impact the results gained from that survey?
Does animation play a role? If so, how much?
What difference does wording make, particularly when it comes to key words such as 'sex'? For that matter, how does an advertisement that mentions sex differ from an advertisement that does not?
These are hardly deep questions. Ask any advertising agency or the like and you're likely to come up with some quips about what does and does not work, as well as what works best for what type of product.
If you look at us, however, as well as our sister project, LSF, we are, at best, irregularly-publishing magazines filled, almost entirely, with opinion articles. The articles often have basis in statistics pulled from here or there, but for the most part, the pieces are written more as introspective or observational explorations of the act of participating in a subculture. For us, these questions bear additional meaning, as this advertising experiment is taking place almost entirely within the subculture itself.
Here's what we've done:
- I've set up four advertisements on two different sites, FurAffinity and SoFurry. These ads are for four different projects: [adjective][species], Love - Sex - Fur, The Furry Survey, and an unrelated project, Bookmarfs!.
- All four advertisements have slight differences:
- All ads except for Bookmarfs! are animated.
- The ad for LSF contains the word 'sex'.
- The ad for [a][s] and for the Furry Survey contain text other than the subtitle of the site.
- The ads should rotate fairly evenly among other ads on both sites (though Dragoneer and Tourmal are invited to comment on the advertising systems in place on their respective sites).
- All four ads have campaign data indicating their source. These only show up once per click, of course, so we'll only see these as unique visitors. That is, there's no way to bolster the numbers by simply clicking on the ads a bunch of times!
Just to start things out, I've taken snapshots from before the ads went up of how traffic looks.
You can see, here, just how the traffic generally looks for this site in particular. You can see, for example, when articles go live, and even when an article that winds up becoming particularly popular or contentious goes live as compared to one that doesn't: JM published an article on introversion on Monday the 23rd that became the subject of heated discussion, and I published an article two days later that was largely neutral (this is the way of things, we've decided: I write introspective pieces, JM writes more provocative pieces). This is a pretty standard few weeks for us, and we've had few deviations from that. One can see the effects from conventions at which we have panels or advertising, as we did for Anthrocon one year.
Love - Sex - Fur
LSF has been quiet of late, due to my personal schedule, and so you can see a similar graph, lower in traffic, to the time between articles on this site. Visitors come in from various places, usually search engines and old Twitter links (the t.co link-shortener shows up as the referrer in these cases).
The Furry Poll
The Furry Poll, not having any changes over time within the year, shows bumps primarily from links in from outside, such as on this site, or other forums where others post the link. Reddit, FurAffinity forums, FurBase.de, and so on are all sources of the second bump, for example.
Bookmarfs!, on the other hand, gains traffic at regular intervals from posts at the beginning of the month (when that month's book is announced), and at the end of the month (when that month's discussion occurs). Full disclosure: although Bookmarfs! is not related to [a][s] at all, I do help out with them in a technical capacity.
You can also see the advertisements that we placed, above. These are the different paths that we'll be investigating as inroads that advertising provides. What it is that we hope to see is how information spreads within the fandom in terms of something sort of neutral and random such as these advertisements, organic social sharing, such as retweets or links provided to friends, and from followers who catch us on FA journals, Tweets, or G+ posts.
Working within a subculture such as ours, I will posit that, while advertising drives some traffic to sites such as these, the majority of our readership found the site through sharing, due to the nature of our content. However, given that these ads will all be live for about a month, I'll pull statistics again in a few weeks and see just how things have changed - or not!
We're interested to hear how you found this site (and if you found the others, how), as well as how you think that this little experiment will play out. Will members of the furry community pay attention to the ads? Will they largely ignore them? How do you feel about advertising in general, and on furry sites? Do you treat them differently? Let us know in the comments!
(Note: [a][s] and related projects are, of course, run totally out of pocket, and we have no ad revenue of our own; we stand to gain nothing but information from this little experiment, all of which we aim to share with you!)