Why we deleted our ads — and what it means for you

We deleted our ads yesterday. I want to tell you why we did it and what it means for you.

We killed the banners for several reasons:

✓ Ads no longer belong on this site. On Friday, we formally submitted our paperwork to the Internal Revenue Service to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We’re already registered as a Delaware nonprofit. We’re creating an organization that empowers you to solve your consumer problems and helps you if you can’t. Eventually, we knew we’d have to delete the ads. But two other circumstances encouraged us to take this step sooner.

✓ Some of the banners served by our ad company were not legit. They were malicious code that redirected you to another website or froze your browser. Lately, those ads showed up almost every time you accessed this site on a mobile browser. We asked our ad company to address the malvertising issue. It didn’t.

✓ During the last few weeks, the quality of ads and the amount they paid us has dropped dramatically. If you don’t have an adblocker, then you’ve probably seen the banners for dating services and scammy credit cards. You deserve better.

What it means for you

This site has always been there for you, the reader. Not the industry, not the advertiser — you.

Sometimes, I lose my focus. I start to worry about paying bills. I start to think of this site as a business. But it isn’t. It never was. It’s an organization dedicated to public service journalism and advocacy.

For now, no ads means your reading experience will be better than ever. Our page load speeds are lightning-fast now that the ads are gone. A review of our traffic trends suggests we’ll have an influx of new visitors soon, so look for them in the comments section.

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I’m embarrassed that I waited this long to pull the ads. But until last week, the banners were only a minor annoyance. This site was still slowly transitioning from a personal blog to a nonprofit organization. The malvertising issue wasn’t a problem.

And then it was.

I wish I’d deleted our ads a long ago. It’s tacky, seeing an ad for an online travel agency next to a story about someone who’s been ripped off by the very same online agency, or an ad for a deceptive points-earning credit card next to a takedown of loyalty programs. The irony was inescapable.

What it means for you later

You’re probably wondering: Is an ad-free site sustainable, long-term?

Yes, absolutely.

But there’s no way I can do it without you. On April 13, we deleted our ads. On May 21, we’re starting our spring fundraiser. We’ll need to rustle up even more donations to make up for the missing ad revenue, but I know we can.

This site’s readers are amazing. They’re always willing to lend a hand to keep this site running, and I believe they’ll support an ad-free experience.

Also, I’m going to have to adjust the underwriter messaging in the near future. Many companies want an opportunity to reach you directly on the site and clearly labeled sponsored posts may be the best way to do that. Please bear with me while I work with our corporate underwriters to find the right way to present the information.

This won’t be native advertising. It’ll be more like enhanced messaging like you see on PBS or hear on NPR. It will always be labeled as “sponsored” or “underwritten by.” I’ll never try to pass it off as editorial content or advocacy.

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Thank you for your support

I have to admit; this is scary. Like many Americans, I have to drop a check in the mail to the IRS on Monday, and I’m going to hear a giant sucking sound from my bank account.

Well, you know what they say about death and taxes. And at least I’m still alive!

But seriously, when I deleted our ads, my heart dropped into my stomach. The fact that you’re with me and that you support this fledgling consumer organization means so much to me. Words can’t adequately express my gratitude.

I know that together, we’ll get through this and we’ll create a real organization that will help consumers.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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