When I first started fiddling with the ‘net, I tinkered with some websites on Geocities. Before there were hundreds of free web hosts, there was Geocities. It was slow, it didn’t offer you a lot of space, and it didn’t offer you a lot of functionality.
But it was free, no?
Yet what annoyed me the most was the advertising that Geocities implanted in any site that I built. It seemed wrong – like they had violated me and my creative process. I wanted to convey content to people, not be a platform for advertising.
But, how else was Geocities going to be free?
Is Advertising Appropriate on Education Sites?
What once was a pet peeve is now more of a professional dilemma. As an educator, am I being responsible if I allow advertisements to be displayed on my classroom websites – therefore exposing students to advertising?
Our students are subjected to a media blitz 24-7. Everywhere they turn, they see advertising and commercialization. With their brand name clothes, they’re practically walking billboards themselves.
It seems to me that in creating a safe, healthy learning environment for my students, I should also try to exclude as many commercial factors as possible. I would think it counterproductive to introduce classroom tools that contained advertising in them – and I would use ad-free alternatives if possible.
A number of educators were surprised when a free host – edublogs – started embedding advertising in their blogs. I first read about it at dy/dan, and a commenter pointed me to a post by Graham Wegner about the monetization of edublogs. There were others, and many of them seemed angry.
Edublogs chose a particularly insidious way to advertise. They chose random keywords throughout a post and attached a link to an advertiser. This helped blend the advertising into the post, giving the suggestion (especially to the unsavvy of the internet) that these links were added and endorsed by the author.
If I were an edublogs user, I’d be outraged too. I use my classroom blog to disemminate information to students – assignments and supplementary resources. I don’t include any ads, and I would think it inappropriate of me to do so. Even if a third party adds the advertising to my site, I would still feel responsible – and I’d probably start looking for another host.
At the moment, I don’t think I need to worry. I use wordpress.com for my classroom blogs, and I’ve never noticed any advertising. WordPress did announce a long time ago that they were experimenting with embedding ads into blogs, but I could never find an example (despite logging out of my account and navigating to the site through Google).
If you’re stuck with edublogs, I’d suggest you search for another free host. WordPress is one fine example. Blogger is also ok. It has the option of more functionality, but it’s not as nice in my opinion. You could also try pbwiki – it’s not a blog platform, but it could still be useful for students creating portfolios.
Are Ads Always Bad?
I would never think about including advertising on my official classroom site, but are ads always a bad thing?
For better or worse, a lot of media in the world operates on advertising. Newspapers and magazines make most (all?) of their profits from ads. TV and radio companies make money through commercials. Even movie producers are getting into the business of advertising, selling product placements spots in movies.
While some bloggers don’t like the idea of ads interfering with their content, blogs fit the mold for advertising-driven media. Bloggers are essentially writers publishing their own periodicals. No one would criticize a newspaper for including an ad – so why criticize a blogger?
That doesn’t mean all bloggers accept the practice. Ben at Tech Savvy Educator made a post last month titled, “Yes, Yes, I’ve Gone Commercial *sigh*” Like others, he seems to feel guilty about placing some ads on his site.
Although I find advertising on official classroom resources to be unacceptable, I don’t see anything wrong with monetizing a personal blog. You might have guessed that if you looked at my sidebar or footer.
Like every other blogger on the internet, I’ve invested time and money into this project. It is certainly rewarding in other ways – self-reflection, connecting with other educators, relaxation – but it seems silly not to recoup that investment of time and money when possible.
I’ve established for myself a simple rule: as long as the advertising does not interfere with the content, it is acceptable. Sleezy tricks like pop-up ads or flash ads that block the content area are a no no. Text ads that are randomly inserted into a post are horrible. AdSense ads, banners, or blocks on the perimeter of the screen are just fine.
Unlike Ben, I’ve had some minor success with advertising. Over the past year, I’ve worked on a series of blogs/sites – all of which have now been rolled into this one site. Between the three of them, I generated about $500. It’s not a lot of money – nor as much as I think I’m capable of earning through these projects – but it pays for the webhosting and affords me a little extra spending cash (some of which will surely find its way back into my classroom).
Which leads me to the topics of two future posts.
How to Make Money from Your Blog. No, it’s not a plan to make millions, nor will I ask you to turn your blog into a spam-fed machine. There are more efficient and reliable methods of generating revenue than using AdSense, and for the sake of other educators that want to make a few bucks on their personal blogs I feel obligated to share.
What Do I Do With All that Money? Another topic I picked up from Steve at Teach 42′s 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger is full disclosure. What do I promote for money, and what do I promote just cause I like it? What do I do with all that money – not that $500 is all that much. I agree with Steve that it’s important for the integity of myself and my site to be up front and open about my motives.I might get to that later in the week before I head back to school.