Fond farewell to ads from The Deck March 29, 2017 1:08 PM   Subscribe

Advertising service The Deck, whose ads we've long featured in several spots on MetaFilter, will be shutting down in April. As a result, we'll be removing that ad box, and exploring other ad solutions to make up the revenue. (Don't worry, MetaFilter's okay.) Here's some details.

This is a huge bummer because The Deck has been great, but for anyone who's worried I should mention up front that it doesn't present an immediate financial crisis for MetaFilter; we've had warning, have been budgeting accordingly, and have enough other revenue streams that we're not going to be in any trouble in the short term as we explore other options. But, so, yes:

We've been running ads from The Deck since late 2010, and it's been a great partnership with an unusually thoughtful and restrained ad provider. Run by MeFi's Own Jim Coudal, it was a great fit for MetaFilter and provided one of the only ad units Matt felt comfortable running for logged-in members of the community. As of 2014, they were the only ads we ran on MetaFilter proper, which was nice to be able to do.

Unfortunately, the online ad economy continues to be a weird, uneven thing (as I noted in the recent site update) and the last year in particular has been difficult for The Deck, hence the shutdown. In this as in all things, they've been good partners; we had ample warning to make other plans and to think about revenue ahead of time. And I chose to have MeFi stick with them when Jim told me last year about the downturn and the need to cut rates; I'd hoped (as had Jim) that things would turn around.

No such luck, sadly. And so we'll be removing those ad boxes from the site in the next few days, in tandem with The Deck ending their service. (If you find yourself thinking "what ad boxes", you likely chose at some point to click the little "x" on them that we provided for logged-in users who would rather not see them, a compromise we made with The Deck's blessing when Matt first rolled the ads out in 2010.)

We're not going to immediately replace The Deck's top-right-corner-of-the-page ad units with any other ads for logged-in-members, though in the long run we may find something similarly acceptable for that placement.

Prior to our exclusive use of The Deck in MetaFilter threads, we'd been running Adsense units for non-logged-in members, just like we've done all along for Ask MetaFilter threads, and in the short term that's what we'll return to; it's a model we're already set up for in the codebase and one that continues to work well for Ask, and we'll need to reevaluate how it does on the blue after having not done it there for a few years. The Deck for most of our partnership was able to offer competitive rates vs. the revenue we were getting there, but as things have been thin the last several months it's possible Adsense will be able to make up the current gap well.

There are other ad strategies we can explore for replacing The Deck's footprint on the site, and I'll be looking at that stuff in more depth over the next couple months; it'd be great to find another firm able to offer similarly thoughtful ads at competitive rates, but we have a lot of other options as well. As unpredictable as the web ad economy can be, one thing it is not is sparse; I anticipate most of the work will be in sorting through the breadth of possibilities to find something that's a good compromise fit for the tone of the site, our revenue needs, and the MeFi staff effort required to manage it.

I'll keep you all informed when we have new changes/possibilities to discuss. And thanks for all the good years, coudal.
posted by cortex to MetaFilter-Related at 1:08 PM (53 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

As unpredictable as the web ad economy can be, one thing it is not is sparse;

Yeah, cut the mods some slack when the occasional softcore porn ad shows up.
posted by Melismata at 1:41 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


I never imagined feeling a little sentimental about an ad box, but it turns out I do! I'll miss repeatedly clicking over to field notes, gazing longingly at the creativity of their editions, grudgingly convincing myself their notebooks are too small for me, going back to metafilter, and then repeating the cycle ad infinitum.

coudal, wishing you luck in future endeavors.
posted by R a c h e l at 1:42 PM on March 29 [15 favorites]


So sad to hear this, I always found The Deck ads as unobtrusive as ads could be and enjoyed them. Hell, I even hoped whenever I saw them that I was doing good web work that made other people feel the way they made me feel.

Coudal Partners was a huge inspiration to me as a design student, and 10+ years later continues to be so, and I had no idea Jim Coudal was a Mefite! But of course.

Thank you for being so clear about what this means for Metafilter, cortex. My immediate reaction was to worry, it's great to have assurance loud and clear that, while obviously not a positive thing, this won't be catastrophic.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 1:49 PM on March 29 [12 favorites]


The deck had some great stuff. It is the only place where I've willingly clicked on an ad and actually bought something.

Case in point: you should buy stuff from Field Notes, which I discovered through the deck here on MF. All of the paper notepads/notebooks/steno books, etc. have been top notch so far. It's so nice to write in a book that's well bound on creamy-smooth paper.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:49 PM on March 29 [6 favorites]


. for The Deck
It was kind of unique being able to say "if the site's running Deck ads, it must be OK'

As unpredictable as the web ad economy can be, one thing it is not is sparse;
well, neither are oceans, but it's better to see some dry land that has life on it...
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:50 PM on March 29 [6 favorites]


Melismata, if you're seeing porny or gross ads, grab the URL the ad points to and send it to us. That's the information we need to block it in Google Ads.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:50 PM on March 29 [10 favorites]


Oh wow. Coudal Partners of... Field Notes?

Yeah, it's no wonder that the Ad Deck ads were so classy and refined.
posted by notyou at 2:06 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


So ... how much would it cost to run an ad in that blank space anyhow? Say, a little infotorial banner on the theme of, oh, I don't know! Could be about, say ... voting #1 ... ah, for, maybe ... quidnunc kid? Just asking for a ... friend.

Uh ... also: anyone here have $2 million spare and want to be my friend? Cos I just asked a question for you. Yeah, you can thank me in cash. Buddy!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 2:36 PM on March 29 [32 favorites]


Really sad news! The Deck's aesthetics and ethics are too rare.
posted by michaelh at 2:44 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


Looks like all similar networks (Carbon, Fusion, Yoggrt) have been acquired by BuySellAds, and all of them merged (?) into Carbon.
posted by floatboth at 3:17 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


I never imagined feeling a little sentimental about an ad box, but it turns out I do! I'll miss repeatedly clicking over to field notes, gazing longingly at the creativity of their editions, grudgingly convincing myself their notebooks are too small for me, going back to metafilter, and then repeating the cycle ad infinitum.

Me too! The soft covers don't work for me and they really are too small, but the paper is so nice. Those might be the only ads I've ever clicked on, so I guess I am part of the problem.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:48 PM on March 29


Can't we just ask for sponsorship from B&M or Campbell's or whoever wants to create a MetaFilter branded plate of beans?
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:14 PM on March 29 [10 favorites]


Melismata, if you're seeing porny or gross ads, grab the URL the ad points to and send it to us. That's the information we need to block it in Google Ads.

Does this mean that Metafilter has a policy against running ads for pornography, or simply that users are encouraged to report any ads that they are unhappy seeing on the site?
posted by layceepee at 4:18 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


The latter; mostly what we get reports about are gross exploitative stuff ("find a hot asian wife online now!" type shit seems to be the most pernicious variation that shows up in the right keyword contexts), and I've yet to get a report from a user/reader about an ad that I didn't basically immediately think "yep, that should go", so it's not really a concern of creeping morality policing or anything like that.

Adsense is a funny-not-ha-ha beast in terms of ad content since their whole model is about spreading a very, very wide net which includes some fairly sketchy stuff. We filter by category and by explicit domain blocking where we can, but it's always a bit of a crapshoot. And yet they also have sort of absurdly broad definitions of unacceptably sexual content against which you're not allowed to run ads. We filter for a bunch of tags on Ask and decline to run ads on those threads to avoid getting on Google's bad side, but that ends up including not just questions about sexy sexy funtimes but also about things like vaginal health or rape counseling or or or, which is sort of a weird market disincentive for them to be applying and also deeply muddies the idea of what "sexual" content is.

So, ironically, it's unlikely we'd be seeing any porn/erotica ads in the first place from Adsense even in the occasional thread where it'd be more or less thematically appropriate, but we...wouldn't be able to run the ads on those threads anyway? It's weird out there, whatever your feelings about the actual subject matter.

It's scattershot and self-contradictory stuff like that that makes me appreciate what The Deck has been doing all these years, and makes me wish that was more broadly a workable ad business model.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:31 PM on March 29 [15 favorites]


Thanks for keeping us up to date. I shall miss Deck as their adds always seemed to be for high quality products from (as far as I could tell) companies who placed ethics was a high priority.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:33 PM on March 29 [1 favorite]


Please not Outbrain.
posted by Artw at 6:07 PM on March 29 [7 favorites]


Please remove my post on the Blue. I did a search and this post on Meta did not come up.
posted by zeikka at 6:34 PM on March 29


I didn't know the Deck was related to Coudal, which has long, very long, been very much the best of the web too.
posted by Miko at 6:51 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


"porny".. is that a word? Should be anyway...
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:53 PM on March 29


It's a word.
posted by Miko at 8:00 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


I hear Taboola has some great stuff...
posted by Slinga at 8:09 PM on March 29


Didn't Metafilter have its own text ads at one time?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:11 PM on March 29


Taboola has the best content elsewhere on the web.
posted by rhizome at 8:14 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


Could we pay to see tastefully done porn ads? Asking for a spouse.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:28 PM on March 29 [6 favorites]


Nanukthedog: "Can't we just ask for sponsorship from B&M or Campbell's or whoever wants to create a MetaFilter branded plate of beans?"

Seriously, you are overthinking this....
posted by Samizdata at 8:33 PM on March 29 [6 favorites]


What if we had ads FOR Metafilter, ON Metafilter? Sort of going full Ouroboros.
posted by Slinga at 8:36 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


I know it's been discussed before, but what is the current position regarding Patreon-supported MeFi?

I always thought that was Cloudal. Hmn.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:25 PM on March 29 [2 favorites]


Why give someone else a cut?

(I guess for convenience... Still though.)
posted by ODiV at 10:29 PM on March 29


I prefer to think of it as a Not Have To Deal With Paypal Tax Which I Am Happy To Shell Out For. There's Stripe, but the convenience of having all my stuff go through the same platform... look, I'm goodhearted but lazy, okay? Plus Paypal & Stripe have ThielStink on them.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:06 PM on March 29 [3 favorites]


We're not going to immediately replace The Deck's top-right-corner-of-the-page ad units with any other ads for logged-in-members, though in the long run we may find something similarly acceptable for that placement.

I honestly hope you'll find something to replace it. I found The Deck's ads oddly.... um.... informative? I clicked through on a lot of them, and even bought a thing or two over the years. I don't know what the next thing to come along as an equivalent might be, but I do hope it comes along.

Plus Paypal & Stripe have ThielStink on them.

There's an address on the Help Fund MetaFilter page that you can send paper checks to. It does require you giving money to the USPS, but I'm sort of in favor of giving them business in general.
posted by hippybear at 1:34 AM on March 30 [3 favorites]

“Disaffiliated flâneur, jacked-up on Viagra and on the look-out for a contortionist trumpeter.”
In keeping with Metafilter's austere text-based palette, I propose we advertise one another, with the LRB personals as a model.
posted by standardasparagus at 1:58 AM on March 30 [5 favorites]


If more ad networks were like The Deck, I'd probably have a lot more sites in my adblocker's whitelist. Alas, being ethical does not always pay.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:22 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


Awww, Deck ads are probably the only ads I've ever intentionally clicked through. I've even gone to the Deck page from time to time thinking, "What was that cool thing I saw on Deck?"

I wish them much luck in the next endeavor.
posted by muddgirl at 6:18 AM on March 30


Didn't Metafilter have its own text ads at one time?

We did, years and years ago. It was fun and also I think not terribly profitable, but I think that was partly because Matt wasn't trying to make it a serious source of income so much as a bit of a community-participation goof. I find the idea charming and it's something we could play around with.

But we could also look at more seriously managing an ad box internally; having The Deck take care of that stuff was enormously convenient but taking a DIY approach to rotating monthly contracts with advertisers we've directly engaged with is one of the possibilities I'm considering.

I know it's been discussed before, but what is the current position regarding Patreon-supported MeFi?

Mostly that it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to push in that direction when we're already doing direct user contributions; Patreon is a great model for folks who want to do subscription fundraising without having to do stuff like bootstrap a fundraising process or backend or tie it all into a web presence, and it does that pretty well, but in turn it takes a cut for providing those services. So we'd be moving from paying 3% or so in transaction fees for our DIY paypal/stripe stuff to paying something like 10%.

That's not to say there couldn't be a situation where doing that kind of thing in addition to the current setup might make sense—there's some value in having a trusted, centralized third-party entity if you're e.g. trying to fundraise from a broad and skeptical audience, for example—but it's not something there's a clear upside to switching to right now, so, not on the table.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:22 AM on March 30 [5 favorites]


Plus Paypal & Stripe have ThielStink on them.

Thiel has had nothing to do with PayPal for 15 years.
posted by mama casserole at 7:31 AM on March 30 [3 favorites]


I have issues with Paypal outside of Theil, he's just a prick of convenience. But Swipe looks like the best option here, and it will probably turn out that Pomplamoose videos are made by an army of mistreated chimpanzees or something anyway.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:10 AM on March 30


I have issues with Paypal outside of Theil, he's just a prick of convenience.

That's cool. I just see this "boycott PayPal because Thiel" stuff propagate and I figure at least here I can mythbust because it's sort of on topic (as opposed to when it's mentioned in passing in an Ask). It's a little weird being an apologist for PayPal, but mainly I guess I don't want people (who would be otherwise inclined to use the service) turned away because they're given the false impression that the transaction fee is lining Thiel's pockets or something.

It's funny too because I see Thiel mentioned all the time when PayPal comes up but hardly ever when people talk about Facebook. Thiel no longer owns/runs PayPal but he does own a stake in Facebook and does sit on their board of directors. Which is pretty scary, right? But somehow that's way under the radar, or maybe people just kind of put their heads in the sand because they don't want to confront the idea of leaving Facebook.
posted by mama casserole at 9:07 AM on March 30 [9 favorites]


I'd like to go on record to say that I am totally on board with paying $5 annually for membership rather than the one-time fee if that ever becomes an issue.
posted by VTX at 10:06 AM on March 30 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: It's weird out there, whatever your feelings about the actual subject matter.

(also, seconding the annual membership thing, too)
posted by knownassociate at 10:20 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]


I'd like to go on record to say that I am totally on board with paying $5 annually for membership rather than the one-time fee if that ever becomes an issue.

I like this idea. It is fair and even and clear what value you get for the price. It would probably further reduce participation but at least it's straightforward and clean.
posted by Miko at 10:20 AM on March 30


What if we had ads FOR Metafilter, ON Metafilter? Sort of going full Ouroboros.

I think that's pretty much the topic of this metatalk.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 11:07 AM on March 30


I'm very sorry to hear this. The Deck was literally the only ad service I allowed past my defenses. I wish you continued success, coudal.
posted by ob1quixote at 12:28 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]


Just sell the pixels for a dollar each to members.
posted by Kabanos at 3:19 PM on March 30


You can want to boycott Paypal for their business practices without ever invoking Thiel.
posted by Lexica at 4:40 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]


Taboola was what a former employer went with for 'related articles' on a few sites. first row was actual content we created, second was the other ads. Mildly complained about using them but then saw some numbers and yeah, I get why web sites use them.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:05 PM on March 30


You can already pay $5/year or even /month for MetaFilter, (... and this is a good reminder for myself that I think my autopay broke when I lost my wallet most recently, and I need to go fix that...), but I'd hate to require that when I periodically see AskMe questions that reveal some users are not in that situation.

I'm glad to hear that you see a lot of options, cortex. I look forward to hearing what you come up with.
posted by salvia at 12:35 AM on March 31 [3 favorites]


I'd like to go on record to say that I now want to see a Pomplamoose video made featuring an army of chimpanzees. They don't need to be mistreated for this to possibly be AWESOME!
posted by hippybear at 3:07 AM on March 31


Sign of the times
posted by unliteral at 5:52 AM on March 31


confidential to cortex: April Fool's Day is a perfect opportunity to usher in this old ad pitch under cover of "just kidding" for a quick 24-hour boost.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:07 PM on March 31


Heh, you'd think so, but on this absurdist 4/1 in this absurdist year mlkshk is another thing shutting down tomorrow.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:29 PM on March 31


for this absurdist 4/1 in this absurdist year, I should make known that shmrkshk.com is not yet registered.

and metalifter.com which I registered years ago for a long forgotten 4/1 joke is still in my possession, and anybody interested in playing with it should MeMail me. If not, I'll probably get around to redirecting it back here soon.
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:32 PM on March 31


And the time has come. We've pulled the deck ads from the sidebars across all the sites. Ideally, that should be the only thing that logged-in users notice as a change.

People viewing a MetaFilter thread when not logged in will now get 2 or 3 Google ads, identically to how Ask shows them. That means: one ad between post and comments, one ad on the right-hand side, and, if the thread has more than a handful of comments, one at the end of the comments.

~/MetaFilter$ git merge bye-deck-well-miss-you

posted by frimble (staff) at 1:31 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]


Perhaps you should give logged in users a choice of ad networks? And maybe run your own ads like Kuro5hin used to do?

I, for one, never have Google show me shitty ads. That is almost certainly because they know enough about me/my browser that advertisers of mail order brides and sketchy stuff in general wouldn't pay more than a mill per mille for someone like me. Combine that with their good profile allowing them to charge large dollars for electronics, media, and a few other categories, and my Google experience is fantastic.

Other people find the tracking objectionable on principle or have bad experiences with one or another of the networks for whatever other reason, so it seems like it would be nice if they were able to choose a different network if they like. That might be excessively complicated. If not, you could go further and adjust the number of ads shown on the page to somewhat equalize different rates from different networks, so if Google is paying less than Verizon you could have two ad slots for those who chose Google and one for those who chose Verizon.

Or maybe just let people buy ads directly. I'd love to have the option on the rare occasion I need to advertise something to target Mefites directly. I'd say that policing for malware and other objectionable stuff on your own would be risky to the users, but it isn't as if ad networks have a great track record of avoiding being turned into an attack vector..
posted by wierdo at 12:01 PM on April 9 [1 favorite]


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