I have thrown in the towel and removed AdSense from my blog for the second time. In just over ten years, I’ve earned $96.37. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t have to cut me a check until I’ve earned $100. I thought maybe, just maybe, I could manage to earn that last three dollars and change before I retire or die, but it’s not to be.
It’s the principle of the thing. I’ve essentially let them run ads on my site, for years, and now they get to keep nearly the nearly $100 they owe me for it. I’m sure they consider me as “low value” as I do them, at this point. It’s just galling to leave nearly $100 on the table and walk away. But it could be costing me my reputation to leave the ads running.
The first time I removed AdSense was during the election season of 2008. I logged out and looked at my site the way any visitor would, and saw political ads – diametrically opposed to the views I shared in my posts – running in my sidebar. That might be fun for bloggers whose primary (or only) motive was profit and controversy, but that’s not my style. It wasn’t me.
Later, I learned that Google had made changes to allow those running AdSense to block certain types of ads: political ads, ads for porn, ads for gambling, ads for alcohol, and so forth. I decided to give it another try – at least long enough, I hoped, to earn the few dollars it would take to finally get a payment.
This morning, though, I had reason to rethink that logic. I had a message on Twitter from my friend, @JackYan:
He is, of course, referring to Louise Matsakis’s article, “FACEBOOK’S MANDATORY MALWARE SCAN IS AN INTRUSIVE MESS” If her exposé finally got the attention that Jack’s post, mine, and countless others had not, then fewer views to our blogs might signal a welcome change on Facebook. I clicked through to read Jack’s latest post, “Has Facebook stopped forcing its “malware scanner” on to users after being busted by Wired?” and not two full paragraphs into it, this screen popped up, obscuring the post:
Now, I trust Norton. There are a number of toolbars out there I don’t trust farther than I could throw an elephant, but Norton? It’s kept me safe for the past 10+ years. Here’s the dilemma: I trust Jack, too. So I clicked View Full Report, and found this:
The only explanation I could think of is that there’s an ad server running on Jack’s site. With an ad server, there’s no way of knowing which ad appeared during a previous page load, and each fresh load is like playing Russian Roulette. Sure enough, he’s running OpenX there, and it’s serving up relevant ads – ads for things like anti-virus and anti-malware:
Anyone who has browsed the Internet for more than six months has surely been bombarded by fly-by-night sites promising to scan for and clean up the malware on their PCs. Often, these sites are, themselves, the source of malware and viruses. (The irony of how we got here, from a discussion of diminished views of Jack’s post, “Facebook forced me to download their anti-malware, and my own antivirus gets knocked out” is not lost on me, at this point.) I believe Norton caught links in an ad, not anything originating with Jack’s site.
I don’t believe that Google AdSense, or OpenX, or other established ad servers are serving up malware or phishing sites on purpose. In fact, I think they make an effort to screen such ads out. But it’s worth considering whether the benefit to us, as site owners and bloggers, is worth risking our own reputations on, at all, when security toolbars report our sites – rather than the spurious ads or ad servers – as a risk, and send visitors scurrying away as fast as they can click out.
My reputation is certainly worth more to me than the $96.37 I’ll never see in my own bank account.