why ads have returned (and other reconsidered priorities)

Ads have returned to the site. I’m sorry. I hate them too. But I’m desperate here. I tried to find a way to have logged-in subscribers avoid the ads, but it doesn’t seem possible.

Here’s the thing about ads: The reason I took them down a few years back is because I hoped it would induce some readers to subscribe, since it would be obvious that there was no other financial support for the site. The ads made very little money anyway, and there does seem to be the perception that popular sites that run ads must be making a ton of money. Unfortunately, that applies only to sites that are much more popular than mine, the likes of Huffington Post and CNN.com, etc. Sites that get millions of pageviews everyday, not a couple of million over the course of a whole year.

Removing ads from the site appeared to have no impact on the number of subscribers here. In other words, I didn’t get the jump in subscribers I was hoping for.

(Bringing the ads back is an experiment, by the way. I’ll let them run for a couple of months and see how much money they bring in. I expect it will be laughably little. I’ll share some numbers later this autumn.)

I’ve been doing a bunch of things over the past few years in an attempt to draw in more readers and more subscribers: the what-to-stream posts and the Movie Cheat Sheet email newsletters, among other stuff (some of which I’ve already stopped doing, like the Doctor Who Thing posts). None of these efforts made any difference. Which is why they’re ending: this week’s what-to-stream posts will be the last, and this week’s Movie Cheat Sheet emails will be the last.

To those of you who found them useful, I’m sorry. But they’re too much work to do for a relative handful of readers. If you paid for an annual subscription particularly to get the Movie Cheat Sheets and you’d like a prorated refund, please email me and we’ll work something out.

It’s clear to me now that there’s not much I can do to improve readership here. The only times I’ve seen a jump in traffic are the results of things that are out of my hands: when Google updates its search algorithm, for instance, or when the IMDb started listing links to my reviews more prominently.

I have, in effect, been running a one-woman magazine here for the past couple of years. It has been endless exhausting work, but I would have been happy to keep it up if readers were supporting it. They didn’t, so I have to stop. The definition of insanity, someone once said, is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.

So from now on, it’s back to basics. Reviews, and little else.

I keep trying to remain optimistic about my work here, and it gets harder all the time. It’s more and more obvious that there isn’t a lot of interest among the Internet audience for supporting film criticism. I’m trying to stick it out, but that means I have to find something else that lots of readers will pay for. So I’ll be spending more time on other projects. I’ll keep you up to date on those.

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