Vincent van Gogh Autumn landscape 1885
I’m not sure if what I’m going to tell you would officially be called a shadow ban, but it sure feels like it. A few years ago, we noticed that our ad revenues, then from Google, which had been falling for a while, had plummeted by some 80% from high to lowest. On top of that, at some point Google started sending Policy Violation mails. Which say “you violated our policies”, without ever specifying in what way(s). Now, you could read through all these policies, and guess at what you have done “wrong” and delete the “offending” material, you could delete the entire post, or you can just ignore these mails.
Given that we have no intention of having someone else decide what we write, ignoring them seems the only option. If they decide what we can say, we might as well not say it. What’s the use? If the web is to have any function at all, it will always be to provide diverse opinions. In that, we very much agree with Elon Musk. But yes, through the interference of companies like Google we have moved in the opposite direction. First with Trump, than with Covid, and now with Ukraine. Media and politics are hellbent on wiping out any views and ideas that don’t conform to theirs, but there is no future in that.
With the declining revenues, and the violation mails, we decided to look beyond Google for ad providers. Google had a total monopoly in the field before, but there appeared to be other, smaller companies popping up that offered some competition. The 80% revenue drop at first looked to us like Google was simply taking a bigger part of what came in, and that is certainly part of what happened, but there was also something else. That we initially didn’t recognize. Now we do.
We did a number of trial runs with alternative ad providers, which typically started at a promising level, and then all fell down to “Google levels”. These trial runs take months, you have to give the new provider time to get their end right etc. I think we tried 4-5 of them, over a 2-3 year period. Once they’re down to 20% of the initial highs of years ago, you think: this doesn’t improve the situation. And you wonder why, is it their effort, is it their models, it’s hard to see at times. And then the last company we tried sort of opened our eyes.
We had spent quite a bit of time setting things up with them, video calls, mails etc. We in this is me and invaluable friend Danny, who keeps an eye on the back end of TAE. We have good visitor and page view numbers, and one stat that I like a lot, and that should appeal to advertisers a lot. The bounce rate when people log in is close to 30%, which seems normal. But even with that, the average time spent on the site is almost 5 minutes. An advertisers’ dream, or so you would think. But then, just as we were ready to launch with them a few weeks ago, they blew it off.
They said: it’s no use doing this, our biggest advertisers don’t want to work with you. Not good news, but enlightening. This has undoubtedly been a factor in all the trial runs we did, all the way back to and including Google, but nobody ever told us. And why did they not want to work with us? Not because they did their own research, they have other things to worry about. There’s only one source I can imagine them basing this on, and that takes us back to Google. Who have built up a file, a database, of websites they issue Policy Violation mails to.
“Don’t trust those guys, they don’t toe the line. They offer alternative views on Covid and Ukraine”. The end result is that for now we don’t have any ads. I went back to our Google AdSense page, thinking maybe we could go back to their generic ads for a bit, and there are two warnings there now.
• Ads are disabled on one or more of your sites – no ads are serving on one or more of your sites because of policy violations. Please investigate the reasons for this in the Policy Center.
• Due to the war in Ukraine, we will pause monetization of content that exploits, dismisses, or condones the war.
Yes, it sounds exactly like what Musk found at Twitter. Just on a much smaller scale. Twitter banned lots of doctors that didn’t parrot Fauci and Pfizer, tried to ruin their careers and reputations. And now we have plastic blood clots, heart attacks and dying and disabled children. Twitter also won’t allow anything but NATO narratives about Ukraine. And now we have one country in the dark, and a whole continent about to experience something similar, while being forced to pay for the pleasure. No amount of Policy Violation warnings can turn that around. But Google’s “policies” are the same as “the old” Twitter’s.
We cannot think for ourselves. Someone else, organized in groups, wants to do our thinking for us. And tells themselves they have the right to do so. Nay, the obligation, lest we stray from their path. Not only do we find that path uninteresting, it would also mean the Automatic Earth can stop publishing. We don’t intend to do that. But at the same time we realize what we’re up against. We are lucky to have people donating on Paypal and Patreon, but losing $400-$1,000 per month from ads of course still hurts. Who knows anymore what an uninterrupted ad revenue stream would look like by now?
Just thought I’d let you know.
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