Gawker Media’s Experiment in Ad Network Abstinence

Gawker Media may be known for slinging mud and dishing dirt, but the publisher keeps a clean nose with the ads it allows on its 15 blogs.

Last week I was poking around IO9.com, Gawker’s just-launched sci-fi blog, and noticed a bunch of non-ads had usurped the site’s traditional banner placements. These were arty-looking photographs labeled simply “Gawker Artists.” Click through and you get a long list of Gawker-published artists and their works. Very unGawkerlike.

Curious, I pinged Gawker sales honcho Chris Batty, who told me the program began when the company decided to throw off ad networks a while back.

“Due to these inefficiencies in the internet spot market, we had a fair amount of inventory that went unfilled,” Batty wrote back. “I thought that giving the promotional space away to artists would be a nice thing for artists (and for readers) and that’s just what we’ve been doing since.”

Batty said Gawker makes no revenue directly from the program, but added, “We feel there absolutely is value in not wasting our readers’ attention on cheap, ugly advertisements… and maybe some good karma too.”

Not only that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Gawker eventually sees an additional benefit by re-sensitizing jaded readers to some of the ad space on its properties.

More recently Batty set up an exhibitor program where other sites can display galleries showing the work of Gawker artists. Batty said most exhibitors are small-time site operators who want to support artists while prettying up their sites a bit.

But he added, “I would welcome other high quality publishers’ participation in the program for the purpose of better engaging their readers, helping artists and maybe even themselves in the process — by draining the network swamp and getting hard to work on creating online marketing experiences valuable enough to cover the cost of original content creation.”

Have you or any publishers you know overthrown network ads, partially or entirely? If so, I’d be interested in hearing about it.

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