The Autopian just finished its biggest month ever, soaring to over 2.6 million pageviews and 1.1 million unique visitors (all of you visitors are unique and special in your own way) in its 10th month of existence. It will begin its 11th month with excitement and an optimistic view toward the future, as advertisements finally show up to help bring this great automotive community one step closer to sustainability. Here’s what you can expect, and an explanation of why we’re doing this.
Since day one, our goal with The Autopian has been to create a sustainable media business built to last for many, many years to come, and firewalled from the ups and downs this industry regularly endures. That means building diverse revenue sources so that we don’t have all our eggs in one basket—a common reason for failure in this world.
So far, we’ve been delighted to count more than 550 readers as paying Autopian members (seriously, thank you!) since just December. We plan on working hard to grow that number this year and to keep doing right by the people who are part of this car club (cult, if we’re being honest). But we want to grow other pieces of this revenue pie too so that we can continue to do what we do, and not rely on any one income stream for it.
This means strategically-placed ads will soon join membership as a key pillar for bringing in the revenue The Autopian needs to become sustainable.
We know where other sites have gotten this wrong, and we think we can do better. Starting a media company from scratch is a marathon, not a sprint (though there is obviously some level of urgency, too), so we’re taking this step by step, and always staying focused on The Main Thing: the user experience. We’re always keen to have your feedback on the site, whether in the comments section or via an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Before I hand it off to Matt to show you what to expect ad-wise, I want to again thank all of you for reading. Just 10 months ago, this website was just a dream in the heads of me, Jason Torchinsky, and Beau Boeckmann. Now it’s a real thing — an incredible car community that’s growing stronger by the day (heck, I have probably 100+ readers coming to my house party on Saturday!)
I cannot express just how grateful I am to all of you for supporting this car website; just know that we here at The Autopian will reciprocate that support by giving you the site you deserve. We’ll be figuring out this whole ad experience thing as time goes on, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a hiccup here and there, but like all relationships, communication will be key. Let us know what you like and what needs improvements, and we’ll keep working our butts off to thank you for giving us this chance to build something great.
Take it away, Matt!
How Ads Are (Hopefully) Going To Work
If anyone wants to sit down at a party over beer and go over my plans for making this website sustainable I’m happy to talk to you about it, but my main belief is: If you want things to stay the same, you have to be willing to constantly change. Ergo, if we want to continue writing about the things we love without interference on a website that’s easy for people to read, we have to be flexible.
The success of membership thus far has given us a little pad, and we hope we can double or triple the number of members we have by the end of this year (sign up here!), which would cover at least a third of our costs. We’re going to do this by writing awesome stories that you love. The rest of what we need I plan to pull in from a mix of advertising, partnerships (car builds, et cetera), events, merch, and maybe some commerce posts. One of my goals is to not be over-reliant on any one source of revenue other than membership.
When ads launch, almost all of them will be purchased on an open market through something called programmatic advertising (you can read more about it here). I like to think of it as robots selling ads to robots. We can always turn off specific advertisers if there’s something offensive (email me email@example.com if you see something), but mostly it’s something that just happens in the background. Depending on where you browse, most of the advertising you see is sold this way.
In a generic sense, the most valuable types of ads are auto-play videos and big pop-up banners, which is why you see a lot of those ads on the sites of most of our competitors.
We don’t want to do that. The ads you’ll see on the site won’t completely cover our costs, but assuming we can continue to grow our readership, grow our membership, and be creative, I don’t think we’ll ever have to go down the road of slimy pop-up ads. What we will have are ads in the following spaces:
FRONT PAGE/CATEGORY PAGES
You’ve already seen this type of ad on our current page, but now it’ll be dynamic so it can be either this big size pictured here (from major sponsor Taillight Ruiners) or the current size you see on the website. It’ll also appear on category pages and on search pages.
ARTICLE PAGE ADS ON DESKTOP
Great news! We’re finally tweaking the article pages on desktop so you can see more recent articles on the right rail, and you don’t have to always go to the front page to navigate around. We’re keeping the banner advertisement below the image, as we have now, and we’re adding one on the sidebar and an in-content one (in the article) approximately every 5-7 paragraphs/images/blocks. Depending on screen size and zoom level, you should never see more than a couple of ads on your screen at one time.
ARTICLE PAGE ON MOBILE
This will remain much like what we have now (with the little ad banner below the image) plus an in-content ad every 5-7 paragraphs/images/blocks like mentioned above. This will probably be the area of advertising we’ll have to tweak the most since articles are not the same length and use a different mix of images, quotes, embeds, et cetera.
That’s it. We assume it’ll take about a month for the robots who buy the ads on our site to get to know the robots who sell the ads so it may be a little random what you see until then. Sometimes you might not see ads at all.
Once this is working, our next step is to finally deploy the commenting updates you’ve all been yearning for.
I know it’s exactly counter to the diversification of revenue streams but a membership tier that has no ads & (crucially) no trackers would get me to sign up. Science/tech news site Ars Technica does it that way & I’m very satisfied with my membership there.