Techdirt Is Now Entirely Without Any Google Ads Or Tracking Code

from the cleaning-out-the-cobwebs dept

First things first: if you are interested in advertising on Techdirt in a non-intrusive, non-obnoxious way, please contact us. We'd love to work with you on cool, innovative advertising and sponsorship that engages, instead of annoys, our community. As some of you may recall, last summer, we had to pull all ads off of Techdirt, after we kept running into problems with Google, and its overly aggressive, overly sensitive (if somewhat arbitrary) advertising morality police (such as telling us all our stories about Google were "dangerous or derogatory").

After announcing that, we had a few different companies approach us with possible alternatives, and earlier this year, we tried to put ads back on the site briefly, with a promise from a provider that they could both serve better quality ads as well as "deal with" Google if it started complaining again. Here's the unfortunate secret underpinning nearly all of the internet advertising space: there are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies which will purport to put ads on your website. And all of them will promise "quality" ads and better rates. But the unfortunate reality is that they're all just backstopped by Google, and the ads are all the same crappy ads in the end. Only the largest websites (or highly, highly specialized ones) can really pull their own weight on advertising. And, tragically, wonky tech/legal/policy blogs don't cut it (unless we wanted to just start running reviews of every silly tech product out there, and that's not our thing).

So, we worked with a new partner, with promises of higher quality... and it all turned out to just be the same awful Google ads again, and with it, the same automated emails every damn day from Google threatening to cut us off for our "dangerous and derogatory" content. This time around, we just ignored those threats, because at this point, we're so damn sick of it that if Google cuts us off, so be it.

But, there was a larger issue. In our wrapup of the 2020 stats for Techdirt, I mentioned in passing that this would be the last year we used Google Analytics for tracking how people use the site. We've used a few different analytics systems in the life of Techdirt, and I think we used MeasureMap before Google bought it and wrapped it into Google Analytics. And, to be clear, Google Analytics worked decently well, had a nice interface (much nicer than most competitors) and, of course, was free for our use case. But that freedom came with a different kind of price -- which is that Google was tracking users on our site. And that was becoming both more and more problematic, and more of a nuisance.

After becoming increasingly uncomfortable with that, we switched over to a different analytics package, and are now using both Plausible and Matomo (self-hosted), to make sure that we're much more protective of the privacy of Techdirt's readers. We actually pulled Google Analytics off the site in late January. But then we noticed something odd. In February, Google Analytics was still showing up even though we had pulled the tags. It turned out that, via the new ad partner we had, as soon as ads via Google show up on our site Google Analytics code showed up along with it. And that really sucks.

After going through a variety of options, we eventually realized that none of this was worth it. We ended our contract with our ad provider, and then had to scrub through all our code to make sure Google Analytics was truly gone (it's amazing how it pops up in unexpected places). We didn't post about this immediately, in part because we were busy with other stuff, but also because I wanted to make sure Google Analytics was really gone. And it is.

Of course, that also means we're once again without any advertising on Techdirt, which is a hit to our revenue and our ability to keep going -- at a time when that's under threat from other things as well. We are hoping to try some more creative (less intrusive, less annoying) sponsorship and advertising methods in the near future, but at the very least we're increasingly going to rely on you, our community, to help Techdirt stick around. If you are able to, and interested, the easiest way to directly support Techdirt is via the Friend of Techdirt option (basically a way to tip us however much you'd like), but we have a wide variety of ways to support us, and any one you choose is greatly appreciated.

Techdirt is one of the very, very, very few truly independent media brands around. Almost none of the independent media brands that existed when we started remain. Some have been sucked up into larger companies or shut down entirely. Others have decided to go behind expensive paywalls. We've had to adapt and change over the years in many ways just to stick around, but in the end the reason we do this is because of the community we've built up here. For us to stick around, I need to ask the community to help support us as well. We have some cool experiments and projects in the works, so stay tuned for that, but in the meantime, if you can help us out, it would be hugely appreciated.

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Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: ads, advertising, analytics, privacy, tracking
Companies: google, techdirt


Reader Comments

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  1. icon
    Rico R. (profile), 27 Jul 2021 @ 10:03am

    I can’t believe Google would want to cut funding from a blog ran by one of Google’s own biggest shills. /s

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 27 Jul 2021 @ 10:25am

    Re:

    You stole my thunder from making a similar sarcastic quip "calling out" Mike Masnick for being a Google shill (which he is not, BTW, as this action proves)!

    But I'm okay with it. Enjoy my funny vote. ;-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Pixelation, 27 Jul 2021 @ 10:58am

    Re:

    I'm sure it's just Mike working on an evil plan with Google, controlled by Q.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    Federico (profile), 27 Jul 2021 @ 11:15am

    Well done

    I'm sorry to hear about the bumpy ride, but congratulations for this decision! It makes all your readers safer. Hopefully it's also going to end up proving your point about behavioral advertising being actually useless, apart from being terrible: I wish Techdirt to make good money from this decision in the end, even though the beginning will certainly be hard.

    I think there must be a market for what you're offering here: there are very few spaces like Techdirt where one can reach a broad population of netizens interested in wonky policy matters for technology.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 Jul 2021 @ 11:47am

    That can't be right, that almost sounds like having principles about valuing your users and sticking to them, that never happens these days...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Baron von Robber, 27 Jul 2021 @ 11:47am

    Re: Re:

    In the basement of a pizza parlor, run by gay frogs in order steal the vote!
    Hamberders and covfefe!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 27 Jul 2021 @ 12:13pm

    Re:

    Shh. You're going to ruin my reputation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    ECA (profile), 27 Jul 2021 @ 1:53pm

    and?

    How about hooking up with alibaba, Banggood, Amazon and a few others.
    They do have great deals.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 27 Jul 2021 @ 3:22pm

    Need a second job, Mike?

    I hear the FCC chair position is open… ; ]

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Darkness Of Course (profile), 27 Jul 2021 @ 4:03pm

    adtech is the biggest scam ever

    I would suggest you contact checkmyads.org

    Nandini and Clair are pushing back against supporting hate speech. I would suspect they would be interested in your story re Google Analytics.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Eldakka (profile), 27 Jul 2021 @ 6:54pm

    Hvae you tried adding porn?

    I hear that's a good money spinner. Maybe add some chatrooms a'la chaturbate, onlyfans, etc.?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jul 2021 @ 7:18pm

    I'm still seeing requests to fonts.googleapis.com on my end. I'm not going to bitch about it, but do we have any reason to think it won't track us? E.g., have they made legally-binding promises of any kind? What about the embedded Youtube videos that occur from time to time?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Smartassicus the Roman, 28 Jul 2021 @ 12:09am

    Re: Hvae you tried adding porn?

    Gay porn pays five times what straight porn pays.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 Jul 2021 @ 1:53am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Hey, where's the Kenyan Muslim, the Illuminati and the elders of zion in that plan?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Jul 2021 @ 4:57am

    Damn I wish I had friends to play that CIA game with. I'm guessing it's not a great card game to play while drinking though.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    kwe (profile), 28 Jul 2021 @ 9:05am

    Problem with tip jar

    I wanted to leave a $50 tip via Paypal, but the receipt indicated $100, so I canceled it.

    I'll try again later. I've read Techdirt for years and don't want it to go away.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    timlash (profile), 28 Jul 2021 @ 10:16am

    Upgrayed!!

    Moved up from Watercooler to BTC. Keep up the good work!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 28 Jul 2021 @ 11:17am

    Re: Upgrayed!!

    Many thanks! We're working on some improvements for Behind the Curtain so stay tuned...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Eric Holscher (profile), 28 Jul 2021 @ 11:37am

    Not ready yet, but one day..

    We were discussing with them adding https://www.ethicalads.io/ which is our new non-tracking ad network. Sadly we're still only focused on developers, and Techdirt's content is very wide ranging, so we were only able to propose running ads on a subset of their content currently. We'd love to be able to support y'all when we are able to expand our audience to a larger tech-focused site in the future.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Karim Khelouiati, 28 Jul 2021 @ 12:55pm

    Thank you for this initiative it's great to find people like you.
    I would like to advise you to delete the Google fonts, they are also spies, you can self-host your fonts

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    owen, 28 Jul 2021 @ 5:29pm

    I quit third party analytics from 2018 because all these services are simply weak points in an independent website.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 29 Jul 2021 @ 1:10am

    Re: Re:

    Not to worry, Mike. Baghdad Bob will be along any minute now and explain to everyone how you "hiding" your Google affiliation is proof that you're up to no good. You might as well lean into it and publish a picture of you in your villain's lair, stroking a white cat and casting a monocled sinister gaze at the camera across the shark tank.

    When you take the desired conclusion away from people who only have a narrative they'll scrabble to invent a new narrative which fits their desired conclusion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
    Jeroen, 29 Jul 2021 @ 11:58pm

    trackers

    There are still trackers on this site, like Soundcloud, Gravatar and the social media buttons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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