Why Are There Ads on This Blog and Where do They Come From?
This post describes how affiliate blog marketing and Google Ads work on this blog, which may be of general interest to those considering monetizing published content.
But here is the specific reason why I am describing it:
As we discussed here, Elysium devoted 15 paragraphs in its most recent pleading in New York to attacking this blog and this blogger, including false statements and gratuitous derogations.
Attempting to silence journalists is an abuse of the judicial process with obvious First Amendment implications.
But if we were to give Elysium the benefit of the doubt, which benefit they certainly did not give me, then they might have an additional motive, too, in attacking this blog.
The pleadings in New York falsely accuse ChromaDex of placing ads on my blog and inexplicably assign ChromaDex responsibility for what I say.
Or, it's inexplicable to me, because I know the history of this blog and why I write it.
But maybe it's not inexplicable to Elysium, if they can't believe that bad luck alone would cause them to be dogged by a buddhist lawyer justice warrior who would take a strong stand against gladiator-capitalism.
From where Elysium stands, I cannot possibly exist. It MUST be the case -- Elysium seems to be thinking -- that I have been hired, directed, motivated, encouraged, incentivized, suggested, SOMETHING by ChromaDex.
If they think that, they are wrong, but I can kinda get how people without morals would think that about people with morals.
So I will disclose a little bit about myself, my motivations, my story, and why there are ads on my site, which may be helpful to others thinking about monetizing their blogs, but specifically will provide a preview of what Elysium will be discovering if their irresponsible federal claims about me get into discovery instead of getting stricken.
I have worked for the same company for most of the past 27 years, although the company has been bought twice in that time and I have had a variety of roles. It's a full-time job and I get paid well. That's my day job.
I also own a tiny fraction of a percent of ChromaDex, which I bought myself. I haven't made much, but if ChromaDex became a Fortune 500 company, then I could retire, and that fully accounts for my financial interest in the project.
Like very many people, I wish I could write for a living. It's been my dream right from the start. I even wrote a novel while I was in law school, to see if writing might be a better path for me. But it wasn't a very good novel, and I went to work as a lawyer instead -- I was in-house counsel for a big oil company.
But the dream is alive! Here I am writing every week, sometimes every day, and Google sends me loads of traffic, so I have readers, too. So I have written about all kinds of things, like:
I am at the very top of the Google search result for searches like "elysium health lawsuit" and "Niagen vs Basis," and I am in the top ten for hundreds of other searches, like "Buying a Used Nissan Leaf."
Could I monetize that traffic, like many other publishers do? And be paid to be a writer?
The Christmas Game
I have just a little experience with this, because some years back I started a business called "The Christmas Game," which is a great product that de-commercializes Christmas. The Christmas Game, like most of my enterprises, has a small but devoted following, and it lost me money (but at least it went for a good cause).
I became an Amazon Affiliate for The Christmas Game. I could sell Christmas Games on my own website, or, if people preferred to buy from Amazon, I could refer them to amazon and get a small commission on the sale. In some instances I actually preferred that they buy from amazon, because amazon had lower shipping and fulfillment costs than I did on some types of orders, so I sent a lot of traffic to amazon.
The way an affiliate sale is accomplished is with a "sponsored link" that can be attached to text or to an image, like this:
If you click on the text or the image, it takes you to the product pages for The Christmas Game on amazon, and if you complete a purchase within 24 hours, then amazon would credit me with a commission (which varies by product type, but say 5%).
The important thing to understand is that amazon did not tell me to place that ad. They did not direct me how, when, or whether to place the ad. I made the image myself, I attached the link myself, I decided which product(s) to target myself, and if I chose to place twice as many ads or no ads at all, amazon would have nothing to say about it.
Sponsored links via an amazon affiliate program are a great way to raise funds for an organization. For example, my Unitarian church used to have a book sale on Sundays with a book table. But it could ALSO have a page on the church's website featuring all the books that it might recommend but weren't in stock, and get a commission from amazon for all those sales -- a super-cheap fundraiser, without the hassle of toting around the books.
Of course as an affiliate I don't have have complete freedom of action. If I am going to use Amazon's trademarks, I can't turn the smile into a devil's grin. I can't super-impose the words amazon over a picture of Satan. I also can't make deceptive claims or promote violence, things like that.
But amazon does not place these ads on my website; I do.
It turns out that amazon is not the only company that has an affiliate program. A company called Commission Junction administers affiliate sales services for thousands of companies, including Barnes & Noble, Banana Republic, and both ChromaDex and Elysium.
That means I could sign up with Commission Junction as an advertiser of The Christmas Game and pay commissions to other websites that found Christmas Game buyers and sent them to my site, OR I could sign up with Commission Junction as a Publisher and receive commissions for finding buyers of others' products and sending them to their sites.
So in addition to being an amazon affiliate, I am a Commission Junction affiliate, and I am authorized to send purchasers to TruNiagen.com and to a few other companies that I thought might be a good fit for some of the content that I write.
So when you see an ad like this:
You are seeing an ad that I selected from a list of ads that are available on Commission Junction. It's convenient to copy and paste the ad code from Commission Junction, but I can also make my own ads:
Both of those sponsored links go to the same place and do the same thing, although for obvious reasons everyone might prefer that I stuck with professionally produced ads.
Here is a different affiliate I can also link to:
I decided to stop running Everlywell ads a couple months ago, but I could start again if I wanted -- Oh! I just did!
So this is just to demonstrate that ChromaDex does not place any ads on my website. I place them all, via Commission Junction and amazon. I decide which ones to place, where to put them, whether to use text or images, what text or images to use, and whether to stop placing any ads whatsoever, and all this occurs without any interaction whatsoever with ChromaDex.
But there is another kind of ad that frequently features on blogs, too, and I have those, as well: Google AdSense.
AdSense is a fully automated system. Once I sign up, Google will automatically figure out where would be good places to put ads in my content, and it will place ads.
When I let AdSense run wild, it grafittis up my site in a very ugly way, so I have put special boxes on my site where AdSense is allowed to put ads. But it doesn't put very many ads, and most of the ads it places are pay-per-thousand-views, and I just don't have enough traffic for that to add up to anything:
It is possible that ChromaDex uses Google Adwords to place ads on websites, and it is possible that Google has placed some of those ads on my website.
But I don't think so. Google allows you to review and block ads you don't like, and I have occasionally checked that list, but I have never seen a ChromaDex ad on it.
Even if a ChromaDex ad did appear, it most likely would have been a result of a fully-automated process, whereby ChromaDex approved all websites, and I approved all advertisers, and Google happened to make a match.
The opposite is also possible, that I could block ChromaDex from advertising on my site, or ChromaDex could have blocked my website and said they do not want their ads to appear on my site.
Whatever the cause, I don't THINK that Google has placed any ChromaDex ads on my site, and I KNOW that ChromaDex has not directly placed any ads on my site.
So the reason I have been exploring the possibility of monetizing my website is because I'd love to be able to be a writer, and get paid to write.
But until I start generating a million visitors a week instead of a hundred thousand visitors a year, Google AdSense isn't going to work.
The Affiliate sales are somewhat better. I can cover the various expenses of the blog -- paying for the domain name, premium hosting at Wix, quarterly PACER bills for the Court documents, extra for the comments forum, plus my eCommerce store.
Although if you include the time I spend maintaining the website and creating content, then it's far below minimum wage, and I can't switch careers.
So if Elysium thinks I'm getting paid for this, they are wrong.
And if Elysium thinks that the ads on my website are some kind of vehicle for ChromaDex to secretly channel me funds, they are wrong.
And if Elysium thinks that ChromaDex has any say in what ads or whether I put ads on my website, they are wrong.
And if Elysium thinks I am a stupid idiot for thinking that I might ever be able to get paid to write, they are probably correct.
But I am going to keep writing anyway.