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Bad Ads Killed, New Ads Tried, and August's Armored Dwagon

Let me start by saying, this site needs ads. It's a major part of what's keeping Erfworld going as a business, and there really isn't a sensible way to get rid of them completely.


But I don't want them to suck, and they often have. Initially when we set up the site, administrative users had all the powers and privileges possible, including the ad-free site that the Tools got. I didn't want that. I wanted to be able to keep an eye on the ad behavior and eat my own dog food. But it required special coding, and it just wasn't that high a priority on the development list. So although I heard and responded to ad complaints, it was almost impossible for me to really go hunting for the culprits.


No ads are ever supposed to auto-play audio. Every time I complained to one of our ad companies about it, they told me the same thing: none of their ads are supposed to behave that way, but sometimes when they buy inventory from the open marketplace, malicious ads get through. I especially tried (and usually failed) to get rid of ads that opened up the app store on mobile devices. There should be a law or FCC regulation against that, imo.


About six or eight weeks ago, the web team finally made it so I had to see ads. This made me see how many really terrible ads were getting through. I called an all-hands meeting and John, Red, Brendan, Linda and I worked through the weekend on tracking down just which companies were responsible, and trying to do something to make it stop. Among the five of us, I think we clocked close to 120 hours on it in three days.


All we succeeded in doing was gutting our ad revenue, culling out the suspect providers until all we had were the nice ones. And it turns out that the nice ones pay worst. We've been working with our ad providers and trying out new ad companies ever since. I am not going to put up with crap ads, but I also absolutely have to monetize our regular traffic. For every Tool, there are a hundred other readers who will enjoy the comic for years but never buy a book or a shirt or support it in any way. Ads are the only way we have to monetize 97-99% of our audience.


So that's ongoing. I just killed off the ad company with the cooking show lady that was doing the blips of audio and crashing the site. They were one of our best-paying ad providers, but too bad. Instead, we've got these wing banner things we're trying out this week. Maybe they'll stay, maybe not. But de-obnoxifying the ads is an ongoing process. The web team and I are going to solve it, and re-solve it every time it breaks.




In happier news, I'm announcing that the winner of the Armored Decrypted Dwagon Plushie for August is Licca, for her two wonderfully charming fan art pieces: the sleepy dwagons and Wanda in furisode. This month was a really, really tough call. I had to get the IRC channel to help me pick from three finalists, and if you want to know who the other two were, you'll have to visit #Erfworld IRC.




Meanwhile, we're making progress putting together the art team. Check out this incredible fan illustration by Erfworld reader Lauri Ahonen, who is one of the candidates we're considering for inker/colorist in support of Xin. Lauri's gorgeous graphic novel Jaybird was nominated for an Eisner award in two categories this year!


  • No one in particular

    Congrats Licca! That Wanda really was very awesome. :D

  • Soron

    Killing obnoxious ads, and taking a hit to ad revenue because of that? Kudos for taking a stand, but it sucks that the economics discourage it.

    In that case, have one more Knight in the Toolshed. It's a small contribution, but probably much more than my previous *ahem* adblock-using presence provided.

  • maestoso

    Ditto, Soron. I went so far as to turn off adblock just for erfworld... then said screw it, I'll become a tool (after so, so long).

  • Kaed

    Having been a tool for literally years (*smugly shows off his Old School Tool badge*) I have naturally been immune to the obnoxious ads entirely, and thus unaware until now that this was a problem.


    I'm sorry that you've taken a hit to your revenue, though. I hope you find a better source of ads.

  • Corrupt User

    So, stupid question.  Will we get updates next week?

  • smurfworld

    Thanks for the great communication, Rob!  Thank you to the Erf crew for putting in the time and effort to do all of this as well.  I've had issues with troublesome ads in the past, but things have been great for the last few weeks.  :)

    May I make a small suggestion?  Would it be a good idea to put the "100% of your pledge money becomes store credit" banner at the very top of the toolshed webpage?  I'm a new Tool, and I feel like this might encourage other new subscriptions.

    Nice to hear news about the art team setup as well.  Really looking forward to seeing Xin's pages again!

  • balder

    @Corrupt User
    So, stupid question. Will we get updates next week?


    Highly unlikely I'll be posting any updates next week, but if I do, it would be a backer story. I am building a script buffer for the new team as my first priority, planning the Kickstarter second. Many other priorities about, such as the ad crisis, the evaluation of artists, a couple of web dev issues, and my inbox (which has finally calmed down after days of doing little else but answering email). 

  • lasershark222

    I don't suppose you've considered having a project wonderful ad banner or two? I know the giantitp forums have those.

  • balder

    I don't suppose you've considered having a project wonderful ad banner or two? I know the giantitp forums have those.


    Project Wonderful is wonderful...for advertising on. Impressions there can be bought at pennies to the dollar based on the going ad rates across the big ad networks. The fact that ads on PW go so cheap is great for webcomics who want to advertise on other webcomics. Terrible for those that want to have ads on their site be a source of rent money. :-/

  • DunkelMentat

    Ooh side story update! :)

  • The Rats

    still would like to know if you got any preliminary ideas on how the transition will be reflected, how the dichotomy will be tackled, especially for the future book.

    will the new art team start directly with the new art or will the change be gradual? will the book be split? will the team redo some previous pages? Would the team consider redoing every comic pages but keep david's art for text updates, and have future text update harbor similar artstyle to david's or be done by david (I think this would be the best idea in term of keeping both style of art in the same book while feeling natural). Will a complementary kickstarter be created? Can I donate some of my schmuckers to alleviate the financial burden you currently owe me. Seriously I'm sitting on 1k schmuckers I would give ya half of those for free.

    Will I ever taste key lime pie?




  • Rms2000

    I really cant say that this ad problem has affected me, since I use an ad blocker. I'm also one of those people who will likely never donate, largely because I have no money. So I guess I'm a leecher. Sorry if that offends you.

    Having said that, I'm also fairly code savvy and know a bit about web management (only a tiny bit), and I wondered as I read this, "Why can't you have someone screen the ads?". Obviously, that would require some money to do, but if you used the same ad sources as another website that was already screening their ads, you might be able to get the same benefit without the hassle of organizing your own screening agent. If this seems like a workable solution, you could sent a call out to your friends, families, and even your readers to see if anyone knows someone who runs a website and might have an idea about which ad providers are least risky or most profitable.

    As I said, I don't donate and I don't contribute by loading ads, but I do enjoy the comic and sincerely hope that you guys are able to solve your way through these problems and continue making the comic for as long as it makes sense.

  • Berserk Knight

    Huh. I must've been really lucky then. (Was I stealing everyone else's Luckamancy?) Never had an ad auto-play audio here, ever. I don't use adblock or anything - sometimes those ads actually provide things that interest me. SOMETIMES. (...And I'm too lazy to actively go look for those things until I see them in the ad.)

    Too bad you had to gut your source of income to stick to your principles. An admirable act, yes, but the result of you not getting as much money, that part sucks.

  • TurtlesAWD

    For most of my time spent on erfworld since book 1 I've been a college student or otherwise unemployed. Now, I have a job, I'm making and saving money and... this seems like as good an impetus as any to jump in the toolshed.

  • ktccd

    I can't actually afford the toolshed, but he's trying to fix the ads?

    That's good enough for me to disable adblock here. I used to have it disabled before, but every 3rd time or so, an ad would play that would somehow cause incredible FPS drop on every application, so eventually I couldn't stand it.

  • CrazyIvan1745

    I put up with the ads since I first started reading around the end of book 1. It wasn't long ago that I started having ads that would somehow scroll the window to the ad and I wouldn't be able to scroll away. I learned to keep refreshing the page until that stopped since I only came around twice a week. Then I had the idea to read everything from the beginning. Within a week I just about went as mad as a hatter. So, me and the missus did the math and worked Erfworld into our budget. $4.50 a month for 9 panels seems completely worth it. I would up my subscription if I could, just because I love reading this story. I do tend to forget to log in most of the time now that I'm back to checking in twice a week, so I guess I'm helping pay through the ads and my subscription now if that helps XD. Still I love having the option of switching to ad free every now and then.

    Thank you for all your hard work Rob, I cannot wait for the art team to be up and running, but I don't want things to be rushed into either. I've also been watching that total toolshed go up each day, and I cannot wait to see it hit that next milestone, we're so close!

  • Carl

    I'll admit that because of autoplay adds i use a flash blocker. Does not block the new sidebars or the "read this" adds though, which aside from me not liking the probable scam with the "here's how to be a millionaire in under an hour" link are fine.


    I admit i'm not a subscriber. i#'d like to be but can't justify the income change atm.

  • Dusso

    We are short of just one Tool to reach Milestone 2!

  • Dusso

    And it's done hurray!!

  • The Jeff

    Soooo... who do I have to stab, to not get the post card sent.  Doesn't make much sense, to increase my pledge $2, to help off-set revenue loss, do to keeping bad ad's off the site, to spend some of it on printing ink, card stock, and postage.

    (yes I know, it was a hint to others) wink

  • Mr Awesome

    I joined the toolshed primarily to get rid of the ads. I normally have the speakers off, so the audio isn't as much of an issue. But the videos that play on the side of the screen and scroll with me as I read the text make it difficult for me to read, as the motion in my peripheral vision distracts me. So I found myself killing the flash plugin from task manager every time I wanted to read a text update. Most of the ads were completely related to the site content and my personal interests anyway. Good luck finding those high quality + good paying ads.

  • retromach

    I've been on the fence about a subscription until now. Good on you for fixing this. I'm in.

  • pawnhamster

    I have been reading the erfworld comics for a while now, i jumped on the book 3 kickstarter project

    and have the first 2 books.


    Seeing this pushed me over the hurdle and made me join the toolshed.


    Keep it up!

  • spriteless

    You know what would be neat filler? those pictures with A is for Archon, B is for Bogroll. I have no idea if you promised those would be backer only or something, though. If so, never mind. ^_^

  • Tensor

    What's preventing Erfworld from going as a business if primarily you not acting like a competent businessman.