One of my favorite Web sites is Photo.net. It's probably one of the, if not the, best Website for photography. I started being a member and later a subscriber 10 years ago. I value the work of the Website folks and the value of the members, many who are international photojournalists and professional, commercial and serious photographers. For an ordinary photographer like myself, it's a goldmine.
So, why the column? Well, a few years ago they began using ads for the revenue to help offset the costs of the operations. Running a Website isn't cheap with hardware, software, networks, Internet connections, and lastly people. Many of Photo.net folks are part-timers and volunteers, such as the moderators for the different catagories in the community forum. I felt my subscription was helping while getting more in return from the members.
In short, it's a great bargain for so little. In October of last year, NameMedia bought Photo.net. While they promised providing new financial resources wthout interferring in the work of the Website, I was, and still am, one who believes that promise won't last long, at best a year, before members and users begin to see changes that involves more than the workings of the Webiste and current member information.
Anyway, my complaint is about ads on Websites. Every Website design books and professional recommends you minimize the amount of other Websites content on your Website. That's impossible in this day of ad revenue from Google, Yahoo, and other big Websites which generate their revenues from the proliferation of ads. But you certainly can try to minimize it and its impact on users viewing your Web pages while maximizing the revenue.
Somehow, though, I think the idea of the money escapes Website folks, and that balance gets lost or tilted toward revnue than toward members and users. It's the old adage, "It's all about the money." And personally I think Photo.net has been tilting that way, where the ads are getting more pronounced and more prolific. And often the ads interfer with the downloading and display of the actual content.
If you look at the Website feedback forum you'll see a consistent pattern of complaints about the ads, and specifically a few ad servers which either delay or halt the download and display of the content of the Web pages. This has been my experience almost every day, and the reasons are due to the load from the ad servers. I believe this as Photo.net has new Web servers which has dramatically improved the download speed.
The problem is all that speed and performance is useless if the Web page has to wait in the middle for the ad server to deliver the ads. You can overcome this by restricting the images from ad servers, specific domain ids, as some browsers allow you to do, but that's only some browsers and that doesn't block images or ads from other Websites which the originating Webserver only provides throughput and can't be blocked because the originating domain is lost or hidden.
And my point? Ads and the revenue from ads is addictive, and it seems it's prevaded Photo.net. But from their perspective, can I really criticize them, especially if I were in the same situation? Well, it seems the purchase of the Website has a corporate interest for its 600,000 members (however the number is over 2 million registered) and it's obvious some people who worked hard in developing the Website got a nice check for it. I can't fault them for that, I would do the same.
I can, however, fault them for going down the road of being less member focused and more revenue focused, or so it seems at times when you waiting for the Web page to finish loading because the ad image won't load. And it's why my Website, small and obscure as it is, is and will be ad-free. Whilie I still recommend Photo.net and access it quite a few times per week, I would caution people about the ads, be patient or just hit stop and reload if the Web page display slows or halts.