As you may have heard, ad service is closed for business.

Blogads had a long and exhilarating ride. When our ad service for bloggers launched here in the spring of 2002, Mark Zuckerberg was a high school senior and Barack Obama was in the Illinois State Senate. Since then, Blogads has seen many peers in the social media advertising ecosystem arrive (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok et al) and depart (Xanga, Friendster, AdBrite, Federated Media, Gawker, Pajamas Media, and Glam, to name a few.)

Blogads tees were a huge hit, seen everywhere from the Taj Mahal to Yosemite to swanky parties in Manhattan.

For better or worse, Blogads helped fund many of the people whose ideas became the intellectual bedrock of 21st century America. Through our ups and downs since 2002, it was a privilege to see sites we’ve helped fund—PerezHilton, DailyKos, Feministing, TalkingPointsMemo, PoliticalWire, Dlisted, Wonkette, Instapundit, LargeHeartedBoy, SportsBlogNation, Methodshop, MarginalRevolution, ObscureStore, GalaDarling, The Millions, Metafilter, StereoGum, ConcreteLoop, Jack & Jill Politics, Electoral-vote, Dooce, TechCrunch, BusBlog, ComicsCurmudgeon, Pinkdome, Scienceblog, Kuro5hin, Aquarium Drunkard, CuteOverload, Virginia Postrel, DaveWiner, LitKicks, TomandLorenzo, Gothamist, Betches, GayPatriot, Drudgeretort, AmericaBlog, Joho, SusieBright, Regretsy, AndrewSullivan, Blue Virginia, DemocraticUnderground, Volokh Conspiracy, Matt Welch to name a few—shape the content, format and trajectory of ideas (and fun) in the US and around the world.

From the spring of 2002, the original spec for Blogads, the grandmother of all platforms for self-serve content advertising in social media. (I’d totally forgotten Blogads was originally called Blogadz, until Nick Denton counselled me over coffee in NYC that the “z” felt very 1999.)

On a personal note, thanks to Blogads, I got to know three amazing guys, Brian Clarke, Jake Brewer and David Carr, who each died in 2015. Each guy was wonderful and wonder-filled. In their fields—respectively advertising, advocacy, and journalism—each was a diligent practitioner and a joyful philosopher. Most years I got to talk with Brian, Jake and David just a few times, by phone or in person, but what a difference those talks made for me. Every conversation fanned a fire. Afterwards, words cut sharper, possibilities glimmered, goals clarified, the world got bigger. I miss their wisdom and grins, particularly in this busted-to-hell 2017.

Done right, a business is a life raft rowing away from life’s inexorably sinking ship. A good business always keeps you busy, often keeps you dry and sometimes keeps you sane. By definition, every shuttered business is a failure. But, though ultimately lost its own little war, everyone who participated is proud that we helped other causes win their own important battles and wars.

  • Long before there was a clear ad model for social media, we helped political blogs become viable. We’re particularly proud that Blogads underwrote the grassroots political blogs that helped set the stage for Barack Obama’s victory in 2004. (More recently, we rue the ads we sold for bloggers who later cheered Donald J. Trump’s know-nothing nihilism.)
  • We helped underwrite the seedlings that ultimately grew into publishing empires like VOX, TechCrunch, BlogHer and PopSugar. (In 2005, 23 of the 30 biggest blogs relied on our service.)
  • After much evolution, the reigning ad format of the twenty-teens (and onward?) is not much different from the original 2002 “blogad,” our eponymous proprietary ad unit that combined an image and link-filled text to deliver readable, site-synchronized information. This ad format has become the standard for successful advertising and is today called ‘native’ advertising. It’s with zero chagrin and some laughs that I recall how intensely annoyed conventional advertisers (including my buddy Michael Bassik) were when we introduced the blogad. ‘It’s a lot easier to massproduce a 300×250 gif that can run anywhere,’ the critics said. To which we replied: exactly!
  • Self-service advertising, which Blogads helped pioneer, is now standard too — with DIY ads driving revenues for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google. (Here’s a 2011 video of building a blogad.)
  • My 2002 prediction that social media (then basically the blogosphere) would eventually “power knowledge-sharing far more profound than anything offered by current media” has been proven true 1000-times over. As has the prediction that "The old economics of media – he who controls distribution wins the most readers and serves advertisers best – will be plowed under by a new economics – she who relates best attracts the most valuable audience." Driven by Darwinian pressures and abetted by zero-cost CMSes, self-publishing has morphed and mutated to invade every existing media niche and create many new niches. Social media has speciated into hundreds of different forms, forums and idioms… snippets of text, photos, wifi-as-community, vanishing photos, audio, videos, animated gifs.
  • Traditional news and entertainment businesses have become, as I predicted in 2002, like “refrigerator salesmen trudging into the next ice age.” The volume and pace of people-created content has diluted many publishers’ mindshare to the point that they’re irrelevant. The social media sideshow of 2002 has become 2017’s big top, with publishing’s once-mighty elephants now beleaguered and begging for peanuts from the former audience (who are too busy selecting an Instagram filter to notice.)

Sadly, the Utopian dream that ad-supported, autonomous, righteous bloggers would flood the world with torrents of cleansing information has proven to be false.

First, the money isn’t there. The supply of what we in the ad industry call “page impressions” (articles, posts, comments, videos, photos, animated gifs, comments on comments, smiley faces on comments on posts about videos about memes… etc etc etc… content!) has multiplied, far oustripping advertiser’s demand. Compounding the problem, programmatic ads, technology which allows advertisers to bypass name brand publishers to target readers based on demographically specified cookies, has proven immensely cost effective. (For example, Cisco doesn’t need to pay $50k to reach a few thousand (hundred?) CTOs on the New York Times’ site or even TechCrunch because, for just a few nickels, it can use cookies to locate and target the same people elsewhere on the web.

Second, transparency. Some blogs are selling posts to advertisers without disclosing the impetus for the post. Many others are creating information and spin to earn ideological or social brownie points.

Third, noise. Many blogs are now irrelevant amid a surplus of cat videos and bogus cancer cures. In politics, a few blogs like PoliticalWire, DailyKos and TalkingPointsMemo battle on, often relying on subscriptions. Their efforts notwithstanding, Facebook, with all its secret nuclear-powered link-algorithms, now propels factoids and opinions far faster and further than human hands could ever manage. As dana boyd notes, social media has proven to be both an R&D lab and ICBM of falsehood. Even highly evolved state-of-the-art platforms like Medium are failing in their mission to power great bloggers.

In short, most blogs are bust. Sadly, ad-driven fact-focused journalism is begging for bailouts too. Maybe we’re all lost.

In addition to sitting in the front row as history was made and saving some marriages, we met a lot of great people.

Many colleagues helped build and power Blogads, including Angie Riley, Anthony Perry, Balazs Kolbay, Balint Erdi, Bevin Tighe, Bryan Rahija, Chloe Simmons, Csaba Garay, Delphine Andrews, Devin Kelly, Donald Hughes, Gabor Veres, Hano Grimm, Ivana Vidovic, Jessica Siracusa, Joe Stanton, John Faranda, Kate Studwell, Katie Brauer, Kaley Credle, Kristof Strobl, Lanae Ball, Mark Wasserman, Marybeth Grossman, Megan Mitzel, Miklos Gaspar, Nick Faber, Nicole Bogas, Orsolya Kerner, Paige Wilcox, Peter Klein, Piroska Salamon, Rachel Hirsh, Rachel McGorman, Robert Mooney, Sophie Chung, Suzanne Despres, Tamas Decsi, Tina Merrill, Viktor Bodrogi, Will Elliot, Zach Strom, and (alphabetically last but definitely not least!) Zsolt Remenyi.

Working at Blogads gave us the chance to collaborate with smart people like Aaron Dinin, Aaron Gell, Aaron Peckham, Adam Cohen, Adam Connor, Adam Mordecai, Alaina Brown, Alan Rosenblatt, Alex Tabarrok, Amy Alkon, Amy Schatz, Andrea Rosen, Andrew Bleeker, Andrew Golis, Andrew Meyer, Andrew S. Tanenbaum, Andru Edwards, Andy Carvin, Anil Dash, Amanda Marcotte, Amy Langfield, Anamarie Cox, Andrew Krucoff, Andrew Slack, Anil Dash, Anne Althouse, Anne Handley, Ari Rabin Havt, Azeem Azhar, Barby Lava, Ben Clark, Ben Fisher, Ben Rahm, Ben Smith, Ben Sullivan, Bill Hartnett, Bill Quick, Billy Dennis, Biz Stone, BL Ochman, Bob Fertik, Brad DeLong, Brad Friedman, Brian Dell, Brian Morrissey, Brian Reich, Brian Stelter, Byron Crawford, Cameron Winklevoss, Carol Darr, Caroline McCarthy, Charley Territo, Charlotte Selles, Chris Casey, Chris Heivly, Chris Jones, Chris Kenngott, Chris Locke, Chris Pirillo, Chris Rabb, Christian Borges, Christian Crumlish, Christopher Batty, Cheryl Contee, Choire Sicha, Chuck DeFeo, Clay Johnson, Clayton Ryan (Tovarich!), Clive Thompson, Clotilde Dusoulier, Colby Cosh, Cyrus Krohn, Damien LaManna, Dan Gilmore, Darla Mack, Dave Karpf, Dave Neal, Dave Taylor, Dave Winer, David Almancy, David Berkowitz, David Corn, David Hertog, David Kaplan, David Lat, David Pinto, David Weinberger, Dawn Olsen, Deborah Schultz, Digby Parton, Doc Searls, Don Steele, Doug Gordon, Drew Curtis, Duncan Black, Ed Cohn, Elan Genius, Eli Pariser, Elizabeth Spiers, Emma Battle, Erik Damato, Eric Muller, Eric Olsen, Eric Schoenborn, Erik Martin, Esther Dyson, Ethan Zuckerman, Eve Fox, Ezra Klein, Farah Miller, Farra Trompeter, Felix Salmon, Frank Radice, Garance Franke-Ruta, Garrett Graff, Gene Smith, Glenn Greenwald, Glenn Reynolds, Gokul Rajaram, Greg Galant, Greg Greene, Greg Palmer, Gregory Ng, Hank Dearden, Hal Malchow, Heather Armstrong, Heather Cocks, Heather Holdridge, Hollis Thomas, Howard Owens, Hylton Jolliffe, Hugh Forrest, Hugh MacLeod, Ian Schafer, Ilan Zechory, Ilyse Hogue, Jackie Danicki, Jackie Huba, Jackie Schechner, Jake Dobkin, Jake Orlowitz, James Avery, James Joyner, Jason Calacanis, Jason Rosenberg, Jay Rosen, JB Hopkins, JC Christian, JD Ashcroft, JD Lasica, Jeannine Sessum, Jeannine Harvey, Jeff Cohen, Jeff Jarvis, Jeff Mascott, Jen Nedeau, Jeralyn Merritt, Jess Amason, Jesse Taylor, Jessica Morgan, Jessica Valenti, Jill Fehrenbacher, Jim Romenesko, Jim Treacher, Joe Fuld, Joe Gandelman, Joel Bartlett, John Amato, John Aravosis, John Armstrong, John Byrne, John Dick, John Henke, John Hlinko, John Simpson, John Rees, Jon Accarrino, Jonah Seiger, Josh Fruhlinger, Josh Glasstetter, Josh Marshall, Juan Cole, Juan Melli, Judd Legum, Juhee Kim, Julie Germany, Justin Miller, Justin Olberman, Justin Safie, Karen Curry, Kate Kaye, Katie Harbath, Kari Chisholm, Karl Frisch, Keegan Goudiss, Ken Deutsch, Ken Layne, Kenyatta Cheese, Kevin Dando, Kevin Drum, Kevin Reid, Kirk Ross, Kombiz Lavasany, Laura Packard, Lenore Skenazi, Leslie Bradshaw, Levi Asher, Libby Pigg, Lindsay Beyerstein, Lisa Cequeira, Lizz Hazeltine, Lola Elfman, Loren Baker, Lynn Siprelle, Marc Cenedella, Marc Eliot Stein, Mark Blumenthal, Mark Drapeau, Mark Glaser, Mark Johnson, Mark Nickolas, Mark O’Brien, Mark Rabinowitz, Mark Skidmore, Mark Traphagen, Markos Moulitsas, Mario Lavandiera, Marshall Kirkpatrick, MaryKatherine Brewer, Matt Britton, Matt Diffey, Matt Haughey, Matt Welch, Matthew Yglesias, Matthew Zablud, Max Sawicky, Meg Frost, Megan McArdle, Mica Sifry, Micah Baldwin, Michael Allen, Michael Bassik, Michael Goff, Michael K, Michael Miraflor, Michael Shaw, Michael Silberman, Michael Turk, Michelle Coyle, Mike Butcher, Mike Krempasky, Mike Monello, Mike Panetta, Mike Street, Mindy Finn, Morra Aarons-Mele, Moxie, Murshed Zaheed, Nathan Wilcox, Neil Sroka, Nicco Mele, Nick Denton, Nick Gillespie, Noel Hidalgo, Oliver Willis, Olivier Travers, Ori Elraviv, PJ Rodriguez, Pam Spaulding, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Patrick Ruffini, Paul Chaney, Paul Jones, Peter Daou, Philip Kaplan, Phil Noble, Rachel Hruska MacPherson, Rafat Ali, Raven Brooks, Rebecca Leib, Rebecca Schoenkopf, Rex Hammock, Richard Luckett, Richard Schlackman, Richard Turner, Rick Bruner, Rick Calvert, Rick Klau, Ricky Engelberg, Rob Neppell, Robert Bluey, Robert Gorell, Rogers Cadenhead, Roman Godzich, Ron Gunzberger, Rosalyn Lemieux, Roxanne Cooper, Rusty Foster, Sandy Hussein, Sandy Marks, Sanford Dickert, Sara Holoubek, Scott Goodstein, Sean Paul Kelley, Seth Miller, Shana Glickfield, Shankar Gupta-Harrison, Shannon Okey, Shira Lazar, Simon Rosenberg, Soren Dayton, Stacy Kramer, Stephen Fraser, Steve Hall, Steve Outing, Steve Rubel, Steven Waldman, Susie Bright, Susie Madrak, Taegan Goddard, Taylor Marsh, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Tig Tillinghast, Tim Ferris, Tim Tagaris, Todd Rubenstein, Todd Sawicki, Tom Limongello, Tom Matzzie, Tom Watson, Tomer Treves, Tony Pierce, Tracy Viselli, Tristan Roy, Tucker Maxx, Twanna Hines, Ty Montagu, Tyler Cowen, Upendra Shardanand, Virginia Postrel, Waldo Tibbetts, Wayne Sutton, Will Rockafellow, William Buetler, Zach Rogers, Zadi Diaz, Zeynep Tufekci and many others.

Again, last and definitely not least, my wife Zsofi’s unique blend of idealism, skepticism and encouragement was invaluable.

Thank you all. Lifejackets on. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can browse our old blog archives (1 or 2) or browse our Facebook photo galleries. Next up, anyone want to go for a virtual run in Paris? :)

Henry Copeland
Henry (Hank) Copeland
March 1, 2017
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

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Office Shots


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