To Ad or Not To Ad

Heather Armstrong has a little blog called And when I say “has a little blog” I actually mean “gets something like 150,000 unique vistors everyday of the week.” That puts her blog fairly high in the upper echelon of internet readership, especially considering that she writes about fairly mundane things like everyday life as a wife, mother, recovering Mormon, etc. (Which is not to say she doesn’t write about it well, because she does, and she’s dang funny and honest.)

Now, the recent fuss… she started featuring some ads in the sidebar of her site. And not just text ads, or Google AdSense ads, all sorts of image-based ads too. And with a recent redesign, there are now two columns of ads, gently hugging the main content. Not big deal, right? It’s her site, she can do what she wants. Well, some of her readership has been less than receptive, if not downright mean-spirited about the whole thing. Did I mention the ads are paying all the bills for Heather, her husband Jon, and their daughter?

This brings up all sorts of issues and questions and arguments in my mind. If you can make some change (or your salary) off a blog, why not? Do internet writers have a resonsibility to their readers? Are people just generally bitchy and will moan about anything? (Don’t answer that.)

This is new ground to walk on and there don’t seem to be any rules. I’d wager Heather’s site and Jason Kottke‘s site are the two most widely-read (personal) blogs/sites on the web, and both have managed to find creative ways to support their full time writing endeavors; Heather through ads and Jason through a one-time pledge-drive from readers. Heather has introduced a third party to the reader/writer dynamic, Jason has chosen to forgo that and try a risky move (which, by the way, only works because of the volume of readers he has. If I tried that i’d probably get about $27.32 on a good day.) 

Is one way right or wrong? Should the readers have a say so? (I’m more inclined (as usual) to say “If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.”) Is there another option for supporting yourself as an internet writer?