Would You Sell Ads On Your Web Site?
excerpted from a Net-Lawyers List's thread
Date: Wed, 4 Sep 1996 02:03
Subject: Would You Sell Ads on your Web Site?
For the past couple of months, I have been building and maintaining a
page about web-site banner advertising programs, and as an experiment I
have added paid or "exchange" banner advertisements on certain of my web
I am curious if other attorneys with web sites have considered selling
advertising space on their web sites, and what thoughts you may have
In my case, I recognized that certain pages at my site which has
absolutely no connection with my law practice) were unlikely to generate
paying clients over time but were huge draws for traffic from all over
the country and world. I decided that to subsidize that traffic (my
site now draws 65,000 page requests per month), I would add
advertisements to some of my web pages.
Thus far, the results have been "interesting." For July, I collected
$181 in advertising revenue from a "pooled" advertising program that
rotates paid ad banners at my site and about 3,000 other web sites, PLUS
another $81 for ad space on my "Web site banner advertising" page...
While that's more than four times my monthly charges to host the web
site, it represents only about an hour's worth of my time. (Please
don't ask how many hours I spend playing on the internet, as it only
depresses me to think about it.)
Several concerns I have had include: (1) Paid advertising may draw
people away from my site to other web sites, so they see less of what I
have to offer. (2) It is conceivable that people would think I am
endorsing or guaranteeing the performance of an advertiser. (3) It is
conceivable that someone might seek to advertise at my site for (A) a
competing estate-planning attorney in my geographic area, or (B) for a
related service (life insurance, investments, financial planning) which
might make people think I am affiliated with the advertising company.
I have NOT placed any advertisements on my main web page, or on my
"biography" web page, but overall it is almost certain that anyone
visiting my site will see at least one page with advertisements.
What do other attorneys think of this idea?
Thu, 5 Sep 1996 11:33
I am curious if other attorneys with web sites have considered selling
advertising space on their web sites, and what thoughts you may have
This is a topic that I have been intrigued by for quite some time. I
would love to try some banner ads on my site and some ads even on net-
lawyers. I am not interested in the money because like Mark, I don't
envision it as being close to my billable rate at least in 1996. But it
would be a grand experiment to see if there is a market. Net-lawyers
would be a natural test. WU, though, is not ready to move in that
direction, so I have not pursued it.
I am very interested in learning from others.
Fri, 6 Sep 1996 20:25
My own opinion on advertising & web pages is that the two do not mix. I
dumped Prodigy more than 3 years ago because of the extremely annoying
"banner" ads plastered on every page and link. A few of the discrete
sponser logos or GIF images are ok on some commercial web sites such as
the industrial strength search engines. Otherwise, the internet bandwith
should be free for substantive info - NOT advertisements.
Sat, 7 Sep 1996 02:35
Having tried and failed to develop a commercial web site i do have some
insight on this issue. But it's entirely anectdotal so you can take it
with a grain of salt.
Some thoughts on Web survival:
It's plesant to believe that this new medium will provide for the free
flow of information and opinion. The digerati makes plenty of
egalitarian claims -- but the emerging reality is something else. The
online world is Darwinian, developers are fighting tooth and nail to
capture brainwidth. If you think lawyering is competive, the pace of Web
development is relentless.
No application stands alone. The Web is cool but text is ubiquitous.
Prior to the advent of the Web, there were and still are thriving
electronic communities. Email, usenet groups and mailings list still
account for a high percentage of the traffic on the Net. Text is not
sexy, but it's where online environments evolve into virtual worlds.
Although the number of mailing list subscribers may be statistically
insignificant many inveterate propeller heads belong to these cyber
salons. It's in these quieter byways that longer term relationships
between group members actually develop.
A Web site is not the only way to distribute quality content. The Net
has had a long history of producing digests and zines for special
interest groups. Currently, Intertext is published in three formats
ASCII, HTML and PDF files. Slate seems to taking a similar approach.
Distributing content in three formats gives the reader flexibility in
terms of when and how they choose to digest information. Producers
should be concerned with getting the content into readers hands by
whatever- means- neccessary and stop the obsessing about delivery
Advertisers can be a rather churlish lot, before they depart with thier
cash most will demand hard evidence on hit counts and demographics. This
in turn drives up your production expenses as you calibrate your web
site in order to suite thier requirements. And these costs are not to be
You would probably be much better off using your site to showcase your
own talents and to provide resources for your clientele and other
lawyers. I think most people expect from a lawyer a site that provides
usefull information rather than flying monkeys.
And then there are the ethical issues...
Sat, 7 Sep 1996 07:01
We have given this question alot of thought. Both in our role as
Internet consultants to law firms with web sites and for our own site,
mailing list, and newsletter.
My general sense (and advice) for law firms is that selling
advertisement space on a law firm web site is a mistake. But I do not
think it necessarily is a mistake or any sort of problem for firm's that
have set up sites that are in essence resource centers. That is,
separate sites that may be sponsored by a firm but are really devoted to
information about a specific topic. I don't want to mention specific
site, by us or others. But I think the basic model is familiar to all:
Jones, Jones & Jones web site and then the Anti-Trust Web Site,
sponsored by Jones Jones & Jones. I am not arguring that there is any
ethical problem with advertising on a firm's site. I just don't think
that it looks good.
I would say that this is especially the case for "exchange" banner
advertisements where you do not control what ad may be appearing on your
site from one week to the next. For those, who are not familiar with
this, you place a piece of html code in your web site and different ads
appear there on a daily or weekly basis. You do this in exchange for
your ads to appear in a like manner on other people's sites. This would
seem to me to be an obvious problem for any law firm, since you really
don't want a banner ad for a pizza parlor showing up on your web site,
not to mention some of the other more notorious services offered over
With the Netlawyers list, I don't think that there would necessarily be
a problem including some form of advertisement. There is a lot of work
involved in effectively moderating a group of the size of NL and I don't
think there is anything wrong with recouping some of that expense.
There are also certain practical issues for doing any sort of
advertisement in an e-mail based communication like Net-Lawyers.
However, I think that in the next 6 months to a year we will be using e-
mail that will be much more richly formatted and thus will be able to
include graphics, etc.
We have received a number of requests for ad-space in both the e-mail
and the on-line version of Internet Legal Practice Newsletter (plug,
plug), and though we have not sold ad space in it as yet, I believe we
will in the near future.
Just to wrap up though I would think there should be a distinction drawn
between a firm's site and other sections of the site that may count as
resources or information center. Again, just to use us as an example. I
would never sell ad space on our site, as in the sections that discuss
xxx, or the services we offer, etc. But I would do so on the resource
sections of our site that are in essence public services to the legal
community. We are a commercial enterprise, not a law firm, and this
does make a difference I would think in terms of the propriety of any
form of advertising. But I do think that the basic distinction still
Sat, 7 Sep 1996 07
In my limited discussions with people on this subject (mostly consisting
of chatting with the group that I travelled to MacWorld in Boston with),
I have found opinion sharply divided on the issue of banner ads. Some
people think that they are tacky and, even worse, CHEAPEN THE WEB. To
many, banner ads are indicative of the commercialization of the Web, and
indicate a move away from the free exchange of intellectual thought in
favor of crass money making on the Web.
I understand that point of view, but, I personally do NOT adhere to it.
I view banner ads as a productive use of the Web. So long as they are
well done, don't interfere with the content of a page or site, and are
not for "offensive" products or services (such as, hypothetically, a
banner showing big boobs with "click here" tatooed in strategic spots on
the banner), then I think that they are a viable and productive way to
exploit a natural marketplace on the Web.
If advertisers want to associate with intelligent discussion groups like
"Net- Lawyers", and PAY for the right to do so, I say fine! Likewise, I
am glad that companies sponsor PBS shows and NPR programming. If it
KEEPS COSTS DOWN ON INTELLIGENT SITES ON THE WEB -- GO FOR IT! This
includes law firm sites.
Personally, I am more offended by companies that once provided free
access to their sites, now instituting charges. This practice may stop
the free flow of information on the Web. We all know of several (Wall
St. Journal, ESPN, etc.). If banner advertising helps to keep
information and access to such information free (or less expensive),
then I welcome well done banner ads.
In fact, too bad Andy Warhol isn't around to paint a banner ad on canvas
like he did of a Heniz Ketchup bottle. In my opinion, a well done
banner ad is very much a "work of art" (I know I have torn my hair out
trying to create one with Photoshop -- and I am no Andy Warhol). I
appreciate clever banner ads considering the limitations inherent in the
I am taking my Web site down and doing a major reconstruction. I don't
have the kind of volume on my Web site which would earn me much money
from banner ads, but I am proud to say that I am a member of many banner
exchanges and belong to the Link Exchange, which runs my banner in
rotation on other sites in exchange for my allowing random banners to
rotate on my site. I have had a positive experience with both forms of
exchange. In fact, I see them as classic and productive forms of
networking. Moreover, both forms of exchange strike me as being true to
the pioneering and sharing spirit of people who truly make use of the
I don't know what the Web will be like in a year or two, I might change
my mind about banner ads if they "fall under the spell" of certain low-
life types. I know that low class marketing groups that do ads on late
night TV (Gunthey-Reinker (sp?)) are trying to get people to buy web
pages in their "Cyber Mall" and then "resell" them to others in a
virtual Ponzi scheme. To me, that is a vile and unacceptable use of the
Web. If these sorts of folks start doing this type of scheme with
banner ads, then I might be truly offended. Until then, I see them as a
positive way to sponsor useful Web sites, including as a way to decrease
the cost of a well done law firm site.
Sat, 7 Sep 1996 09:08
I basically maintain two sites, one, a simple, typical law firm site for
my firm, and the other being the Securities Law Home Page. I would not
run ads on the firm's site, as I believe that runs counter to the
purpose of the site, and is somewhat demeaning, but have examined the
issue for the law topic site.
In fact, I run ads through riddler.com on two sections of my site.
My thought was that varied legal publishers would welcome the
opportunity to advertise to my extremely focused audience - lawyers
looking for information on the securities laws. I thought that software
publishers and others would be interested in the other two groups that
visit the site, stock brokers and investors.
But, apparently not. Although my efforts to gain advertisers has not
been focused, or energetic, my varied inquiries to advertisers have been
met with a polite, no thanks, even at extremely low rates of $20 a
The problem (I hope ) is not the quality of my site or its content -
it is always very highly rated by legal and non-legal reviewers - I
think it is this concept that if you don't have 1000 visitors a day, it
is not worth it to advertise. Most of our sites don't even come close to
Is it worth it for an advertiser to pay $300 a year for an ad to its
exact target audience? I thought so.
Apparently they don't.
Mon, 9 Sep 1996 17:46
There is a distinct difference between blatant advertisement for
commercial gain and advertisement used to advance the service or recoup
the cost of the service being provided.
I run the web site for a non-profit law library and had no problem
including advertisements for products and services we provide because
profits are used to fund new and existing projects. I would also not
have a problem including advertisements from outside venders if this
would create awareness of a product or service that could potentially
provide some benefit to our members while at the same time help us to
defray some of our costs.
Mon, 9 Sep 1996 19:11
While the thought of decreasing web site costs through modest
advertising probably appeals to every lawyer putting a web page/site up
on the web, I know many lawyers who are resisting such a route. For
many of the attorneys I've talked with on the subject, the question of
whether to post an advert on a web page is always done by asking if the
attorney would place the same advert in their office waiting room. If
you can't approve the content, then the advert probably wouldn't be
permitted at all.
Still, this is not the only question attorneys must ask. The state bar
associations are starting to hand down opinions which state that web
pages are advertising, and the ethical rules relating to any
advertisement must apply. This should certainly be a consideration
before deciding to post an advert.
Hope this helps...
Tue, 10 Sep 1996 17:27
--- On Mon, 9 Sep 1996 19:24:07 xxx wrote:
Asking the question about the office waiting room may be a tempting
analogy, but is it a good one? It's not at all common for law firms, or
even other companies, to put advertisements in waiting rooms (or lobby
areas). It might be useful to look at why some companies (or services)
put advertisements on their web pages in the first place. For the most
part I think it's entities that are offering some kind of *free* service
and feel justified in using advertising to defray the costs because the
service is free. If that's the principal rationale, then an attorney
web site should probably pose the same question. Again, it might be
tempting to say that an attorney web site is offering an array of free
services that might not otherwise be available in a traditional setting,
but is that really true? How far do those free services go? Can a
client interact with an attorney through the web site without paying an
hourly rate? Isn't a potential client's interaction simply a prelude to
a paying relationship?
Not being an attorney (at all) with a web site, I'm actually not sure
about the answers to those questions, but it does seem to me that having
advertisements in a web setting where the justification is to reduce the
web costs doesn't hold up well unless the whole thing is relatively
removed from commercial use.
Beyond that, there are, of course, other considerations like tone, the
local bar, etc., but those are separate issues.
Fri, 13 Sep 1996 22:31
There is nothing wrong with advertising for gain. That's exactly what
you're doing. Those commercial advertisers are "creating awareness of a
product or service that could provide some benefit" to the public. "For
profit" doesn't mean immoral, just as "not-for-profit" does not mean
Of course, attorneys have other restrictions, based on our profession.
Brought to you by - The 'Lectric Law Library
The Net's Finest Legal Resource for Legal Pros & Laypeople Alike.