Can Websites Sell Ad Space Without Selling Out?

Designer, Entrepreneur
Don't sell out, says designer Tina Roth Eisenberg, the founder of the highly successful swissmiss blog. If somebody wants to give you money in exchange for eyeballs, make sure that it adds value to whoever is reading your site. Don't risk the trust of your audience or your own ambitions — as humble as they may be — for some extra scratch. Credibility is everything when it comes to a passion project.
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TRANSCRIPT

Tina Roth Eisenberg: If you start out a side project aiming at, "It needs to make money," you will make decisions on a completely different level. I think the beauty of a side project is that you're so playful and experimental because you don't put the money component on it. You don't put the layer of money on top of it.

So I started my blog as my personal visual archive of things I find online that interest me, inspire me. And it was completely meant just to be my personal archive and then slowly, but surely I realized, because I started looking at my stats and I was like, "Oh my god, this is not so personal anymore," and eventually I realized oh my god this is a growing community; this is people coming back every day. And then with that, all of a sudden you get companies that come to you and ask you, "Hey, hey, hey can you put my product up here? Hey can I advertise?"

Again, this was not meant to be a business. So when, all of a sudden, the aspect of money comes at me, I had to really do some thinking and say, like, "Do I want that? Am I going to hurt my credibility by putting ads on here?" But then the interesting thing was when I was approached by Jim Coudal and he taught me the concept of The Deck Network. It totally resonated with what I wanted it to be. Like, for example, The Deck Network is a teeny, tiny ad that is on the top-left side of my blog that rotates. It's like an RSS feed that just rotate in and out. And it believes in the concept of you can only have ads that are really catered to your audience, so the creative audience. So it's not noise, but it's actually relevant. So I realized, "Oh wait a second, I could actually have advertising on my site that is actually valuable to my readers because it points out maybe tools they would love to use." There is a way that you can add value with advertising for your audience. 

If you have a site or whatever it is that somebody wants to give you money for in exchange for eyeballs, just make sure that it adds value to whoever is reading your site; that it is something that you completely stand behind. I will never, ever write about something if I don't love it. And unfortunately there's too many sites that just say, "Well we have to bring the bacon home so we're just going to take this advertising." And I think that's where you ruin it. That's where you lose the trust of your readers and your audience. And there is nothing that I value more than the trust of the people that come back to my site every day. Your credibility is all you have and I think it doesn't have to do anything whether you run a blog or not. It's in your day-to-day. Don't lose your credibility. Don't sell out.