I was wrong—a failed experiment. Why ads are not the right choice

Ok, calling myself out. The sponsorship experiment I started a few months ago crashed completely.

I made a mistake, and here’s why.

Back in December last year, opening to ads seemed a good idea to make The Maker Journey self-sustainable. Earning money to pay for services like ConvertKit in exchange for some visibility? What could go wrong?

It turns out I’m not comfortable anymore with them.

My worst worry was that people wouldn’t like them, but they told me they didn’t mind. So what happened?

In short, ads are not a win-win-win situation. They don’t deliver value to the customer/subscriber or the advertiser but are only helpful to the newsletter creator. And neither that, actually. There’s a lot of work behind every sponsor, plus platform fees and taxes, so the burden is not justified.

Also, the average click rate on ads is around 1% of the subscriber base (from my experience, but I see it applies to many other newsletters, too).

For example, For The Interested (Josh Spector’s newsletter) has 40k+ subs, and its sponsors get ~400 clicks. The Maker Journey has 500+ subs, so it means 5 clicks.

This is too low for people like me who take results personally and don’t like to underdeliver.

I don’t want to be sorry every time a sponsor doesn’t perform. It’s not mine or their fault; it’s math.

And if I’m being honest with myself, I always skip ads in other people’s newsletters. I’m not against advertised content; it’s just that I don’t look at them…

According to people who ran ads in my newsletter, they mainly did it to support me in this journey, and a few of them did so because they wanted to experiment with a new channel. So, harsh truth, The Maker Journey is not attractive to them; they did it because we were friends. (If you’re one of them, thanks for the support!)

These are the numbers of this failed experiment:

  • 7 sponsored issues
  • 300€ – 13,26€ fees = 286,74€ earned (-100€ taxes)
  • 37 total clicks on ads
  • 5,2 average clicks per sponsor
  • 225 average unique views per sponsor

Not happy, but I tried.

After all, I’m not a media outlet but a simple indie maker trying to build his business and sharing his journey through a newsletter.

I don’t want to feel forced and slide into performativity issues. Removing sponsorships and making it ads-free again is the most logical thing to do right now.

So, that’s it.

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Today, we learned something new.

And before you go, make sure to join The Maker Journey to follow the adventure. See you there!

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