Adverts on council websites

Adrian Short picks up on some adverts that appear on a council’s website. They’re for debt management companies that encourage people to apply for bankruptcy.

Probably not a good thing – I think we’d probably rather people needing advice about that sort of thing go to the Citizens Advice Bureau, for example.

Soem folk don’t think councils should run adverts on their sites. I’m pretty indifferent personally – if they can make it work and get some revenue to help develop the website, then that’s fair enough.

Councils running adverts on their websites do need to be very careful however about the contents of those adverts. If you’re using Google Adsense then it is possible to moderate the adverts to keep inappropriate content off your site. As a reputation management issue, this is a vital activity – but also of course to protect those using the site.

Maybe an alternative is to use a more local, friendly service than Google – such as Addiply. This would offer far more control.

Peter McClymont raises another interesting issue:

After all, councils get plenty of web traffic because there’s nowhere else to go for that content. If I want to pay my council tax, I have to visit the council website, meaning any adverts on that site get the benefit of my eyeballs and potential clicks as a result of that monopoly position.

I doubt if anyone has done any research in those areas where councils do run ads as to whether it has affected the revenues of the local newspaper website, for example. It would be interesting though, I think.

For more information on councils running adverts, Catherine Howe wrote an excellent summary post earlier this year.

5 thoughts on “Adverts on council websites”

  1. Quite apart from the very inappropriate ads on some council websites, I don’t think councils should run ads at all. I don’t see a net benefit.

    On the upside, you get some money. In most cases less than the salary of a part-time cleaner.

    On the downside, you take on reputational risks. You detract from the clarity of your site. You slow down page load times by pulling in JavaScript-powered ad blocks. You become just another place on the web where people are trying to sell you things. You compromise your site layout and design to fit in the ads. You lay yourself open to complaints and FOI requests.

    And, of course, you actually have to put in the hours to set up and manage the ads themselves.

    It just isn’t worth it. There really is no net benefit to running ads.

    If you need funding for your council website, lobby for it. You’re running a high-value public service that if done right massively improves the council’s efficiency and saves it money. Ad revenues are negligible in this context.

  2. I completely agree with Adrian. I run a very popular project blog where my Council is just one of three partners and where we’ve relied on public donations and voluntary effort to keep going. But even there I’ve resisted placing ads. Not only did I think the Council (also my long-term employer until the latest round of job cuts) would not approve, but I didn’t think our blog readership would approve, and that’s even more important. We might gain some much-needed income through ads, but even on a partnership blog we’d lose reputation and possible some donation money too.

    So we’ve left ads well alone.

    Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project

  3. I agree with the post and with Adrian’s comment. I would, however, be interested to know what kind of revenue is being made by these council sites, though I too suspect it is negligable.

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