LRC is reaching too many people, and they don’t like it. They even penalize us for the sorts of articles we publish.Lew does a great job in the post of recounting the many suspicious ways the establishment and neo-establishment make it difficult for libertarian sites to survive. But I think the problems for libertarian sites go well beyond what Lew discusses.
Another major web firm arbitrarily cut the traffic ranking of every site considered anti-government or right-wing. All this makes it much more difficult to get ads.
As a result of that displeasure and related factors, this looks to be the first losing year in LRC’s 16-year history
First, libertarian sites no longer have the catalyst of a Ron Paul presidential campaign to introduce libertarianism to the masses. This no doubt is hurting libertarian growth dramatically. When I meet up with Target Liberty and EPJ readers, I always ask how they were introduced to libertarianism. A remarkable number, certainly more than 30%, tell me that they learned of libertarianism after hearing Ron Paul in one of the presidential debates.
The number that tell me they have been introduced to libertarianism as a result of Rand Paul: ZERO.
Perhaps more damaging to libertarian sites is the bizarre anti-ad perspective of many "libertarians."
Many have gone from the questionable anti-IP posture to the "advertising is bad" view and have installed ad blockers. They somehow hold the bizarre view that they have a "right" to commentary for free and that non-obtrusive ads are somehow evil and must be blocked. They also seem to think they never click on ads (I addressed this point last year SEE:Thank You For Not Clicking on the Ads at EPJ (Hee, Hee, Hee) .)
Ad blocking is a serious problem for the entire online news and information industry and I am aware of major firms in the Silicon Valley area that have meetings and planning committees to consider alternative revenue generation methods because of the ad blocking. You may see blocking systems emerge that prevent viewing a page if the ads are blocked. I have seen bizarre arguments that "Well, you are going to lose traffic by blocking those who block ads." Duh, what the hell good are readers, if they block your unobtrusive revenue stream? If only 10% of ad blockers unblock their blocking system to view a site, that's a net gain in revenue---bottom line revenue! Buisness is about increasing bottom line revenue, not necessarily increasing sales. To think otherwise is just clueless, If Apple gave away their products, they would increase sales, but last I looked they don't come anywhere near giving away their products and they have a nice fat bottom line.
Sadly, I believe with the major outlets, you will see more pay-gates. But for libertarian sites, pay gates are going to be a tough sell, given the limited audience we have to work with. It is probably going to mean a shrinkage in the number of libertarian sites. Lew will survive, so will Target Liberty and EPJ, but we are going to have to tweak our business models, in some ways that will be obvious and in some not so obvious ways.
Where I fear ad blocking will hurt the most is with new libertarian websites. It is difficult enough to make a profit, never mind a living, out of a libertarian website. And I see enthusiastic young libertarians launch websites all the time, only to see most of the sites fall by the wayside after a few months. Because of ad blocking, it is going to be even more difficult for new sites to survive, unless, they have a benefactor. Lew and I have a base of readers, so we can sell products and generate revenue by other means, but that is not possible for someone new. It is going to be very hard to generate serious revenue for a newbie for a very long time, given that ad income will not come anywhere close to where it was just a couple of years ago, per website visitor.
Google ads and similar type ads were a very easy non-obtrusive way for someone to try his skill at a libertarian website and start earning some income right away. The nutty view in some parts of the libertarian movement that ads are evil is going to choke off most new libertarians who attempt to take a shot at making it in a very tough niche in the first place.
So I ask you what is evil, non-abtrusive ads that can be ignored if one chooses, though almost any reader will likely click on at least one ad per year [Again, see: :Thank You For Not Clicking on the Ads at EPJ (Hee, Hee, Hee)], or "libertarian" ad blockers who are a serious impediment to libertarians wanting to launch a new site, the overwhelimg number of whom don't have a generous benefactor?