*Ad-Free OTB*

After fifteen years of trying to support the site with advertising, we're going in a new direction.

“Blog Ideas” by Owen W Brown is licensed under CC BY 2.0

UPDATE June 2, 2019: Since we announced we were going ad-free six weeks ago, we’ve received numerous pledges of support via Patreon and a couple of one-time donations via PayPal. We’re still well short of meeting our hosting costs and site maintenance expenses, let alone paying contributors, but we’re closing in on at least replacing the lost ad revenue.

Thanks to those who have kicked in. If you haven’t pledged and can, we’d appreciate it. But everyone who contributes with thoughtful commentary is a valued member of the OTB community. It’s that discussion that makes the site worthwhile.


I started OTB as a hobby in January 2003 on the free Blogspot service. Blogging quickly became addictive, consuming much of my time, and constant frustrations with Blogspot led me to move to this domain less than three months in.

As traffic grew, expenses increased and I joined the BlogAds network circa January 2004. Over the ensuing 15 years, I’ve tried lots of different advertising services and, for a few years, managed to bring in enough income from the site to not only meet expenses but even pay semi-regular stipends to the contributing writers.

As with most online outlets, the ad revenue gradually diminished to a trickle. BlogAds has been out of the business of serving ads on blogs for years; ditto several other companies whose ads I used to run. It’s been years since I’ve paid writers. And, the last three or four years, OTB has been a tax write-off.

The major site refresh that went live last February cost a few thousand dollars. With it came a complete housecleaning of the existing ad networks, because so many of the old ones were buggy, slowing down the site considerably or even serving malware.

While the new ads performed more cleanly and were less ugly, they were bringing in a mere pittance in terms of income. So, I’ve decided to simply remove them from the site entirely, making for a cleaner user experience.

In response to community feedback, as part of the aforementioned site refresh, I implemented two features for readers who wished to donate to the site to do so: A “Become a Patron” button from Patreon, which allows people to chose to donate a steady amount ($1, $5, $10, or $25) on a monthly basis and a “One-time Contribution” button which allows people to make, well, a one-time contribution to the site’s PayPal account. They both reside atop the right sidebar. But this is the first time I’ve referenced them outside the Comments section.

Considering that I make a reasonable living in my day job, I’ve always felt rather sheepish asking people to contribute to the site. That I was also bringing in money from advertising exacerbated that. The latter of these concerns, at least, is now gone.

I’ve become convinced in recent months that we’ve created something of a community at this site and invite members of it who can afford to do so to consider contributing financially. While Patreon offers the option of segregating certain “premium” content to those who meet donation thresholds, I’ve got no interest in walling off the community on that basis. But I’d appreciate whatever support you can throw our way. Who knows, we might bring in enough to start paying writers again.

(I’m going to stick this to the top of the home page for a day or two to ensure it gets seen and then issue a reminder maybe once a month or so.)

FILED UNDER: OTB History, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. MarkedMan says:

    I’ve already become a Patron and I encourage all those regular readers who can afford it to join me.

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    Ditto what @MarkedMan said.

  3. Teve says:

    Last year I subscribed to wired and Vanity Fair, and pretty soon I’m going to be subscribing to the New York times and or a few other news services. OtB will be on that list when I do.

    There are mobile websites that I simply blocked on my phone because I’m not going to go there and try to click away 6 moving auto-playing mobile ads. I don’t think that’s a sustainable business model.

  4. R.Dave says:

    Wow, I’m glad you posted this, as I had no idea the Patreon and Paypal links at the top right were even there. Over the years, I’ve become so habituated to the left and right sides of websites consisting of ads and link-spam that I don’t really consciously process what’s in those areas anymore. Now that I know those support options exist, I’ll gladly chip in.

  5. Neil Hudelson says:

    When the Patron link first appeared I meant to become a monthly subscriber, but put it off. Thank you for the reminder! You’ve gained one more monthly donor.

  6. Joe says:

    Just signed up. Will avatars here stay with Gravatar or move to Patreon?

  7. EddieInCA says:

    @MarkedMan: @Michael Reynolds:

    It’s real: you’re now a patron of Outside The Beltway!

    Just signed up. Thank you, Dr. Joyner, for this community.

  8. Slugger says:

    I just made a one time payment. At my age I fear that a sudden event would leave my heirs with quandaries about supporting my stuff.
    Now that I’ve paid it means that I don’t have to censor my crazier ideas since I am paying, right?

  9. James Joyner says:

    Thanks, all.

    @Joe: I don’t know anything about Patreon avatars but I’ll likely just stick with Gravatar since WordPress bought them out and it’s therefore integral to the site software.

  10. Bruce Henry says:

    I’m mostly a lurker but read this blog every single day. I find both the authors and the commenters to be smarter, “righter,” and more entertaining on this site than any other political site I visit. Glad to contribute a little very month, wish I could do more.

  11. Matt says:

    Oh man this is going to be what finally motivates me to setup a patreon account…

  12. Ol Nat says:

    Do you have a suggested donation? There’s how much I am immediately comfortable giving, and then there’s how much I could give if necessary.

  13. James Joyner says:

    @Ol Nat: Thanks. And, no. I’m in no danger of going bankrupt or having to shut the site down or anything. But it would be nice to break even or even, as suggested, be able to kick a little something to Doug, Steven, and others for their efforts again.

    The Patreon levels are mostly tongue-in-cheek but they’re not a bad roadmap.


  14. inhumans99 says:

    I am in-between opportunities but I have a small PayPal slush fund so I did a one-off donation of $25. It was definitely money well spent. I love this site and have been a multi-year member of the OTB community. I almost feel sheepish mentioning my small donation, but hey…I am sure every single dollar helps.