The Advertising Shift in Edublogs

I have long been a big fan of Edublogs for many reasons:

  • it provided me with my first free blogging platform,
  • the forums have been a great way to get help and resources,
  • James Farmer, who runs the network, has been incredibly responsive to any of my queries,
  • and the network of educators using blogs has continued to grow (the number hovers around 250,000 blogs on Edublogs).

Those facts continue to be the case, but I knew the idea of a cost-free, ad-free network could not last forever. After all, we can’t expect James to keep investing his own money just to keep our blogs alive and free. There was bound to be a time when change was to come.

So, the inevitable happened.

Edublogs is still “free” but now it comes with advertisements — keyword links in posts that bring the viewer to an advertisement. In the Edublog forums and through various networks, this has been met with a lot of criticism and complaints, and I can understand both sides of the issue here. Teachers don’t want to expose students to advertisements … period. I know I avoid it at all costs. Our kids are bombarded with commercial messages everywhere they go — embedded in movies, in games, on television, on the Net — and I don’t want to be part of that.

But James admits that he can’t afford to keep this blogging network afloat under the “free” model. It just doesn’t make sense. And he does offer a solution that costs a little bit of money.

First, the linked advertisements only show up the first time a person visits a blog. If you bookmark a blog, the second time you go there, the ads will not appear in your browser. This is designed to minimize the impact of the ads.

Second, if you become an Edublog Supporter (which I have been since it was first offered, as a token way to support the network), there are no ads in your blog at all, ever. The cost is $40 per year, up from the initial $25 per year. And, James has added the feature of allowing Supporters to create up to 30 blogs (say, for students) under one Supporter umbrella and you can turn off the ads on all of those blogs. (There is also the option of Edublog Campus, which allows you to create and run your own larger blogging network. We currently use this for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project).

James explains the moves in a recent post:

Is this ideal? Well, in a utopian world we’d like to give everyone, everything, entirely for free and without any ads! But that’d be a utopia… so, barring that, we hope to still provide great free blogs alongside an absolutely premium supporter service that is more than worth the price of a large coffee per month.

To coax people to become a Supporter, James has also curtailed some of the things he used to provide for free, including plug-ins, more upload space, Twitter tools, etc, and expanded them for Supporters.

Although I will continue with Edublogs, I think this change in the model for Edublogs will make me re-think how I do workshops with teachers who are trying to understand what blogging is all about. I have often used Edublog in sessions precisely because I could tell folks: this is free, this is ad-free, and it is simple to use. I can’t do that anymore, and that saddens me, to be honest. If you are a teacher looking to blog, you can become a Supporter with Edublogs, or you can explore other options, including running your own WordPress package on server space.  But, truly, how many teachers have that time and expertise to set up and host their own blogging network? There is also Blogger, also with ads, and other possibilities, too — many with limitations and drawbacks.

I don’t plan to pack up and move from this place, and I will continue to run this blog, the Electronic Pencil and a homework site that my teaching team uses for parents and students to access information and assignments. I am a supporter, even though I wish that Edublogs had not had to turn the corner into advertising. Isn’t there someone with a boatload of cash who can support a network of teachers exploring the wired world? (if so, please leave name and number where you can be reached).

Peace (brought to you by the makers of dogtrax),

  1. Sorry news indeed but quite understandable. Edublogs taught me most of what I know about blogging. I am not a supporter but instead pay for the additional upload space. I like the idea that the ads are visible only the first time you log in (and every time you clean out your cache, I suspect.) We can include that caveat for those interested in viewing our content. Time will tell if the blog sites are viewed in a positive way by both administration and readers.

    • I talked about students, but in truth, I don’t want to expose parents, either. It just seems … not right to me. So much of the world is commercialized that I would rather not have a site that I run add to the mix. How much was the upgrade for space? Is it worth just a bit more and become a Supporter, I wonder?

  2. I echo your wish that someone with a “boatload of cash” will come to the rescue so that Edublogs can return to its ad-free past. Like you, I will keep my Blogwalker site going as a Supporter, even at the new rate of $40. Besides all the bells ‘n whistles that come with the program, it’s also about the Edublogs community that I value and feel a part of. Sue Waters’ posts in The Edublogger are, alone, worth $40.

    Based on the reactions from some of the teachers I’ve just brought on board with Edublogs – and their principals – I know that as a technology trainer I may need to look at other options too – but will try to sell everyone on becoming a Supporter. One idea I thought I might post to the EB Forum would be a 90-day ad-free trial. That way, newbies could decide if this program was one they would truly add to their toolkit – before they had to commit to a fee.

  3. I seem to hit a lot of edublogs and many of them do not easily allow comments. You must be an edublogger to leave a comment, or if I somehow get in with my wordpress pass, then the message says something else about not leaving blank spaces, which I have not. It’s just a weird thing. I love my wordpress account and in most cases, my website is already plugged in at the comment box and ready to go. Now, Kevin, I’ve not had problems with your site except that I cannot see your cute animation that you just put up for the sentence of the week.

    • I suppose some folks put roadblocks in front of commenting — you can limit the comments to only registered Edublog users … but what is the point? If you are going to write for the world, let the world in, I say.

      And, you may see that I added another version of my Six Word video — via Flickr. I wrote to you, but I think Vimeo runs with Shockwave and you may need an update. If not, hopefully, you can see the Flickr version.

  4. You might also look at Epals which is free…not sure about the plug-in options. Also it requires a human being to set up your blog once you apply for one and your students need e-mails (which they will also provide for free).

    I’m not sure about this one, but if you get a blog at, does it have ads?

    • I do have a blog over at WordPress (Youthradio) and I don’t think it has ads, but I have all sorts of ad filters on my browser.
      Anybody else know about and its ad policies?

  5. Thanks for the clarification on first time visitor ads. I haven’t seen any ads on my site for awhile, and I couldn’t figure out why.

    I think that the domain carries some diplomatic value with admins and IT managers. Our district blocks and blogger. I specifically asked to have whitelisted, which was proptly done. I don’t doubt that the Edublogs name had something to do with this.

    Let’s hope that the Edublogs team can find some funding and popularity. My district is looking into a district-wide web 2.0 solution, and I’m going to recommend edublogs. I’m also hoping to become a supporter after Christmas.

  6. Thanks for commenting, Joel (love your site).
    If your district is going to do something across the board, it may be worthwhile to look at Edublog Campus (or hosting your own network with WordPress software on a server).

  7. I too am sad about the realities of this and hope to continue here. I hope we keep talking about this issue. I will also remain here with edublogs. It’s home. I’ve been dreaming about threaded conversations and here we are. I also have a blog that I love, at wordpress. There’s no ads but you have to pay for the extras there as well.

  8. Kia ora Kevin

    I wondered about this when Britt Watwood posted about the ads that appeared on his site. Apparently they went up without announcement, at least, without the blogger being advised. I even suggested to him that if the ads were put there by the vendor, who was paying for the facility anyway? It is sad. I hope it’s not the end of an era.

    Thanks for posting this.

    Catchya later

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