Entrecard has long been a popular ad-swapping service for blogs.
You can see their widget over on the sidebar. The idea is you display cards on your site (which are 125×125 image ads) and you earn credits, and you can click on ads on other sites to earn more credits. You get to approve or deny which ads appear on your site. To place your ad on other blogs you simply purchase slots on them, using up your credits. Unlike a traditional banner display you always had the ability to choose where to leave your ads, and what ads to accept. The cost of ads, in credits, varied according to the popularity of the site in question.
It was a pretty useful service which allowed you to network with other blogs and share traffic. By using the Entrecard Toolbar you could quickly browse other blogs in the network and drop or click ads where you wanted.
Now, and rather controversially, the Entrecard network is accepting *paid* ads. This is so that the owner can monetize his network in some way and – he says – both pay for the service and share the revenue with its members by purchasing credits back.
Of course the Entrecard community, or some quarters of it, are up in arms. It seems a free ad swap network is turning into a paid network with paid ads popping up on users dashboards everywhere. Paid ads are mixed with free ads, and you can still accept/deny them as you see fit or automatically allow all ads according to various criteria – for example, automatically allow all ads, all free ads, all ads in your category, etc. As for the income sharing, it seems you have to register for it, and acceptance isn’t guaranteed…
Other issues like clearing the forum and asking all users to re-register have only made the matter worse. However, even though personally originally I wasn’t too happy about this and quite shocked now that I’ve calmed down a bit I see it differently
Of course the owner has the right to make some money out of it. These servers and other features don’t come free. Also, the way it’s set up means you can still accept or deny paid (or any) ads at will. The traffic sharing element is still there, and the paid ads have a benefit too, as in you earn more credits for them. Closing the forum is probably a bad move, as it smacks of censorship, removing dissent. And the revenue sharing is a bit of a mess, either everyone automatically shares or no-one.
So it’s a bit of a mixed situation at the moment. Entrecard, in it’s favour, is an easy to use, popular, and quick loading / low overhead ads system for your blog. If you want paying for your impressions, there are many better ways – but kudos to the developer for incorporating it well. And if you want traffic from it, it’s success relies on the people in the network – and there are other networks.
At first glance it looks like Entrecard built a business by pulling the punters in to a free service then cashing in on them as many have done in the past. But if you think about it a bit more you see that this was inevitable, and it could have been worse. Nothing is really free in this world – so for now I’ll leave the card widget on this blog and we’ll see how things go. Any comments or suggestions are welcome.