If you're a regular visitor to the site, you may have noticed a change that we made to the layout yesterday. For the last few months we've included, at the end of every story, a block of six "promoted" links from around the web. These were generated using a service called Taboola, but they're fairly common on most websites.
Last night, we switched it off. There were many reasons for this - firstly, we have no control over the content of this block which is all contextually generated. So a story about young girl coders might result in an embarrassing link to other things young girls get up to (in the fertile imaginations of old men, anyway). Secondly, it really wasn't worth it.
January was our busiest month ever on htxt.africa. We recorded over 400 000 page impressions over the course of the month, and for the second month in a row were the most popular tech-related website in South Africa. We earned R2 160 from Taboola clickthroughs, also the best performing month for us.
The fact is that the Taboola widget uses more space, gives us less control over the content of our own site and earns considerably less money for us than a standard banner ad.
Frankly, it leaves me scratching my head a bit. Given the economics of these promoted links widgets, I can't see how it's in any publisher's interests to run them. We've turned them off and added an extra ad space to our mobile view, which we think is less intrusive for readers, makes our site look better and will earn us considerably more money. Our monthly expenditure is considerably more than R2 160 a month, and we need every available pixel on the site to either encourage people to read us more often or earn as much money as possible.
I think it's an improvement, and in the short term at least don't think I'll be turning "Content from around the web" back on. I'd be keen to hear your thoughts.