Hit The Deck: Tasteful Ads in FeedDemon

It’s been almost a year since we made FeedDemon, NetNewsWire and NewsGator Inbox free, and it has been very gratifying to gain so many new customers.  But as you can imagine, we continue to look for ways to generate revenue from our software.

One of the ideas, of course, was to include advertising in our applications, but that idea never sit well with us.  As I’ve written before, I’ve seen too many cases where advertising led to compromising customers’ privacy, and that wasn’t a path any of us wanted to ever go down.  And besides, so much advertising on the web is irrelevant, tacky and often just plain obnoxious.  No developer wants to work at building a great user interface only to see it marred by animated Viagra ads.

At some point, Brent Simmons mentioned an ad network called The Deck, and it was different than most other networks we’ve looked at.  The Deck is focused on ads for creative web professionals, and they’re picky about the ads they accept.  Just as important, the ads can be embedded in our applications without sharing any customer data.

I’ve been running a test version of FeedDemon which features ads from The Deck, and I have to say, I like what I see.  Every single ad is tastefully done, and since they’re static images, there’s no flashy animation trying to get your attention.  I even found myself clicking on several of them to find out more, which is something I very rarely do.

The screenshot below shows how it looks (click to enlarge):

As you can see, the ads are displayed at the bottom left of FeedDemon’s user interface – they’re not inserted into the feeds you’re subscribed to, nor will they jump around the page you’re reading.

Long story short, we’re going to give this a shot, and we want to know what you think about it.  It’s important to us that we generate revenue from our software, but we absolutely don’t want to do it in a way that offends or distracts our customers.

If you’re interested in taking a look, stop by the FeedDemon 2.8 Beta site to download a test version which has the ads enabled.

170 thoughts on “Hit The Deck: Tasteful Ads in FeedDemon

  1. @Another Voice: Comments aren’t moderated, and I haven’t deleted any comments from you, so I’m not sure what you’re referring to. I did delete a couple comments yesterday, but those were from people merely bashing other commenters w/o sharing any other opinion.

  2. I’m one of those who paid for feeddemon not long before it became free. But I never regret buying it. When I first heard about the ad, I was quite disappointed since I feel that the money I paid for the software doesn’t earn me any advantages over the free users. But when I think more about it, I love feeddemon so much that I’m willing to pay again if required, of course with discounted price, since I have paid for it once. I guess the ad is just a small price to pay. So, go on & do whatever you think is the most benificial for both parties, your company & the customers. Just don’t go bankrupt, okey ;-)

  3. I’ve read every comment here, and I’m noticing a certain trend. The majority of people who dislike the ads are proposing a reasonable alternative–having a paid version in addition to the ad-supported version. I’ve seen some strong opinions and a few accusations of bad business practices (which I don’t agree with), but the vast majority of objectors have agreed upon these general ideas:
    – We don’t like adware
    – We want to continue supporting FeedDemon (and other NewsGator products)
    – We are willing to show our support by continuing to pay for a version without ads
    Now, here’s what I find interesting: the majority of people who don’t mind adware and came here to defend this decision are resorting to childish attacks at the others. People have been called:
    – whiners
    – idiots
    – crying babies
    – hypocrites
    – freeloaders
    Even though nearly all of us who object to the ads are willing to continue paying for the software we love, and have all but begged and pleaded that we be allowed to do so.
    Why is this exactly? Has FeedDemon really managed to build an enthusiast core wherein the most loyal supporters are incapable of stating their positions without resorting to puerile personal attacks?
    If so, I may need to rethink my little sociological model of “enthusiasts” and “regular users.” See, enthusiasts care deeply about the product, so much so that they’re willing to stand up and object when they think the wrong path is being taken. They’re willing to voice strong opinions.
    They’re also willing to risk disagreement, because they expect that people with a different viewpoint will engage them with reasoned arguments, not with insults.
    You name-callers should take a step back and look at what you’re doing here. Because you’re not representing FeedDemon (or yourselves) well at all.
    If I were a potential new user for FeedDemon and I came across this thread, I would quickly form the impression that people who disagree with the developers are shouted down as “whiners,” “idiots” and “crying babies” instead of being engaged in an adult discussion. And I would probably decide that FeedDemon isn’t for me, if this is the type of person that has chosen to defend it.
    (NB: This is not directed at Jeff or Nick, whose responses have been respectful to all.)

  4. @another voice, Nick is part of a larger team that includes platform services and the other applications. That’s what I was referring to, it’s a large commitment we make each year to provide the network and applications. Our enterprise business is a separate P&L given that it is exclusively on premise software delivered to businesses.
    I do want to add another comment about some of the ad hominem attacks that are represented on this thread. While many people have voiced disagreement with the move to add advertising, I don’t consider it whining or anything else that is really just an insult to people who are voicing their views. We can disagree and learn from that or agree to disagree, but just because we are behind pseudonyms and a network connection doesn’t mean we should be saying things that we would not say to a person standing in front of us. Let’s try to adhere to a tone that is constructive and not make things personal.

  5. Well, having tried the beta on my laptop, for a 740 pixel high FD window, that looks to be about a 170 pixel high ad pane. That’s 23% of my screen height! I am not too happy about that. Of course an ad resize option would never work as everyone would resize it to 0!
    Having spent a good number of hours using this beta I have reverted to 2.7; I *know* I would not get used to this ad pane. Like many others, I would be more than happy to pay again for such *essential* software. Steve Maughan’s idea is spot on – “FD Lite” and “FD Pro”.
    For now, though, that ad pane is just too big and too intrusive.
    My £0.02.

  6. Ads are fine by me as long as they don’t contain spyware. It’s easy enough to get infected on legitimate sights without bringing the culprits to the program, not saying that this would happen here.

  7. @Andrew,
    Thanks for the feedback, this is exactly the kind of data that we need. I actually don’t know what size displays we mocked it up to, but admit that an abundance of pixels on current generation laptops tends to make us forgetful about the full range of display sizes.

  8. Thanks for starting and continuing the conversation, Nick.
    I’m a happy NetNewsWire user. I’d love to be able to give you feedback on your prototype, but I’m not on Windows. If you’re thinking of introducing ads in NetNewsWire, could you give us a beta of that so we can try it out and see how it feels? I’m on a 12-inch laptop here. It could be that Windows users are more okay with ads in their desktop applications than are Mac users.
    Moe made a good point about targeting. What is the demographic of RSS reader users, or more specifically FeedDemon users? Is it a large, wide audience and thus incompatible with boutique ad networks?
    To my fellow NewsGator patrons:
    It is in the nature of software functionality to go from expensive to cheap to a feature bundled with other software to ubiquitously free. Subscription sites go ad-supported, not the other way around. In the long run, the RSS readers that most people use will come free with the OS or with their web-based email, and only a tiny demographic of luddites, quality fanatics, and single-issue voters will be using specialty for-pay or FLOSS readers instead.
    NewsGator is thus giving away its RSS readers and selling corporate services. The only consumer product I see NewsGator selling is TopStyle, which last released an upgrade fourteen months ago. Maybe NewsGator should just go all the way and open source the readers, since it’s not making any direct money off them anyway.

  9. @Nick: Hmm, odd, I posted a rehash of something I posted on Jeff’s blog too, with some added commentary. No biggie as I got to say what I wanted to :) I guess that the final Post click was a Preview then…
    @Jeff: Thank you for the clarification. Hopefully this clears the situation for others too – and results in a little less rudeness from both portions of the userbase :)
    As for feedback, 1024×768 on a laptop. It’s just too distracting in that location and the smaller area for the feeds treeview causes more clicking/jumping back and forth as I’m accustomed to having my Watches being open all the time and have plenty of feed folders with even more feeds in each folder.

  10. FeedDemon is also deployed within enterprise organizations along with NGES. For many of my clients, advertising will be a non-starter for a variety of reasons. I would come down on the need to do both: free version and pay-for version.

  11. I’m a NetNewsWire user. I originally used NNW Lite, then paid for one copy of NNW 2.0. I now have the current version running on four machines, between my family and my workplace.
    It’s great software — one of the best. I have no problem with good ads, and the Deck is a great ad network. If John Gruber will put up with it on Daring Fireball, how intrusive could it be? But at the same time, I pretty jealously guard my screen real estate, espacially on my laptop.
    I read ads. Sometimes I click through and buy things because of them. Sometimes I click through, read about a product, and share what I have learned with a friend or relative who is in the market for the product advertised.
    But I didn’t upgrade to the latest version of MS Office because it insisted on grabbing more screen real estate for a non-optional toolbar that I didn’t want to use. I don’t know if I’d buy a no-ad version of NNW or not — likely I’d make that choice on a machine-by-machine basis depending on just how much I missed that screen space take up by the ad. But if you think of what it costs to expand the size of a monitor (especially on a laptop), the “cost” to an end user of an ad, in addition to the cost of “enduring” its content (which is minimal for the Deck), is the cost of the screen space it takes up. Paying to make an ad or other non-helpful part of a user interface disappear is likely cheaper than paying for my screen to get bigger.
    That said, the feature set in the current version of NNW works pretty darn well for me. If the ad-free alternative were to not upgrade, I can’t imagine how I couldn’t live with that, given that it’s what I’m happily using now.

  12. Ok…
    I spent the better part of my day going through this blog post & comments, the NG forums and some older posts…
    First of all and just to get it of my chest (I wanted to do this in some more polite way like @Dave a few posts back, but I won’t just cause you did not and probably that’s just how far some peoples’ IQ permits them to go):
    @Bob Walters – you and all the rest of the people who call anti-ad posters “whinners” etc, are just World Wide Wiseasses, plain and simple. When did people who value their screen estate and UI workflow become “freeloaders” who have no right to sound off when ASKED to do so? When did we go from “smart software that should stay out of the user’s way” (sorry about the pun Nick) and attention and focus-boosting software that actually blacks out the screen leaving only the active window fully lit up (apparently not taking about FD here but about several pieces of software that seem to be becoming a trend, just because nowadays people NEED help in order to focus better) to “idiots” and “hypocrites”?
    I and 99% if not all of the commenters who are ASKING FOR A WAY TO OPT-OUT of this ad scheme, did not jump on the “freeware” FeedDemon wagon. We were here BEFORE that. And that’s why this does not feel right.
    So if you just post here with no other intention that to call people names, then you can (let me borrow something a fellow of yours so eloquently said) STFU and get out of here.
    Now as a reply to Nick’s and NewsGator’s (on purpose mentioned as two different entities because I respect Nick’s work a lot more than -apparently- a corporate entity’s).
    @Jeff – nothing personal (in your name I talk to all of NewsGator), but before starting to quote numbers, please start by reading these:
    and finally this…
    Do you know what someone like me (who’s been using, evangelizing, promoting in every way FD from the very beginning) ends up thinking?
    That NewsGator took Nick’s product, kept it going as it was for a while, saw the user base not expanding due to a number of “competing” (in any level) open source/freeware products and then realised that the only way to expand the user base is to make the product free. Why? Cause you needed the users, in order to gather the attention data and then be able to sell that data in processed form or not, to your corporate clients. The same ones that you said that would be generating the revenue. I believe that this move made your user base grow A LOT. Way much more than what it would if you were still selling FD. There were a lot of people who liked FD, but could not/didn’t want to buy it. But they jumped on the freeware wagon.
    And now that a small[er] userbase became a large[r] userbase, you sneak ads in it? Because yah it is sneaking. The way you guys did this IS SNEAKING. Feels like being lured into a “trojan horse” of a software. And I KNOW trojan horses – I’m Greek :)
    Please bare with me when I say this: People are pissed, people are willing to pay AGAIN, people are ready to go back to a yearly-subscription plan. Why? Because now they feel cheated. You couldn’t have chosen a worse way to do this. I know that in your initial “we’re going freebie” announcement you didn’t mention that it was going to be forever, but people feel cheated just because the ads are being forced into their FD experience. And that’s why they’ll leave.
    And Jeff, please – you need to generate 155000 NEW CUSTOMERS A YEAR??? Just to keep FeedDemon alive??? NO! That number – which by the way CANNOT be the 25% of total RSS market WORLDWIDE (which is where FD is addressed to – the whole planet) – is probably what would NewsGator need in order to have FeedDemon keep ALL of your products alive. And being a nice innovative corp that you apparently are, once if you ever managed to make that number, you’d expect to do the same with your other apps. Another 155000 customers for that app and the other etc.
    Moreover, someone should let your marketing team know that ad-based schemes are opt-IN. IN not OUT. In some countries BY LAW. This commercial-to free-to ad-based move is plain wrong.
    And that post I read (I think it was in the forums not here) about NewsGator having to deal with a serial numbers database and piracy and yada yada, is plain bull*. If you have a dual scheme, no-ads paid-for and ads-supported freeware, you’ll have a lot less pirated copies to worry about. And yah, if people get THAT pissed about ads, they’ll provide hacks to get them out of te way anyhow. And yah, Nick on his own was able to manage a serials database, why isn’t a corporation able to do so?
    My apologies if I sound harsh, but, yah, I feel cheated.
    Usage-wise? It kills my when I’m on the laptop. As someone else before me noted, I got less than 800 pixels of usable vertical space and now I’m losing a lot of that. If you imagine that I have enough feeds that I need to scroll even on the largest available display to gt to the bottom ones, leaving me with like 500 pixels of working space is killing me – and apparently other laptop users.
    Note: I don’t use the single folder view cause having a lot of feeds mean a lot of updates and I want to be able to see the number of unread posts in all of them easily without having to switch to the subscriptions overview all the time.
    On my bootcamped Mac, it’s a bit better since the 1680×1050 display makes the ad seem smaller – still a bit annoying tho. That black background doesn’t help when most of FD is bright.
    Same goes for my 1280×1024 monitor at work.
    I respect Nick’s work. I have been a Nick fan since Homesite.
    I don’t respect what NewsGator is trying to do with the software.
    Give me a choice of what version I’d like to use and I won’t be this annoyed. Or even this annoying.

  13. The adverts are reasonably sized on my laptop (1280×800 screen) – but only because I have a relatively short list of feeds (36) which are not overlapped by the advert pane.
    I feel the big question is what happens on netbooks (1024×600 or even less), as these are becoming popular. I can’t test as my netbook is running Xubuntu; can anyone?

  14. Sure, I’d prefer free software with ongoing updates and no ads… but that would be a ridiculous expectation, wouldn’t it?
    Would it be nice to have an ad free version for users who are willing to pay for it? Sure, but apparently FD has decided that is not in their best interest… That’s their decision.
    Knowing that every company has to generate revenue to continue to update and support its software, I’m fine with the ads – especially in the unobtrusive way FD is implementing them.
    I’m surprised how many are overreacting – It’s free and it’s a good app.

  15. I completely understand the decision and the (display) method chosen for the ads could hardly be better. However, it distracts me so much during feed reading, that no matter how good FD is, I’m seriously looking into replacing it with a reader that is less distracting me from what it’s meant for: reading feeds. Perhaps it would be supportable if the ads only change when you change tab or go to a next page and not during reading..

  16. I had a very nasty feeling when NG turned Feeddemon into a free product. I’d not long since paid for a license, since it was the best newsreader available, and was a little annoyed that this had been done.
    ‘Adware’ is something I stay well away from. If NG were serious about the product, and I really begin to wonder now, they’d have kept it as it was. If there are comparable OS/shareware products out there, I’ve yet to see them. I always look for the OS one before the licensed one – you only have to compare FileZilla, or Winmerge, to their market equivalents – and adware is stuck i the middle as the poor relation.
    Please, NG, do the sensible version. A ‘free with ads’ and a license without ads. I really don’t mind paying the upgrade fees – FD is the best on the market. Don’t mess it up!

  17. Here is an idea (please don’t flame me if it is stupid). Nick could add some ads to the feeddemon installer (many very popular freeware apps do this, i.e. CCleaner) He could bundle say Yahoo! Toolbar, Google Toolbar,Desktop,Earth etc. and if you don’t wanna download them simply uncheck the box. I can say that I used the new version for the fist time today since the ads were implemented, and the ads are distracting for me, but FeedDemon is still great software with a great developer and I hope this all gets sorted out soon.

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