Indie ad network Project: Wonderful will be shutting down on August 1, it was just announced. P:W started as a micropayment ad network more than a decade ago as a way to help fund webcomics sites and comics blogs. The payments were small, a few dollars here and there, but it was more than nothing.
Unfortunately, as the statement makes clear, in this era where Facebook is driving traffic and the death of personal websites in favor of social media, the model just wasn’t sustainable.
The news was met on twitter by head shaking over ad blockers, obnoxious ads, sponsored content and everything else that you need to run a website these days.
Are we ever going to get back to a more primitive and humane internet? I guess even expressing that idea makes me an internet hippy!
Here’s the statement and timeline for participating publishers:
On August 1st, Project Wonderful will be shutting down.For over a decade, we’ve been so happy to be your choice for getting the word out about your comic, music, or anything else you come up with. And we’ve been so proud to represent our publishers, who have been creating some of the most interesting, exciting, and worthwhile things online.
But all good things must come to an end. When we started working on Project Wonderful in early 2006, it was with the hope that online advertising could be something good, something that you’d want to see. We were always the odd company out: we didn’t track readers, we didn’t sell out our publishers, and we never had issues with popups, popunders, or other bad ads the plague the internet – because our technology simply wasn’t built to allow for that. We let you place an image and link on a website, and that was it. And we filtered the ads that could run on our network, so our publishers knew they could trust us.
We’d hoped that would be enough, but in the past several years, the internet has changed. Large sites like Facebook do all they can to keep readers on their network, rather than sending that traffic out to individual websites. As such, many readers – who used to visit dozens if not hundreds of websites a day – now visit only a few sites, and things like the indie “blogosphere” (remember that?) are disappearing. We’re hopeful that individual creators can adapt – either by embracing these walled gardens in a way that protects themselves, or by finding other ways to draw attention to their work – but as a network founded on supporting independent websites, our options were limited. Some advertising networks have held on by adopting more and more invasive user tracking, forcing their publishers to sign binding contracts, or by trying to train publishers (and readers!) to expect that “sometimes a bad ad will sneak through”, but that’s something we always refused to do. We believed – and still believe – that you deserve better. We believed – and still believe – in a world where an ad blocker wouldn’t be an obvious thing to install, because advertising would be good, interesting, and non-invasive.
Unfortunately, we’re no longer in a position to supply that better option to you.
We know this may come as a shock, which is why we’re giving everyone as much notice as possible. Here’s the Project Wonderful shutdown timeline:
- June 11th, 2018: We announce our shutdown phase. No new accounts can be created, and no new publishers will be added to the network. Members are contacted to let them know to spend or withdraw their funds before August 1st.
- July 11th: Ad serving is turned off, so our ads will no longer appear on anyone’s websites, and any existing bids are suspended. No new bids can be placed on Project Wonderful – but of course people can still withdraw their funds.
- August 1st: This is the deadline for anyone to do anything they want with their Project Wonderful accounts before they close!
- August 6th: After a few days of grace for any stragglers, and after 12 years, 6 months, and 12 days of service, Project Wonderful’s servers finally go offline.
We want to thank you all: from the publishers and advertisers who have been with us since day one (and there are hundreds!) to those that joined somewhere along the road to today. We’re so proud of the artists we’ve helped support and the good we brought into the world – and we still hope that we’ve managed to bring some change into an industry not typically associated with “decency”. And to the readers who clicked our ads, and in doing so discovered new comics, new work, new ideas, new art, and new people through the simple act of peer-to-peer advertising: we think you’re great too.
It really was a wonderful project. And it couldn’t have happened without you.
– Team PW.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.