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Lifting the curtain on how road.cc pays its way

People often ask me how we pay for all of this… the palatial office, the jet-setting bike journo lifestyle, the cake?

Well, close the blinds, turn up the radio, lean in a little closer, scroll down and I’ll tell you…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S THE ADS!

Yep the ads pay for most of what happens on road.cc, there are some other things too which I’ll tell you about in a moment, but mostly it’s the ads.

You’ve probably noticed that most of our advertisers are in the bike industry either brands, retailers or UK distributors.

Does that mean we’re in their pockets? As if.

I know some of you won’t believe me when I say this but that doesn’t stop it being true.

What matters to our advertisers - more than the numbers of people who come to the site every day is road.cc’s reputation with those users - that’s what they are buying in to. That’s just one of the reasons why our reputation with you is so important to us  and why we’re not going to do anything to jeopardise that reputation. Our advertisers wouldn’t expect otherwise - especially when it comes to reviews. They’ll take a bad review on the chin if people trust the good ones.

Other ads…

Cycling related ads - sold to advertisers in bundles of 1,000 views - pay for most of what we do on road.cc but not all of it. We also sell spare ad slots on the ad exchanges - you’ll usually see those ads if you scroll down the page a bit, and you’ll see a lot more of them if you’re using road.cc outside the UK. We’ve set tight rules on what we’ll allow so no autoplay video ads or other annoying formats and we’re fairly picky about what’s being advertised too. Stuff we don’t like does occasionally get through, but if we see it, or you tell us about it we get rid of it.

Affiliate links

If the bike ads pay the rent and the wages, and the agency ads keep the lights on, then the affiliate links buy the cake. We don’t make massive amounts of money from them but they’re a nice to have marginal gain from something we’d do anyway.

Nearly all the links on road.cc to somewhere you can buy something are affiliate links - some aren’t, if whoever is selling that product isn’r part of an affiliate linking program and we wouldn’t not link to them if they weren’t. If you click on an affiliate link and buy something we get a small percentage paid back to us. Very small. We’d put those links in anyway because it’s helpful to the person reading the review or buyers guide so if we get something back it’s a bonus. We’re not alone in using affiliate links - most websites use them, and certainly all of our competitors, we’re just telling you.

The main places they appear on the site are in reviews and buyers guides and our approach is to find and link to the best delivered in the UK price. It can be a slow process because the best advertised price is not always the best UK delivered price so we actually have to go and stick stuff in baskets to make sure. In fact it’s become such a labour intensive process that we’ve now signed up to an automated system Monetiser101 -powers our Daily Deals section and the price comparison service we are plugging in to our reviews.

It’s still tasked with pulling in the best delivered in the UK deal and we’re confident that in the vast majority of cases that’s what it’ll do. If you can find something cheaper just stick a link to it in the comments.

The big advantage for us, apart from the money, is that it will free up time for our reviews production team, the big advantage for anyone reading the reviewer is that that widget is constantly updating so there will always be a choice of relevant deals whereas at the moment we have no way of knowing if the the retailer we’ve linked to still offers the best deal, or is out of stock etc, etc.

Any downsides? Well the Monetiser widget can only read data that is uploaded to the affiliate networks so if a retailer is not part of a supported affiliate network it wont pull in their price. That said, we reckon we’ve got the vast majority of online retailers covered. If Monetiser can’t find a retailer selling whatever it is then nothing will show and we go back to doing it the old fashioned way of trying to find a shop selling it online and linking to them.

…funny how the cake bit of the convo always seems to be the longest

Any other ways we make money?

We are just starting to explore the idea of sponsored bits of the site - Cycle Surgery sponsor #mycyclingweekend, but there are only so many things that are sponsor-able without boundaries starting to blur in ways that would make everyone uncomfortable

Anything else?

Well you can buy road.cc cycling kit, or a road.cc bell… we’ve got plenty of those

 

 

 

 

Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.

25 comments

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themartincox [553 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

Good post Tony, thanks for sharing.

I think it's important for readers to be aware of some of the machinations behind the scenes, when I was doing reviews for you if there was ever a 'bad' one then there were questions asked about it to clarify, and then it was posted, warts and all.

Do you have a process for inappropriate ads? there's been some vaping ones recently which dont seem to fit the site vibe (IMO)?

 

cheers

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ianrobo [1213 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

This is why I dont use ad blockers because for sites I go on a lot I like them, want them to survive and they need the ad revenue.

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horizontal dropout [296 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

One thing I don't understand - do you make money from ads if they simply appear in my browser? Or only if I click on them?

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jimhead [16 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

AdBlock settings changed...

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peted76 [688 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

Fair play Tony & team, all power to you. Keep it up. 

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ianrobo [1213 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
horizontal dropout wrote:

One thing I don't understand - do you make money from ads if they simply appear in my browser? Or only if I click on them?

 

both, some if you click you will generate something and if you buy, others just rely on imprints on your browser.

Ad blockers may sound good but without ads, sites like this could not be around, this is not a blog and takes pro writers to produce it and maintain it.

the problem though the drive for clicks does lead to clickbait (buzzfeed not the first but most successful) and you see it on here as it matures. You have drive people to sites with clickbait and quality stuff.

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karl_d [6 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Thanks for the explainer. Knowing that you're managing the quality of the ads gives me the confidence to turn off my ad blocker for this domain. If every website had a similar policy, we wouldn't have needed the blockers in the first place.

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dave atkinson [6307 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

we'll be implementing an ad reporting mechanism soon so you can let us know if any dodgy ones get through

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Simontuck [165 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

You didn't even attempt to plug Team Road.CC!!

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darrylxxx [84 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Great post. I've just turned off my Ad Blocker for the site... every little bit helps! (I didn't realise it was on and I'm happy to see lots of appropriate cycling related ads - just not intrusive stuff like popups, takeovers and the like).

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davel [1597 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
darrylxxx wrote:

Great post. I've just turned off my Ad Blocker for the site... every little bit helps! (I didn't realise it was on and I'm happy to see lots of appropriate cycling related ads - just not intrusive stuff like popups, takeovers and the like).

+1

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pants [239 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

I am grateful for you guys not having autoplay ads. Cycling weekly's autoplay ones first of Brooks then maserati makes me rage.

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alotronic [524 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Being a digital strategist I kinda figured this was all going on - but good on you for declaring it. Making your site bearable with an ad blocker turned off is probably the smartest thing you can do!

I also know that, even with ads etc, it's very hard work to make money from a site like this, so chapeau for sticking with it over the years and making something of it.

A

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Rhode_Long [16 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

This is a great, upfront, candid article and all power to your continued success.

The reviews are great but as a bit of feedback, everything seems to end up as 4 stars, plus or minus half a star. Surely there must be more between some of these products. I await a 1 or 5 star review on something with antici.................pation.

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Condor Andy [335 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I also don't like using Ad Blocker on sites I actually like visiting daily.

The only thing I would say, is the ad at the very top that loads in after the page has finished loading is slightly annoying.  Only a small thing, but I often end up clicking the ad when I think I'm clicking on 'News' or 'Forum'.

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johnrh [9 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I'll be honest, I use ad blockers, mainly because of the instrusive nature of some ads.

for sites like these that state no autoplay and have a policy to try to place relevant ads I'll happily disable it.  

if a site tries to play fair by its readers, then we should all acknowledge that.

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Paul J [936 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Disabled my ABP+ for this site. However, still not seeing anything. I guess road.cc's ad-stuff must rely on a heap of externally hosted JavaScript and, sorry, there's no way I'm letting my browser just run arbitrary code downloaded from arbitrary 3rd parties off the Internet.

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aslongasicycle [389 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

Well done guys. Why I loves you. x

I'm an advertiser (last week, actually), we get reviewed, and I've even written for you, because you annoy me when you mark us down on value (you still do, despite my ad money!) http://road.cc/content/blog/79326-vulpine-fifteen-thoughts-value

You've always been very fair and always maintained the integrity which means a review on Road.cc MEANS SOMETHING. A 9/10 has me bouncing around the office. Because we earned it.

Nice one.

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KiwiMike [1301 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Rhode_Long wrote:

This is a great, upfront, candid article and all power to your continued success.

The reviews are great but as a bit of feedback, everything seems to end up as 4 stars, plus or minus half a star. Surely there must be more between some of these products. I await a 1 or 5 star review on something with antici.................pation.

 

Here's a 0.5-star review of mine and here's a 5-star review of mine. That's just the ones that came up latest. I'm certain there are others, apart from me.

Most products get around 4 stars ('Very Good') because - fortunately - most products submitted for review *are* 'very good' (Funnily enough Aldi & Lidl don't submit their stuff for review - although I have a fleet of glasses from both, and most are £2-5 crackers IMHO)

We have to go into bat for 0-1 or 5-stars. You have to be on the money for both, and rightly so. I haven't done the maths, but my gut feel is out of maybe a thousand products reviewed per year, maybe 10 or 20 get 5-stars. 

What I personally hope is that my reviews get through the nuance of products, so you can make your own case-specific call once you're interested. Often it's the little things that will delight or niggle, and if you're spending a relatively large amount on a once-in-5-year product (Jacket, winter boots, workstand etc etc) you want to know all the ins & outs. I would.

 

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nick h. [37 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I've also turned off ABP after reading this. More power to you, Tony.

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horizontal dropout [296 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I whitelisted road.cc but the adverts flicking to the next item drive me nuts so I'm afraid I've blocked it again. To be honest I'm not a great loss to their revenue since the ads are for items I'm not interested in and if I want something I research it and make my own choice of where to buy. If ads are static and viewing but not clicking helps revenue then I will white list the site again.

 

Despite the above thank you road.cc for explaining it all. Also thank you for some other changes you made to the new website, eg removing that awful pop out thing, and making it opt in to subscribe to comments on an article. Also the RSS feed has been improved by removing all the "best of" articles, (but still would prefer more text and just a thumbnail image).

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Tony Farrelly [2897 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

Condor Andy wrote:

I also don't like using Ad Blocker on sites I actually like visiting daily.

The only thing I would say, is the ad at the very top that loads in after the page has finished loading is slightly annoying.  Only a small thing, but I often end up clicking the ad when I think I'm clicking on 'News' or 'Forum'.

Yeah that annoys me too*. I'm not enough of an expert to know why that top ad always takes so long to load - we really try to make the ads as light as possible, but maybe the top banner is still going to be that bit heavier than the rest of the page. Something we should look at.

*mind you, can't do the old click through rate any harm  3

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Condor Andy [335 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Tony Farrelly wrote:
Condor Andy wrote:

I also don't like using Ad Blocker on sites I actually like visiting daily.

The only thing I would say, is the ad at the very top that loads in after the page has finished loading is slightly annoying.  Only a small thing, but I often end up clicking the ad when I think I'm clicking on 'News' or 'Forum'.

Yeah that annoys me too*. I'm not enough of an expert to know why that top ad always takes so long to load - we really try to make the ads as light as possible, but maybe the top banner is still going to be that bit heavier than the rest of the page. Something we should look at.

*mind you, can't do the old click through rate any harm  3

Well quite! 

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Eric D [112 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Condor Andy wrote:

the ad at the very top that loads in after the page has finished loading is slightly annoying.  Only a small thing, but I often end up clicking the ad when I think I'm clicking on 'News' or 'Forum'.

I second that - could you use absolute positioning or something so the menu links don't jump out of the way just before we click them ?

Come to think of it - how many people only ever use /news/ - most of the content seems to be duplicated/old if we just look at the root homepage !

Thanks!

Eric

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Eric D [112 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I turned off AdBlock for a while, but I'm getting 'Flash/Shockwave unresponsive' if I open too many tabs (or even Chrome browser crash) - could you limit the plug-in technologies ?