Pro–Fossil Fuel Ads On CleanTechnica?

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Lately, we’ve gotten an increased number of emails to our contact page complaining about fossil fuel and propaganda campaigns ads on our website, so I felt compelled to write this post to address the situation. Here are a couple of comments that have come in just the last few days:

“… getting some pretty blatant pro fossil fuel propaganda ads on your articles. I suspect CleanTechnica isn’t a fan of spreading such propaganda, and don’t suspect it of influencing your articles, but it’s disappointing to see on your articles nonetheless.” — M.J.

“Appears hypocritical having ad on your website advertising for Atlanta Air Show. Just imagine amounts of pollutants put into the atmosphere from all those planes, jets, etc.” — B.T.

“I found an extreme far right ad for T-shirts. So since you support that kind of advertising I have unsubscribed.” — C.R.

The first thing to know is that any display ad (the rectangles, banners, etc.) on our website are handled by third party providers — Google, mostly.

Google uses a number of things to decide what ads to serve a reader who opens our website. One of the main things they use is how much that advertiser is willing to pay. The way Google ads mostly work, if a person clicks on that ad, the advertiser then pays Google for that click. It’s this “cost per click” advertising model that fuels most of the internet’s display ad money. Google makes a good chunk of its money that way, and splits some of that money with the website the person was reading when they clicked on the ad. Google also uses a user’s search history, demographic analysis, and a variety of other factors to determine which ads to serve on any particular page. So, if you’re getting an ad for a soft drink, Google “thinks you look thirsty,” in other words.

Very few advertisers are working directly with publishers on display ad campaigns anymore — everyone just goes through Google. Can we block these ads? Yes. And we do. We block as many as we can when it’s a fossil fuel campaign or something else we consider unacceptable. It’s a game of Whac-A-Mole, though, and at some point, we can’t keep playing if we want to focus on writing. Also, because of how personalized ads are, we don’t see the same ads as the vast majority of you and don’t have a clue what they are, and we need the link in order to block an ad.

The second thing to know is that CleanTechnica is actively moving away from display ads.

Just this month, we stopped working with an ad provider (not Google) that was putting the anchor ad at the bottom of our desktop site (not the mobile site). It’s a significant chunk of money, but it was worth it — the site looks much nicer now.

The way we are doing this is through a growing revenue stream from readers who support our journalism. Anyone interested in helping us move away from display ads can chip in with a credit card in seconds. One-time, monthly, or annual contributions are all very welcome and appreciated, and I’ll just say that monthly contributions also really help us levelize our ups and downs, financially, which come and go with advertising sales.

The more we can rely on a stable monthly income from our audience, the more we can get rid of ads. It’s really as simple as that.

Click here to help us get rid of display ads!

The primary reason those who’ve responded to our survey say that they support us with these monthly contributions is to support truth in climate change education and fight fossil FUD. We love to hear it.


And you can’t even make this stuff up — check out what ad showed up when I did the preview of this article before publishing it. If you read the small T-shirt to the right, it says, “Want to make everything electric? Start with the border wall.”

I guess Google now knows that I’ve written the word “T-shirt” in an email or in a browser, and it apparently has decided that it thinks I might like this ad with some T-shirts.

LOL, Google, LOL.


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Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is a serial eco-entrepreneur focused on making the world a better place for all its residents. Scott is the founder of CleanTechnica and was just smart enough to hire someone smarter than him to run it. He then started Pono Home, a service that greens homes, which has performed efficiency retrofits on more than 16,000 homes and small businesses, reducing carbon pollution by more than 27 million pounds a year and saving customers more than $6.3 million a year on their utilities. In a previous life, Scott was an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill) , and Green Living Ideas.

Scott Cooney has 150 posts and counting. See all posts by Scott Cooney