Death of an Ad Network

SidebarAds is shutting its doors.

After almost a year, this little pet project from Sidebar Creative is calling it quits. Originally conceived as The Deck "Light" but focusing more heavily on the designer/developer crowd, it would grow to more than a million ad views a month. Too bad the advertisers didn't come join the fun.

It was great fun to put together and a learning experience all 'round. In the end, though, we couldn't sustain the model we had created nor had the time to heavily go after advertisers. (If you build it, they don't always come.) In lieu of all this, and much to the chagrin of all those involved, I decided to shut it down.

What about the software?

As you might already know, the backend was all completely custom built (using CakePHP) and sitting on a dedicated box over at Hostway, which ran very reliably — something I was pretty proud of. But back to the point: what about this custom software?

The possibility was always there to license it out to other parties. Unfortunately, I didn't spend the time the software needed to be able to begin licensing it out. For now, it'll sit idle unless inspiration hits to get those remaining changes in place. If you're looking for a somewhat decent ad platform, let me know.

Published April 28, 2009
Categorized as Business
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16 Comments · RSS feed
Daniel Craig Jallits said on April 28, 2009

I am sorry to hear that Jon, but they can't all be winners. Good luck on your next endeavor, which I expect any time now!

Chris said on April 28, 2009

It's sad to see you guys shut down. still a lack of quality advertising out there. All the best with Squarespace!

Lachy Groom said on April 28, 2009

Hey Jon,

That's a real shame, was going to be advertising next month. Could I have a real quick chat?


Umut Muhaddisoglu said on April 28, 2009

Although sorry to hear that, like you mentioned, all is an experience.

It sometimes take more to market a project rather than building it (specially for developers).

Just wondering -as a developer, a question that I sometimes ask myself too- I'm pretty sure there are marketing experts who would want to be a part of the project, why not searching for a (revenue)-partner that can do the marketing-side you can't/don't do?

Jonathan Snook said on April 28, 2009

@Umut: we had put out a request a few months ago looking for somebody to handle pulling in new advertisers but didn't find anybody that had the connections. We did bring on Matthew Oliphant but he was part time just like the rest of us. It wasn't enough to get us out of the rut.

Chris Wallace said on April 28, 2009

As an advertiser on the network and a fan of Sidebar, I am definitely sad to see SA go. However, I think there is a lot of opportunity for an open-source ad network platform, especially if you offer hosting, training, or even installation (all at cost, of course). I know you guys are busy though, especially with your new post at SS.

I think all of your efforts should still be commended.

Maikel said on April 28, 2009

I'm sorry, God bless your next project, do not be discouraged :-)

Andy Pearson said on April 28, 2009

Any chance the Ad software could be released to the open source community?

Maybe it would be more valuable out in the wild, where it can grow, evolve and inspire.

Umut Muhaddisoglu said on April 28, 2009


I see and totally understand. Sometimes the wind needs to blow from the right direction.

At the end, experience is the most valuable one and good luck on the next, the following & the future projects :). Bests.

Ryan Carson said on April 28, 2009

Hey bud,

We might be interested in the code. Can you email me?


Nathan Nash said on April 28, 2009

Hard to imagine anyone turning down 1,000,000 ad views/month. Good luck on your next ventures!

Ara Pehlivanian said on April 29, 2009

That sucks man, sorry to hear it.

isporter said on May 01, 2009

Hi Jonathan, no chagrin is deserved, I'm sure! To the contrary you'll have many learning outcomes, things that wouldn't occur to those of us who've not yet invested in such a project. Your posts are often very insightful - will you be writing a more in depth review of what you can take away from your post-development experience?

Zeb said on May 03, 2009

IMO the main reason of failure was the heavy price tag an advertiser had to pay at signup. I agree that it was serving over a million monthly impressions but I would've lowered the price a bit to see the response.

Matthew Kempster said on May 04, 2009

@Ryan Carson

Ooh! A Carsonified ad network.

That would be good for you lot, the way to go.

Ian said on May 11, 2009

I'm quite surprised to hear about the demise of Sidebar Ads. I really expected them to come to the forefront with the likes of Fusion and The Deck.

I still think it has potention with the fact that you and the other members of Sidebar are well known in the design/development field. Maybe with a new marketing perspective it could work with a second stab? If not then I'd agree with Andy, it would be great to release the software to the open source community. Any thoughts yes as to it's direction?

Sorry, comments are closed for this post. If you have any further questions or comments, feel free to send them to me directly.