Farewell, Project Wonderful.
Many people received an official notice from Project Wonderful this week, stating that the long-running ad service was shutting down. I can’t say I was really shocked by the announcement, but the reality of the situation hit home in a way that I was not expecting.
In their statement to users, they cited the reasons for shutting down included a change in the way advertisements are viewed (and also blocked) to social media giants doing everything they can to keep readers on their platforms instead of venturing out to independent sites. They’re problems we’ve dealt with here on STAR POWER and an issue I’ve spoken out about here in the blog section, so to see those very things shutting down a long-running business struck an unpleasant chord with me.
We didn’t use Project Wonderful much here, but it was (and for now still is) a cornerstone of the layout of my previous comic, Dominic Deegan: Oracle for Hire. I believed in what Project Wonderful was doing, putting the power of advertising in the hands of creators to make it feel organic and do-it-yourself instead of some automated audience-targeting program. A young creator once approached me at a convention and said that seeing their Project Wonderful ad running on the front page of my site made them feel like a rock star. It was the most pure way online advertising could be run, and I have nothing but good memories and respect for that company and what they aimed to achieve. For a while they achieved their goal, and it helped everyone who used it.
But times have changed. Ad providers have allowed invasive ads into circulation, from auto-playing videos to malicious ads that redirect you to different websites whether you click on them or not. It comes as no surprise, then, that ad-blockers have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years. Ad-blockers hurt smaller websites like ours, but when invasive ads that interrupt your viewing or even threaten you with malware can show up without warning, it makes sense to implement them. Those same ad-blockers affected honest services like Project Wonderful, and the damage was done.
As stated above, social media juggernauts have done everything in their power to keep you browsing their platforms. Creators have bought in to this, too, posting entire pages of their comics on sites like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, giving readers less and less reason to venture out to independent sites. This is a trend that has infuriated me in these recent years, and “adapt or die” can go screw itself because I’m not posting entire pages of our comic on someone else’s platform. I’ll use those services to remind folks to come see us and maybe post a teaser image, but no more. I’d rather die than adapt to that.
Project Wonderful’s shutdown seems to be caused by everything I see wrong with the internet these days. Will things go back to the way they were, change for the better, or continue down this path until we’re all using the same two websites? I may be angry right now, but I remain optimistic. You only start to get better when you realize you’re really sick.
Maybe this is our wake-up call to do something about this disease.