Is WordPress.com sneakily displaying advertisements in community content?

by Santosh

Update: Timethief points out that Matt has clarified the official wordpress stand on ads on the WordPress forums in the past (September 6th, 2006). WordPress.com has been displaying ads as part of content served to irregular readers of wordpress.com. In my opinion, 80% of the wordpress blogs out there receive a significant portion of their traffic from irregular readers who find the blog either through a search engine or through a referring site. It’s the top 20% of the blogs that enjoy loyal readership and can afford to either be ad-free or control the ads shown on their blogs.

In order to judge the general feeling out there, I’d like to request you to vote on whether you would pay to remove ads from your wordpress.com blog.

My own opinion is that I’d rather pay to remove ads so that I can focus on building a loyal readership over time from the 80% who discover my blog. What this also means is that I am opting to host myself. WordPress.com need (speculation) the additional revenue from advertising in order to support the “free” nature of wordpress.com. Nothing individual bloggers can pay them will actually cover up for the revenue lost per blog if they got rid of the advertising.

Original story: Like a million other bloggers, we host our blog on WordPress.com. We have been paying WordPress.com for only certain premium services and so far, the hosting service has been provided for what appears to be “free”.

On clicking a Google search that led back to sukshma.net, I found ads by Google (AdSense) embedded in the blog post. I took a few screenshots to share and check if someone could help me understand what was going on. I have never been consciously asked to opt in to an ad reselling program for my blog.

Sukshma.net showing ads

Unfortunately, AdSense targeting allows for a competitive product to display its advertisement right above and below my product review.

Sukshma.net showing ads

On viewing the source code, I found that Google’s adsense script had been embedded, but it wasn’t clear how it had happened. Possibilities include, WordPress.com auto-embedding AdSense into articles, or somehow rendering of blog pages has been cracked by an outsider. The ad placements were intelligent (leading in to the article, and at the footer) and don’t appear to be amateur in nature.

Unfortunately, I can no longer reproduce the issue with the blog. WordPress.com have in the past attempted to embed hidden content in a questionable manner. I also checked back with the Terms of Service for WordPress.com but could not find a clause or literature detailing this possibility.

What this means is that we no longer have control of our own content. If WordPress.com is indeed embedding adSense in order to generate funds – they are sure to disappoint a large portion of their community.