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As you all know, advertising is an important source of revenue for Stack Overflow and it helps us support all the sites across the Stack Exchange Network and the resources that go into maintaining and improving the experience on the platform. We are going to be introducing middle sidebar ads, which have been on the main Stack Overflow site for years, to some of the tech sites including Software Engineering.

The middle sidebar ads have the same standards as any other ads on the platform. Ads are non-intrusive and static. Ads go through a vetting process to ensure they are appropriate for the communities on Stack Exchange. If you see an ad that may not follow our established standards and guidelines, you can let us know by using the "report this ad" functionality. Here is a mockup of what these will look like when two ads are showed (the existing ad placement and the new middle sidebar ad placement):

sample of ads on the middle side bar of the site

This ad space won’t be available for display until May 10 because we wanted to give you a heads-up before you started seeing them. Ads are an essential line of business for us and we’re committed to giving you advanced notice whenever we introduce a new form of advertising on the network sites. If you have any questions or concerns, please let us know.

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  • I doubt it makes a huge difference - I guess site visitors who feel annoyed by such ads already use an adblocker.
    – Doc Brown
    Commented May 16, 2023 at 6:18

2 Answers 2

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I'm a bit concerned by the placement. It pushes the Related questions down a lot, perhaps to the point where they aren't discoverable when reading the question. Is it necessary to introduce such a tall ad in the sidebar and push down useful navigational content?

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    The right side is so crowded now. While the left is mostly vacant. Commented May 4, 2023 at 14:54
  • @candied_orange Yeah, but it looks like the ads go inside the white part and not the grey part. For me, there's a lot of grey parts that are dead and empty space. There are definitely ways to optimize the UI here. Not sure what the options are, but I don't think that shoving down useful content for an ad is the right approach. I'd rather see a horizontal ad between the question and answers than shove related questions further down the page.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented May 4, 2023 at 15:05
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    And the Hot Network Questions are just gone. How am I supposed get distracted with baking issues when I get board with doing real work? Commented May 4, 2023 at 15:10
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    @candied_orange I don't think they are gone. They are just pushed even further down. Although, if anything goes, that's a better candidate than pushing down related questions that may actually help people.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented May 4, 2023 at 15:15
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    You mean I have to scroll? Sounds like effort. They're under estimating how lazy I am when looking for a distraction. Commented May 4, 2023 at 15:20
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    I'm not just a "bit" concerned. These ads are huge and have a lot of color. I don't support them. Commented May 6, 2023 at 2:14
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    @ThomasOwens the ads in the sample were an example. Real ads weren't used in the mock up. If you see an ad and feel there is a bug around how it's appearing or something is truly impeding the experience on the site we'd want to know about. Thanks like that should get reported with the status-review tag so we can see if it's a bug or something that can be improved.
    – Rosie StaffMod
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 12:58
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    @Rosie It's live and it is pushing down both related questions and linked questions to the point where they are sometimes invisible without scrolling. There are no public metrics on how often people click through to related or linked questions, so I can't say how impactful it is. Just that I can see that it makes navigation more difficult. This was obvious from the sample because of the height of the ad space. I don't know of any easy solution, but I'd recommend turning off the new ads until there is data around the usage of related and linked questions or someone from the UX team can look.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 13:19
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    @ThomasOwens I will pass this feedback on to the team that oversees ads. If I have an update I'll share it here once I have that. Thank you for you patience.
    – Rosie StaffMod
    Commented May 12, 2023 at 13:26
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    @ThomasOwens I posted the update I received as an answer.
    – Rosie StaffMod
    Commented May 15, 2023 at 13:29
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Middle Side Bar (MSB) ads have been running on the Stack Overflow site for a while now. We have monitored the impact there and there hasn’t been an engagement change with Hot Network Questions or anything below the MSB scroll since they’ve been introduced. The team is monitoring the same on the tech sites that now have the MSB ads displayed, but we will not be pausing them at this time.

It terms of concerns around ad display and frequency: It’s worth noting that factors including screen size, cookie consent, etc. play into the experience. MSB can appear in a 300x250 or a 300x600 size. Different combinations will affect what shows in the sidebar and how frequently ads serve too. You may not always see MSB ads even if you are on a site that utilizes them. The same functionality on SO is mirrored in the MSB ads on the tech sites.

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