Read the Docs is a large, free web service. There is one proven business model to support this kind of site: Advertising. We are building the advertising model we want to exist, and we’re calling it EthicalAds.
EthicalAds respect users while providing value to advertisers. We don’t track you, sell your data, or anything else. We simply show ads to users, based on the content of the pages you look at. We also give 10% of our ad space to community projects, as our way of saying thanks to the open source community.
We talk a bit below about our worldview on advertising, if you want to know more.
Are you a marketer?
We built a whole business around privacy-focused advertising. If you’re trying to reach developers, we have a network of hand-approved sites (including Read the Docs) where your ads are shown.
We’re a community, and we value your feedback. If you ever want to reach out about this effort, feel free to shoot us an email.
We’re building the advertising model we want to exist:
We don’t track you
We don’t sell your data
We host everything ourselves, no third-party scripts or images
We’re doing newspaper advertising, on the internet. For a hundred years, newspapers put an ad on the page, some folks would see it, and advertisers would pay for this. This is our model.
So much ad tech has been built to track users. Following them across the web, from site to site, showing the same ads and gathering data about them. Then retailers sell your purchase data to try and attribute sales to advertising. Now there is an industry in doing fake ad clicks and other scams, which leads the ad industry to track you even more intrusively to know more about you. The current advertising industry is in a vicious downward spiral.
As developers, we understand the massive downsides of the current advertising industry. This includes malware, slow site performance, and huge databases of your personal data being sold to the highest bidder.
The trend in advertising is to have larger and larger ads. They should run before your content, they should take over the page, the bigger, weirder, or flashier the better.
We opt out
We don’t store personal information about you.
We only keep track of views and clicks.
We don’t build a profile of your personality to sell ads against.
We only show high quality ads from companies that are of interest to developers.
We are running a single, small, unobtrusive ad on documentation pages. The products should be interesting to you. The ads won’t flash or move.
We run the ads we want to have on our site, in a way that makes us feel good.
We have additional documentation on the technical details of our advertising including our Do Not Track policy and our use of analytics.
We have an advertising FAQ written for advertisers.
We have gone into more detail about our views in our blog post about this topic.
Eric Holscher, one of our co-founders talks a bit more about funding open source this way on his blog.
After proving our ad model as a way to fund open source and building our ad serving infrastructure, we launched the EthicalAds network to help other projects be sustainable.
We’re building the advertising model we want to exist. We hope that others will join us in this mission:
There are a large number of projects, conferences, and initiatives that we care about in the software and open source ecosystems. A large number of them operate like we did in the past, with almost no income. Our Community Ads program will highlight some of these projects.
There are a few qualifications for our Community Ads program:
Your organization and the linked site should not be trying to entice visitors to buy a product or service. We make an exception for conferences around open source projects if they are run not for profit and soliciting donations for open source projects.
A software project should have an OSI approved license.
We will not run a community ad for an organization tied to one of our paid advertisers.
We’ll show 10% of our ad inventory each month to support initiatives that we care about. Please complete an application to be considered for our Community Ads program.
We have added multiple ways to opt out of the advertising on Read the Docs.
Gold members may remove advertising from their projects for all visitors.
You can opt out of seeing paid advertisements on documentation pages:
Go to the drop down user menu in the top right of the Read the Docs dashboard and clicking Settings (https://readthedocs.org/accounts/edit/).
On the Advertising tab, you can deselect See paid advertising.
You will still see community ads for open source projects and conferences.
Project owners can also opt out of paid advertisements for their projects. You can change these options:
Go to your project page (
Go to Admin > Advertising
Change your advertising settings
If you are part of a company that uses Read the Docs to host documentation for a commercial product, we offer Read the Docs for Business that offers a completely ad-free experience, additional build resources, and other great features like CDN support and private documentation.
If you would like to completely remove advertising from your open source project, but our commercial plans don’t seem like the right fit, please get in touch to discuss alternatives to advertising.