[Question] Should 80,000 Hours Consider Putting Ads on its Newsletters?

Disclaimer: I notified 80,000 Hours about this post before posting. Once it reached those in the organization with relevant knowledge, I received no reply. I’m not sure why, but I hold no negative feelings about it.

I currently think 80,000 Hours (80k for short) should consider putting one ad on each of its newsletters; it seems quite likely the benefits outweigh the costs.


If 80k generates revenue, funds would likely be reallocated to other effective opportunities:

  • 80k is not a cheap organization (the 2023 budget is $14.5 million USD).

  • 80k is fully funded by donations.

  • The vast majority of this funding is from organizations and people dedicated to maximizing their dollars’ impact, such as Open Philanthropy, which has donated over £10 million ($12.7 million) in total.

  • Thus, if 80k decreased its need for funding, donors’ money would likely fund other effective opportunities.

It seems 80k could make a nonnegligible amount of money from newsletter ads:

  • The 80k newsletter has 279,037 subscribers as of the end of 2022.

  • The “cost per mile” (the rate per 1,000 subscribers, regardless of whether they open the newsletter) for newsletter ads ranges from $10 to $30 (since the 80k newsletter is targeted at a quite specific audience, it might earn the higher end of that).

    • Hence, with one ad on each newsletter in 2023 (assuming the subscriber count doesn’t increase throughout the year), the 80k newsletter would’ve generated ~$145,000–435,000 in 2023.[1]

    • If you assume the newsletter grew in 2023 by the 27.8% average annual subscriber growth between 2020 and 2022[2], the revenue range is ~$185,000–555,000.[3]

  • These are quite simple and rough estimates, but I suspect they aren’t off by an order of magnitude.


TLDR: This might reduce people’s trust in 80k. That could be very bad. However, I think this outcome is quite unlikely.

Since some people are skeptical of information served with ads and nonprofits that generate revenue, people might become more skeptical and distrusting of 80k’s information. This could have quite severe consequences.

I would worry about ads on the main website; the risk of people brushing off 80k’s key ideas and advice because they’re served right alongside ads seems too high.

Likewise, it seems the podcast wouldn’t make enough money to offset this risk: I crudely estimate that, if 80k podcasts ran a 60-second ad every hour in 2022, it would’ve generated roughly $12,000 that year:

  • 80k estimates its podcast had 81,700 subscribers in 2022.

  • The cost per 1,000 listeners for a 60-second podcast ad is estimated at $25 (according to AdvertiseCast).

  • In 2022, the 80k podcast published 60.46 hours of content.

  • Putting these together, if subscribers listened to 10% of the podcast episodes in 2022, and 80k ran a 60-second ad every hour, it would’ve made roughly $12,000 that year.

    • This is a simple and very rough estimate, but I suspect it isn’t off by an order of magnitude.

The newsletter is a special case, though: it would likely make more revenue than podcast ads (six figures per year), and distrust coming from newsletter ads seems less likely than distrust coming from website ads (by my intuition). After all, could one ad in each newsletter meaningfully alter people’s views? Even if it’s tastefully sized and placed at the end? It seems newsletter subscribers trust 80k enough that one ad per newsletter won’t significantly disillusion them—they’re intrigued enough to have subscribed.


I’m not saying newsletter ads are a sure-fire success. Even if the probability of increased skepticism is small, its harms might be significant enough to offset ~six figures of increased effective philanthropy every year.

However, I think 80k should consider it. Ideally, someone should estimate the probability it undermines people’s trust in 80k. I would have done this myself if I could, but I couldn’t find any helpful research or surveys—relevant research tends to focus on viewers’ trust in advertisers, not the platform that serves ads (here’s an example). Perhaps surveying 80k’s newsletter subscribers could be informative, although survey respondents might be less likely than the average person to eschew 80k because of ads. It’s uncertain, but ads might be an unconventional path to meaningful impact.

  1. ^

  2. ^

  3. ^

No answers.