Hoping to tap a new source of revenue, Burnsville is considering the uncommon step of accepting private ads on the city’s website.
The city already seeks advertising for some of its print publications, including an annual Recreation Times magazine, a community guide and Burnsville Performing Arts Center publications. It also solicits sponsorship for community events and television programming.
But the website would be a more visible location for ads, raising such questions as: Would it cheapen the city website to have adds alongside official information? Would it imply a city endorsement of the business or product advertised? Would advertising be limited to Burnsville businesses and organizations?
Recognizing the many issues involved, the City Council has asked communication coordinator Marty Doll to find out how residents and businesses would react to mixing ads with the city’s announcements and news.
“We are researching a few different things,” Doll said. “First, what would public opinion be on having ads on the city website? Second, is there a market for advertising on the site? Third, what kind of revenue or income could one expect from this type of advertising?”
The city has asked residents, community organizations and businesses to take a survey at surveymonkey.com/s/webads. It asks: What are your thoughts about advertising on the website? Would your business or organization buy an ad if the city opened the website? How much would you be willing to pay for advertising space on the city’s home page?
Officially, city leaders are taking pains to stay neutral. City Council Member Bill Coughlin declined to comment about the issue last week. Calls to other council members were not returned.
The League of Minnesota Cities does not track Web advertising for cities. Doll found some examples of ads on school district sites including those for Lakeville Area schools and the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan schools in Dakota County, but so far he has found no city sites in Minnesota with ads.