Let’s kill Interruptive ads

The Web is not television, and I would like online advertisers and publications to stop treating the Web like it is. Interruptive ads such as this one at Salon…

… are meant to get 100% click-through rates, I suppose. But in too many cases — namely mine, repeatedly — they get 100% of multiple clicks that fail to go through. I don’t know why clicking on the X next to “Close and enter Salon” doesn’t work for me (on three different browsers), but it doesn’t, and that causes me to be very annoyed, mostly at Salon.

I got to that blanked-out Salon page by following this Jay Rosen tweet. Earlier today I ran across the same thing when I followed this Phil Windley tweet to this page at Freeman. There I was greeted with the same kind of interruption, this time a self-promo for the pub’s email newsletter. Clicking on that X got me through, but I didn’t like having to do that, and frankly don’t remember what I read, because I arrived annoyed. (And I’m new to that pub, which makes the interruption even more rude.)

Here’s what I believe: It doesn’t matter how much money interruptive ads make for publications on the Web. They sap the readers’ tolerance and good will, and any unnecessary amount of that is too high a price to pay. (Videos? Okay, we’re used to that on TV. But serious text-based pubs like Salon and Freeman should chill.)

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28 comments

  1. Darryl Jonckheere’s avatar

    Worked for me. 1-Click and it was gone. (Windows 7, Chrome 6.0.472.62)

  2. JamesR404’s avatar

    I’d like to say, yes, let’s make and pass law to bann interruptive web adds.

    However how do we make that feasible in an international stage?

    And is it fair to companies that are trying to get their message out there? It seems indeed we have no problem with a certain degree of TV and public space advertisement, to what extend does web space fall to this as well?

    Finally I do just tend to click away the entire site once such a spammy advert pops up. Please. It’s just too annoying, I have enough content to read online that doesn’t annoy me.

  3. Joseph Ratliff’s avatar

    I agree entirely. Marketers must also consider there are humans having to go through that annoying process to get to what they actually wanted (the site visit).

    By the way, the little “x” closes the window fine for me too in Firefox (v 3.6.9).

  4. Wesley Swatlovski’s avatar

    It’s unfortunate because situations like this give online marketers a bad name. There are plenty of clean unobtrusive ways of monetizing a website.

    Rookie marketers don’t realize that usability of your site plays a bigger roll in getting customers to click through an ad. Forcing or tricking people into clicking an ad only pisses people off and makes them not want to return to your site if they can help it.

    Personally I don’t employ any ads that irritate me when I’m surfing. I wish everyone employed this tactic but many are simply blinded by greed.

    My favorite (the one I hate the most), is the banner across the top that expands downward after being on the site for 10 seconds or so, stays down for 10 seconds then shrinks the page back up. What this does is makes you lose your place as you are reading an article because it keeps pushing the content up and down. Tons of fun.

    Peace,
    Wes

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    JamesR404, fwiw, the last thing I’d want is a law here. Interruptive ads are bad form. Simple as that.

  6. nb’s avatar

    There still people surfing the web without an adblocker? Amazing.

  7. James Duncan Davidson’s avatar

    Totally agree. One of those ads pops up and I’m done with the site. Outta there. History.

  8. Nik’s avatar

    Unfortunately, without paying subscribers, publishers support the content we all enjoy with advertising and other sponsorships. While I’m no longer in that industry, I can assure you that negative audience reaction to these things, in terms of abandonment, long and short term impact on traffic and subscribers is carefully balanced against the revenue these ads bring in.

    As it turns out, the majority of readers will put up with an incredible amount of distraction in order to get at high quality content. (And even, sometimes, for low-quality content!)

    And with shrinking advertising dollars (ad space keeps dropping in value, and advertisers are universally cutting back), publishers are forced to find new “innovations” and irritations to pay their writers, editors, and landlords.

  9. KT’s avatar

    Well said, Doc.

    This is the web analogy of TV networks upping the volume on commercials…fugly.

    I’m not sure when/if sites will show less “bad form” but you may consider doing what I’ve done the last couple years:

    My preferred browser is Opera (v10.7x build on OSX) and in from the address bar, you can go to an “On-demand plug-ins” switch. This will block flash ads (unless you click on them) to make it easier/faster to quickly close both interruptive ads, as well as, mitigate in-line flash ads. (BIG difference in web experience with this.)

  10. Nik’s avatar

    What I do when I get one of those things is to click the “x” at the top of the whole window, and not bother with the web site at all.

  11. MKW’s avatar

    I have that same problem with the X on Salon’s ads. Clicking the text works, clicking the X does not. Then why the hell put the X there, Salon? So annoying.

  12. jay’s avatar

    Safari Reader = kill Interruptive everything.

  13. Robert M’s avatar

    How fitting— I was just on a page that brought up a large flash video ad on *rollover* of a badge-sized ad. Rollover is not intent!

  14. Doc Searls’s avatar

    nb, I have Adblocker Plus on Firefox, and that one still got through. Dunno why.

    Hmmmm. Works today. Dunno about that either.

  15. Janine’s avatar

    When I get greeted by such an ad I close the tab and go somewhere were nice people are. It works very well.

  16. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Nik, can you provide numbers and sources for ad space dropping in value and advertisers cutting back? I don’t know if that’s true, and would like solid evidence either way.

  17. Dan Munz’s avatar

    Great post. I’ve lately been feeling influenced by Jules Polonetsky’s remarks about privacy at Gov 2.0 Summit ’10 about online privacy: http://bit.ly/bHRYIM. The main point was that real online privacy ultimately comes down not to adjusting settings, but to responsible use of data. The call to web designers was, if we really believe web measurement/customization tools improve user experience, we should be upfront about how they’re used and why, rather then trying (mostly unsuccessfully and clumsily) cram them in to the UX in a stealthy way. I feel a bit the same about ads. People are grownups – they (mostly) understand that commerce is what keeps most websites they like humming. Sites like Salon should really look at ways of incorporating ads into their UX in a meaningful and value-adding way rather than just bludgeoning you to look at ads before content in an online version of a mugging. You can say “they’d get no revenue that way,” but I’d be shocked if the actual clickthrough-signup-profit rate of what they’re doing now is non-trivial. In both privacy and advertising (and the intersection of the two), fancy shadowbox programming can’t hold a candle to just designing UX in a way that’s honest about what the website is doing and why.

  18. John Berns’s avatar

    Don’t click the close popup icon–just click the close window icon. Leave the site and never come back. Problem solved.

    I always leave sites with disruptive ads. I refuse to support sites with that level of annoyance.

  19. Chris P.’s avatar

    Its the new pop-up ad. But unfornunately the average web user doesn’t know how to block these with a browser plugin or extension. If this gets of hand like pop up windows did. Then browsers may begin including more serious and modern ad blockers that are easily turned on. Safari’s Reader feature is close to this.

    I also don’t care for the Hey Googler ad placed on posts right below the post title. Do they think they are being clever and making us smile? Your first time visitor is the last person you want to bombard with ads.

    How do we revolt and get sites to change there ways?

  20. Scott Rosenberg’s avatar

    Hey, Doc — I’m with you on this. What’s surprising to me is the longevity of the interruptive ad. This is a battle we fought more than a decade ago. When the dotcom bubble busted, any chance those of us who opposed this kind of ad had for winning the argument against them evaporated. Salon finally began running them when we introduced a premium program; the ads went away for the paying customers. It’s sad to see them so prevalent today.

    Having sat in the belly of this particular beast, I blame the advertisers a lot more than the publishers, who are just scraping for revenue and thinking short term (take the advertisers’ money!) rather than long-term (don’t alienate your readers). Ultimately the problem will go away only if (a) the advertisers figure out that they need a better model (I know you’re working on one!) or (b) the publishers go under. It’ll be interesting to see which happens first.

  21. Reader’s avatar

    Salon is why I installed AdBlock Plus. Even after the attempt to prevent you from reading the article, an ad chases you down the page? Ugh.

  22. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Scott. It’s great to have you weigh in on this, especially with the Salon history.

    I think we’re going to see a lot of shaking out in the next year or two. I hope Salon and other good pubs survive. And I’ll do my best to help make that happen.

    As for what we’re doing, it’s not helping advertising. It’s helping individuals do a better job of engaging with and relating to suppliers of all kinds, including publications. If that helps advertising, cool. If not, that’s cool too.

  23. Tom E’s avatar

    Doc,

    I think the problem with these interruptive ads is that they are legacy of TV and Radio advertising focusing on the passive viewer sitting on the sofa.

    Effective advertising has to be geared towards the medium that it uses. Those social media campaigns that are successful tend to be those that fully embrace the medium and engage the user.

  24. rxp’s avatar

    I think ads like this make it perfectly clear what the website’s priorities are – their mission isn’t to deliver content to you, it’s to deliver you to their advertisers. It’s just not usually so literal that ads come before content ;)

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