Web Advertising: Still Annoying Readers, Still Failing To Replace Print Revenue…

Three of the “dancing idiots” class of Web ad. There’s no reason for animation, other than to attract your attention and distract you from whatever else you’re doing. (Of course that’s why they do it).

Tanya was busy doing a Web search for the word “frigate”, in connection with a section on frigate birds she’s writing for her book, when she said: “Look at this flashing advert! Haven’t advertisers learned yet that people hate them?”

“What’s your reaction to that kind of thing?” I asked.

“Oh, I would deliberately never buy anything from an advert that either flashes on my screen, or expands to cover the text I’m reading,” she replied. “I resent the way they distract you.”

A few minutes later, a former colleague sent me a link to an article about the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, in which Steve Ballmer, the Microsoft chief executive, claimed that the global advertising economy had been permanently “reset” at a lower level, warning that media companies should not plan for revenues to bounce back to pre-recession levels.

Ballmer argued that traditional broadcast and print media would have to plan business models around a smaller share of the advertising market, as revenues continue to move to digital outlets.

Two apparently unrelated pieces of data. But I believe they are connected.

Print advertising is definitely contracting, and online advertising is rapidly growing. But for “traditional” media companies, their online revenue is not growing fast enough to replace what they’re losing.

I know a little bit about newspaper advertising, since I was a newspaperman for many years, and I believe the “ad mix” is a large part of the problem.

The most lucrative advertising for both newspapers and magazines, believe it or not, used to be “classified” advertising – “small ads” by people who wanted to sell or buy stuff, find a partner, rent an apartment and so on.

Trouble is that eBay and Craigslist have already cornered that market online. And they do a better job. For instance, a friend of my son’s who lives near Seattle just bought a speaker cabinet for a 1970s bass amplifier. He found it on Craigslist – in Portland. Portland’s close enough to Seattle to drive down – but you’d never have found that ad in a local Seattle newspaper.

The second most lucrative class of advertising in newspapers was “display advertising” – full- and half-page ads, for example. These were typically very professionally produced, and usually interesting to look at. In many glossy magazines, people read the ads just as much as the content – Vogue magazine would be a good example.

This is a whole class of advertising that hasn’t yet made it onto the Web – because it depends on properly paginated content (adaptive, of course – your page will almost certainly be different to my page…)

Web technology today doesn’t yet support ads you really want to view. So advertisers resort to animation to draw your eyes. In other words, we have to put up with the “dancing idiots”…

It’s not just the content pages which need to become adaptive, of course – the ads themselves have to adapt; bringing in or leaving out content depending on the size of the “page” and the space they have to fill.

Sound too complex? It’s already been done. Those who signed up for the Microsoft WPF-based version of the New York Times Reader (the first one, now supplanted by an Adobe AIR version), saw a set of adverts which did exactly that.

I believe the company which gets this technology onto the Web and uses it to create “ads you want to view” will become the “next Google”. Unless, of course, it is Google…

My feedback – your animated ad is annoying and I will never respond to it…

6 thoughts on “Web Advertising: Still Annoying Readers, Still Failing To Replace Print Revenue…

  1. Cookie

    Advertisers usually don't get any revenue from me, not even a view or a click, because I like many others, run ad-blocking software/plugins.And even when I do not run them (sometimes I have to disable them), whenever I actually click on an ad that might look interesting (or out of sheer curiosity, 9 times out of 10 it doesn't take me to an actual website for the product or service advertised, but to a link hub for other advertisements, all of which look suspicious and I don't click further because they all look like virus ridden, trojan packed cookiegrabber-sites….I agree with your friend, I deliberately do NOT buy things that are promoted by annoying online ads.

  2. Anderassmussen

    While I completely agree with Ballmer that the ad market will never rebound to the levels we saw in the late 90s, work towards more readable digital content (whether it’s on the web, some kind of desktop reader, or an eBook) could significantly increase the market for display ads. As you’ve pointed out, in its current form, the web is not exactly suited for longer reads. So the average web surfer skips from site to site coming across hundreds of ads. This overexposure diminishes the value of any ad placement. So while advertisers love the amount of information they can get about their online audience compared to a print audience, the glut of online inventory makes a single ad space essentially worthless. Once we have digital content that people are willing (and able) to spend a larger chunk of time with, advertisers will pay a premium to be able to reach an engaged audience in a less cluttered setting.

  3. Bill Hill

    Yes, I saw this.I wouldn't object to a book trying to sell me more books, if an ad was at the end: "If you liked this, try these…".I'd hate it in the content. And thank God the Kindle refresh is so slow it can't animate. The flashing page-turns are bad enough!

  4. Bill Hill

    @ Anderassmussen:Completely agree with this. Poor reading experience = flitting from site to site.Twittering used to be a derogatory term :)Content that engages you includes ads that are a pleasure to read. We need the ability to create both.

  5. Anderassmussen

    I doubt they will be met with much success in monetizing older books this way.I can see ads taking off for eBook magazine and newspaper content, however. We’ll see if (or in what form) newspaper companies are still around by the time eInk technology can handle annoying animated ads.


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