Cliptec: Online news is awful

Phillip Smith at Cliptec thinks online news is hard to read. He says:

It’s ok in small doses. But try a reading a whole paper online; it’s awful.

Smith has a point.

Online news sites aren’t designed for easy reading. Publishers are more concerned with pushing advertising down reader’s throats.

It isn’t just distracting animated ads. There are pop-out movie ads, bursts of sound and giant pop-ups which dance around in front of text.

They give a new meaning to “in your face”.

Publishers know passive online advertisements no longer work. Hardly anyone clicks on a banner these days and Google ads are not much better.

They need to make money. But there’s a danger they will kill the business by alienating readers.

If publishers told readers paid content means less advertising crap, they might be more willing to shell out for online news.

5 thoughts on “Cliptec: Online news is awful

  1. The argument seems to imply that other media formats such as newspapers, tv and radio don’t include ‘in your face’ advertising.

    Least online you (generally) don’t have to sit and wait for the advertising to end before consuming the content (tv and radio). And of course online ads are increasingly tailored to the consumer through advanced targeting techniques – making them less and less ‘intrusive’.

    That’s not to say that the online news consumption experience is perfect, clearly it’s not. We still have a lot to learn in terms of interface design and content packaging and the experience is clearly hampered by screen and bandwidth limitations.

    Thing is, every year the online news consumption experience improves – you can’t say the same of other media formats. Innovation in newspapers seemed to stop at the invention of colour printing.

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    • Matt
      I’m not sure the online experience improves. At best I’d say it depends on your point of view.

      I’d say when it comes to news media sites – particularly the two big NZ news media sites, the experience gets worse. Real content is increasingly pushed aside for advertising – to the point where the signal to noise ratio is borderline acceptable. Nothing is more intrusive than a loud, video ad appearing while you are trying to read a poorly written, but vital news story. The most recent innovation I’ve noticed in this area is that off buttons are now more carefully hidden from view.

      And I don’t pretend for one moment the TV experience is any better – I can barely watch broadcast TV any more. The moment a Harvey Norman ad appears I want to hide behind the sofa. Likewise radio. It’s as if all the various companies are so desperate to get my attention they are happy to kill my interest in their content.

      I don’t really have any answers to this – I know that print advertising isn’t as offensive but advertisers aren’t keen on inoffensive.

      Maybe I should go hide in a cave and wait for someone brighter than me to come up with an answer.

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  2. I wonder whether you find newspaper advertising inoffensive because it’s been around a lot longer and we’ve collectively developed more effective filters. ie: we just don’t see newspaper advertising any more.

    I’ve seen research before that suggests young people, since they grew up with online advertising, don’t have the same perceptions of Internet advertising as what you’ve described (to them it’s no worse than any other form of advertising and is often better perceived due to increased relevance and interactivity).

    When I was at the Herald I remember getting an email from a woman who explained, to help her focus on the content in articles on the NZH site, she needed to hold up a piece of paper against the right side of the screen so she could hide the flashing, moving advertising. I don’t think that’s something i’d expect to hear from people that grew up with Internet ads.

    My view is that an ad that’s big and in your face is fine — as long as it’s promoting something that’s interesting to you. Difference between a big ad online and a big ad in the newspaper is that — in theory — in an online environment it’s possible to only display advertising messages that are interesting to the recipient.

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  3. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’ve NEVER seen an online ad I’m interested in. But it’s rare. Extremely rare. Whether the agency deciding these things uses algorithms or chicken entrails they are wrong – laughably wrong.

    Just to make sure I’m not wrong, I flicked to the NZ Herald just now. I can see Sky TV – something I have no intention of buying – at least not until I have absolutely no choice in the matter. And House of Travel – overseas holidays? Are you kidding?

    And the pop-up video ads are more spectacularly wrong than the banners, boomboxes and skyscrapers. Thankfully the Herald hasn’t shown one of those awful ads that moves around across the screen for a week or two. Maybe the algorithm figured out that makes me leave the site and seek news elsewhere – now that would be smart.

    BTW I’m not enamoured of print advertising. Two or three times a week the North Shore Times is delivered into my mailbox despite the No Junk Mail sign. If it wasn’t so useful for lighting fires, it wouldn’t make it across my threshold. And yes, I’ve stopped buying the Herald – most of the time. I do buy the Guardian Weekly sometimes, but that’s almost devoid of advertising.

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  4. You are certainly right that the major NZ display advertising sellers are typically selling reach rather than relevance, which is why you aren’t necessarily seeing advertising messages that interest you.

    That is starting to change though. Main issue is educating advertisers about their options. The technology is pretty much sorted.

    I’d argue that an ad that’s *highly relevant* to the recipient is just as useful and well regarded as a good piece of journalism (heresy I know) – the job is ‘just’ to increase that relevance.

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