November 20, 2002
Pardon this Popup

According to the AP, has waived subscription fees for readers willing to click through a ten-second interactive commercial.

It's insanely hard to prove value for online advertising, short of outright sales of products, and that's where this is coming from. Television Without Pity, another good read, recently posted a plea to readers to click through its banner ads to keep the content free.

I can sympathize with these companies. It's no fun to run a Web site, or a publication, on no money and keep standards of quality.

It is unnerving, however, to see the iron fist of commerce crashing through my monitor every day. It's not enough just to put up with the ads, we have to INTERACT with them. Ideally, we should rush off and buy an X10 right now.

Working in magazines, I've always been grateful that no one has come up with a way to force readers to read magazine ads. (Let's all thank our lucky stars that a complimentary neck brace that forces you to look straight ahead at the magazine is not really cost efficient.) In the magazine world there is (or was) value to being a reader. Magazines do surveys and audits to describe their readers and why it's a good thing these people read the magazine loyally.

Because it's harder to collect demographics on your audience on the Web, it's harder to know who the reader is.

In the reader/readee conundrum that is the Web, the relationship is increasingly becoming devalued. Because they likely don't know who you are, what becomes important is what you do.

Chances are whether or not you visit a Web site loyally doesn't matter as much to a Web advertiser. They just want you to give them something, anything. And so they create more obtrusive popups, more obnoxious ads in the middle of stories, and so on. You can't just read it, you really have to click it. And ideally you'll haul out that credit card, buddy, and give us your e-mail address for more special offers! Because YOU HAVE NOTHING BETTER TO DO THAN CONSUME.

The "reader" becomes the consumer and the commercial transaction becomes secondary to the reading transaction--in this grim little scenario.

What's the alternative, then? Ignore the pop-ups and let the advertisers go begging? Great, until they pull their ads from our favorite online publications. Be prepared to kick in for the subscription fees then, or find somewhere else to go.

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Posted at November 20, 2002 08:46 PM


I just wrote a whole essay on click thru math and bad sales models. But then hit "clear".


Posted by: mike on November 21, 2002 01:12 AM

I like print too - there is nothing better than curling up in the bathtub with a book or magazine. So much of reading for me is about lounging around, loafing on the couch, or reading in bed. And no matter how cool the web is, you can't do that. So in that way, the web sucks.

I'd gladly pay a fee for the content I consume on the web. If there were a system where I could identify myself to a site and be charged 1 or 2 cents per page view, I'd do it. I'd GLADLY pay the content providers the same amount that each advertiser pays per page view, since I can't imagine its more than a penny per page.

Posted by: brian on November 22, 2002 09:45 AM
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