Advertising and Usability

As the web matures and begins to displace, replace, or work with established news, information, and entertainment sources, the advertising that pays for this content to get created is going to change as well. When you combine this with the growth of smart phones like the blackberry, android, and iphone and appliances like the ipad, advertising will soon be faced with new obstacles.

… Publishers need to adapt and overcome … and they need to do it quickly if they plan to survive …

 The problems advertising faces are coming from multiple fronts. First, carriers are abandoning the unlimited, all you can eat business model in favor of tiered pricing based on consumption (see Why You Should Care About AT&T’s iPhone Data Plans Even If You Don’t Own an iPhone). This will lead consumers to think before using high bandwidth programs like streaming audio or video. A second aspect is usability: some publishers have designs that take up so much real estate that it affects usability and makes it nearly impossible to read the content on a normal website, never mind a smart phone (see Forbes or IDG).

As a response to this problem, consumers are starting to use software to strip out the advertising. Programs like Norton have stripped out affiliate links for years, and adblock is one of the most popular add-ons for both Firefox and Chrome. A new contender in the marketplace is a script known as Readability which removes ads and sidebar navigation, converting a page back to text. The same is true of other programs like Instapaper or Read it Later. While many publishers cling to partial RSS feeds as way to drive advertising views to their websites, it’s becoming clear that partial feeds are no longer a viable solution. With the announcement that Apple has incorporated the ad stripping technology from Readability into their OS, this is becoming a problem we will have to deal with sooner rather than later. If you think ads won’t become part of computer operating systems, you might need to rethink your position. Publishers need to adapt and overcome–and they need to do it quickly if they plan to survive.

While this is still an evolving issue, fortunately there are solutions you can implement today. For example, if you are using WordPress as your cms, you can solve the problem with an off-the-shelf plugin Yet Another Related Post. Here’s a sample post presented five different ways: on the web, on Readability, from the mobile site, in an RSS reader, and in instapaper.

If you are a publisher and you are selling advertising, you have a few responsibilities: write posts that are on topic and engaging on a regular basis, make sure that as many people as possible are seeing the posts and the ads, and avoid obstacles that might prevent either of those first two conditions. Don’t let fear, antiquated stat collection, reporting, or bizarre business rules get in the way. If you do, you’re pulling a WAYMISH
photo credit: Jeff Kubina

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