angry online

Banner ads are killing news websites. It’s not because there are too few banner ads but because there are too many.

Specifically, there is a dizzying amount of take-over, roll-over, motion, pre-roll and other type of — calling a spade a spade — intrusive ads.

News sites appreciate intrusive ads because they generate more revenue based on higher CPMs, more views and more click-thrus.

But let’s not fool ourselves. The click-thru rate on such ads is hyperbole. Often times, readers accidentally click on the ad because the page loaded slowly. Or they were trying to click on the “X” to remove the ad to read the story, and again, by accident, clicked through.

This is not a simple annoyance for readers. They hate intrusive ads. Here are some responses a digital director shared.

I will no longer consider (Business name) a place to shop. I'm so sick of seeing their ads. You are forced to watch them!!!! (Business name) sucks!!!!!

I've found myself resenting those companies that have the ads that show up in your face whenever you do a search. I never click on one on purpose. Sometimes I accidentally click on one and I get so angry.

I was eating lunch just yesterday and this very topic came up, that (your website) is a great place to get news but the ads are out of control.

Is this a surprise? It shouldn’t be, considering ad blocker programs were developed based on customer need.

The only real surprise was the media’s reaction, which focused more on how to bypass ad blockers instead of asking why the programs were created in the first place: bad reader experience.

Take-over and motion ads do more than just create a bad visual experience for the reader. It also factors in slow load times, and newspaper websites in particular need no help with plodding websites.

On average, it takes the typical website 4 to 5 seconds to fully load. Newspaper websites by comparison take 17 seconds on average.

“It’s like inviting someone to your home, punching them in the face when they arrive, and then wondering why they don’t come back,” said Jim Brady of Spirited Media. “That’s what we’re doing when they come to our website and are hit with obnoxious and annoying ad experiences.”

happy online

Let’s call that the bad news. But there is good news: We can do better.

Recent studies by Gannett provided the following findings:

1. Better ad placement yielded similar or better results than intrusive ads.

2. Static banner ads had a four-time better click-thru rate than motion ads.

Here is where website designers can learn from newspapers in print form. According to a 2016 Local Knowledge survey, inserts in newspapers and newspaper print ads ranked second and third, respectively, in consumer “ad usefulness.” On the other end of the spectrum the most “annoying” ads were radio, TV and Internet ads (intrusive to the consumer experience). Print newspaper ads ranked the least annoying.

Why? Because print newspaper ads don’t take away from the user experience, but enhances it as the reader knows where the ads are at and seek them out instead of being force fed them. Let’s not forget, newspapers have one of the highest Return on Investments for ad clients, so we know the ad format works.

A not-so-crazy idea: Media sites should place static ads in known places and not on top of content, focusing to improve the reader experience.

However, there is a legitimate concern in doing so: The fear of lost revenue from intrusive ads.

The solution: Educating our clients on the benefit — and please excuse the language — of not pissing off the reader. Let them know of the better results from better ad placement, which will allow media companies to increase the CPM on such ads because they will be more effective for both the client and the media company.

The other option is to start transitioning away from banner ads and move toward native ads. Gannett and USA Today are doing just that, with a focus on a cleaner look.

“Native rescued us from the right rail and banner ads,” said Jason Jedlinski, who is Gannett’s VP of Product Management.

No one is better positioned to do this than media companies, newspapers in particular. It’s not just about content creation but trusted content creation, and newspapers are the clear leader on that front.

In our current digital format, the reader experience is clearly not good. We keep punching our guests in the face with slow load times and annoying ads. Yet, they still keep coming back since the value of the content is so good. But for how long?

Imagine how many more people would come if we opened the door and welcomed them and new media consumers with a better experience.

Imagine all the people …

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Jerry Raehal

Jerry Raehal is the CEO of Colorado Press Network and the Colorado Press Association. He likes playing with his children, grilling food and pretends to enjoy working out. He, like many people, hates takeover ads and has clicked too many times on trying to get rid of the ad only for it take him off the page. He understands the anger.