Don’t shoot the editor

Some days you want to place your name a little bit farther down the masthead. Like the days when PR people call you up and read press releases over the phone. Or when irate sources call up to say they wanted to see a copy of the article before it ran in the publication. When readers complain about our

ads, they don’t usually call, they e-mail. Which is good, because I would have no idea what to say.

There are probably many readers who would love to see news sites that have no advertising, but they have become accustomed to a certain amount of “messaging” as they browse the headlines. In our case, we’re dealing with some of the most tech-savvy advertisers in the world, and in some cases they are more than willing to experiment with rich media campaigns. These are the singing, dancing, animated superads that often contain Flash – and which usually draw the most ire.

I’m not going to get specific about which ads draw the most negative reader feedback (I’m not that stupid) but I thought it might be useful for marketing professionals to see the kind of reaction Flash campaigns evoke. The one below is fairly typical of the tone: 

(This ad) is extremely distracting and irritating.  When it’s happening at three different spots, it’s overkill.  I don’t know what the ad is about.  It’s worse than a Bad Boy ad . . .

Whenever there is an interesting article to read online and you have a flash ad on screen and, I always go to “print mode”.

Well, at least she’s still reading. Some readers get into the kind of technical analysis worthy of a benchmark test, and their verdict is not always the one we’d want to hear. Consider the following:

I appreciate the information gained from your site, but:

I suspect the cause is your ads, but browsing with firefox-101 (also sometimes IE-6-sp2 ) drives my 3.4Ghz-dual-core at 40 per cent to 80 per cent CPU (one core 60 per cent to 80 per cent, the other core 30 per cent to 50 per cent) and causes the fan to roaaaar, and causes apps to crawl sloooow.

I suspect this may not enhance your long-term business goals because your actions annoy me and affect my ability to do my job.  Your actions are encouraging me never to visit your site.

Will you please reconsider your advertising policy?

The answer, in a word, is no. As a publisher, our advertising policy is to meet our client’s needs to the best of our ability. I usually end up explaining to readers like these (and there have been plenty more of them, depending on the campaign we’re running at the time) that we are dependent on ads to provide the free service they’re enjoying. I tell them I hope they’ll consider staying with us.

It’s natural for those working on the creative side of an ad campaign that their focus is on the ads, not the Web sites in which they will be placed. But without taking into account the editorial space that will surround the ad – and the impact technically-demanding marketing content will have on the overall user experience – any message a company is trying to put out there will be met with resistance, if not rage. Take it from the guy who usually finds himself on the receiving end of it.

sschick@itbusiness.ca

Shane Schick is the editor of IT Business Pipeline.

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