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Editor's Note: Do Boobytrapped Websites Capture Readers?

Oct 01, 2010, 23:02 (22 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Carla Schroder)

by Carla Schroder
Managing Editor

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results (Albert Einstein). Boobytrapped websites don't capture readers, they chase them away. So why do advertisers get increasingly obnoxious? Is there a parallel universe where obnoxiousness works?

If I didn't use ad and script blockers I would never make it through a workday, because disabling the ads speeds up page loads many times, and saves me from having to swat the junk out of the way like clouds of fat little flies just so I can read the articles. Hey, you know what articles are don't you? That's those little squished bits in between the ads. I might be the crazy one here, but those are what I visit Web sites to read.

Intellitext, popups, text ads that fake being parts of articles, interstitial ads, Flash ads, talking ads, those weird floating ads that follow you up and down the page, "surveys", social networking toolbars, mouseover ads, expanding ads, tracking cookies, Flash cookies, and on and on...my current special hatred is for those dratted social networking toolbars. Some sites have two, one on top and one on the bottom. They keep getting bigger, and it is annoying to have to search for the half-hidden close button.

Do these things really work? It doesn't seem likely. I'm not going to click a Facebook link, or Digg, or Reddit, or what-have-you just because it's thrust in my face. I'm not ever going to click on any ad that isn't pertinent and interesting to me in some way. Quite the contrary; the more they shout the less I listen. Which is sad, because we should have intersecting interests: we need stuff, they sell stuff.

"But advertising pays the bills." That is true. It pays my paycheck. So why employ counter-productive advertising tactics? Most Web ad campaigns stink. How many readers sit and patiently wait for some lardy, irrelevant Flash ad to load? What incentives do advertisers offer to entice potential customers to pay attention to their ads? Mostly none. It's crazy. Traditional newspaper ads work because they offer sales and coupons for things that people actually want. TV and radio ads work for the same reason, and the best marketing campaigns make their products appealing and desirable.

Compounding the problem is decreasing quality and quantity of original material and increasing torrents of swill from content farms, recycling the same shallow junk over and over merely to provide a framework to hang yet more ads on, and then SEO-gaming for all they're worth. Thanks, I so love it when the first page of a Google search is link farms and content farm crapola.

Consider supporting sites you enjoy, if they accept reader subscriptions or donations. For example, Groklaw and LWN.net serve up some of the best, most in-depth articles anywhere. Groklaw runs no ads, and LWN.net relies on subscriptions to help them keeps the ads to a minimum. As always, it comes down to the Golden Rule-- the one with the gold makes the rules. Me, I don't even want to live in a world controlled by marketers. Though I fear we are already mostly there.