Online News Sites Beware: Advertisers That Act as Reader Repellent

Posted on July 18, 2014


If your ads are too distracting, you’re just making me leave the page I am on to seek out my content elsewhere… the opposite of the desired effect.


Lila is a big consumer of news articles. I know that sites have to be funded by something, and since most people don’t want to pay subscription fees for online media, that funding comes from ads. I have reconciled myself to seeing ads in the margins or on banners at the top or bottom of a page. I am only mildly annoyed when an ad pops up, either because my pop-up blocker has failed or because I accidentally passed my mouse cursor over a pop-up link.   At least I can then close those and get on with my reading.

I am even resigned to having to ignore all manner of snake-oil claims about “The one strange fruit that burns fat!” or “70-year-old grandma looks 25!” although one might have wished that truth in advertising would extend to the internet as well as other media sectors.

But when ads remain visible in the margins, constantly and rather joltingly shifting their images such that I might be risking a seizure just by seeing them, with no option to still them or close them… well, it’s pretty hard to tune those out. I have from time to time resorted to holding a piece of paper over that part of the screen… that’s how distracting that type of blinking, flashing, shifting, visually screeching ad can be. And if the article is a long one, well… I’m not going to sit there with my arm suspended toward my computer monitor in an effort to block out the distraction that’s preventing me from reading your content.  Nope.  I will simply cruise off to a visually quieter website where I can read in peace.

This came up over the weekend when I went to the Science Recorder to read an article about the origins of consciousness. In the margin were two ads (Dr. Oz: “Better than a facelift!”) which consisted of four images that constantly, and rapidly, switched from one to another… hitting all four images every second.  They go by so fast you can hardly even tell what you’re looking at.   To see what I mean, have a look here.  I refuse to click that thing, even if only because it is so… danged… obnoxious!  And clicking it won’t make it go away, anyhow.

I get it, I really do: advertisers are always looking to grab your attention, and wow, these jarring images certainly do get your attention. The thing is, they won’t let my attention go!! They are so distracting (in a vaguely nauseating way) that I can’t ignore them in order to read the content I was interested in.

Web editors and managers, take note: The internet being what it is, I will simply close your page and go find the content somewhere else. It is exceptionally rare that any information will come only from one source. If your advertisers are annoying as hell, I won’t hang around long enough to consume your content. And I sure won’t reward those advertisers by clicking on their obnoxiousness. That kind of stuff is not “click bait,” it is click repellent.