In the age of the internet and kindle, this sounds like a strange claim. Yet, I think the use of advertisements, links, pop-ups and other attention grabbing devices has reached the point where we are being conditioned to accept pay walls. I am seriously considering a return to the printed subscriptions to avoid the ads, the gimmicks, and the plethora of extraneous information provided on web pages.
What brought me to this point was an article in Forbes magazine. I like Forbes magazine and have read it for over 40 years. I grew up with it and a variety of other magazines. Our local library had a good choice of magazines. What I really enjoyed was reading he articles that I understood and trying to decipher the pictures on the ones I did not understand.
I particularly liked Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy because they had lots of text, large print (Foreign Affairs) or a easy to read column (Foreign Policy). I also liked to read Vanity Fair and leaf through the dozens of advertisements at the front of the magazine. The photos and advertisements were works of art in their own right.
What has made me pine for these simpler times are pages such as this from Forbes. Privacy Quiz: Are you a Mark Zuckerberg Or a Marc Rotenberg? The page displays everything that is wrong with electronic media and right about paper based media. It also reflects the inherent tension with online advertisements. People do not want them, but will accept them to keep content free.
First, I cannot read the article on one page. I am forced to read it over two or more pages. In the paper based version, this story would be done in less than a column or maybe two columns
Second, the number of advertisements is distracting. I cannot tell where the story begins or ends and the advertisements start and finish. There is just too much information being provided when 90% of the page is of no interest.
Third, the formatting of story is, well, poor. I appreciate that writing has changed on the internet because people skim read. They also jump to various parts of the text. However, the change in technology does not give licences to poorly written text, poorly structured grammar or logic, poorly thought out questions, or poorly considered article ideas. Compare and contrast the story with this one or this one from Forbes.
Fourth, the structure of the page seems to follow recommendations from the Poyntner eye tracking study. The study tracked how people read online newspapers and paper newspapers to understand they responded to different layouts. Despite the structure of the page, it misses the fundamental point. The reader is inconvenienced. The page looks like it is set up for the advertiser and not the reader. Most of the page tells me about something other than the article. What makes this worse is that it is stretched over two pages.
Fifth, the article tries to impart a lot of information without actually resolving the central question. We do not know how Marc Rotenberg would answer the questions.
You might say at this point, “Print the document to avoid the advertisements and the annoying graphics.” Alas, I tried that and the dreaded “Page not Found” launched instead.
The increased advertisements and gimmicks seem to move us to accept the need for pay wall. In the past, we may have suffered from link bait. Now we seem to be suffering from content bait. I had hoped the article was an aberration in its set up. Yet, it seems to a standard template followed on a number of sites. One hopes that when we are forced to go to pay walls that the content, which is what we want, is made available, clearly, directly and without gimmicks. Just like in the magazine.
- Why people are going mobile? The web is too slow. (thoughtmanagement.org)
- Is Forbes the model for a digital-first media entity? (gigaom.com)