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Some publishers give Facebook and Google visitors a worse user experience

6 October 2017

From Digiday:

Publishers like to talk about their commitment to user experience. But not all users are alike. Like any consumer business, publishers have their high-value customers. They’re the people who visit the site regularly, are registered users and receive email newsletters. They might even be paying subscribers or members. Their reward is a clean, user-friendly site.

People who come through search or social typically pay little or nothing, either in the form of direct revenue, attention or information about themselves, and their experience may be riddled with come-ons to subscribe, more spammy ads and more intrusive ads, including autoplay video. Even the hallowed New York Times serves autoplay ads to some readers who come in through search and occasionally others.

“Everybody does it,” one publishing exec quipped.

One product exec at a publisher described how the publisher grouped readers into four tiers based on their value to the company. At the top of the food chain are people who pay directly. At the bottom are readers who come through social media links the publisher paid for. The exec (who asked to be anonymous because some of these decisions haven’t been made) said non-paying readers are shown in-stream ads that paying readers don’t see and that the publisher was considering cramming more ads and intrusive newsletter sign-up messages on pages seen by readers who come through paid social.

“There are lines you won’t cross with your loyal audience that you’ll cross with your fly-by-night audience,’’ the exec said. “We’re less concerned with ruining the user relationship because we don’t have a user relationship. We’re going to be as aggressive as we can about turning that into a longer relationship.’’

Link to the rest at Digiday and thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for the tip.

As PG read the OP, he was reminded how stupid some decision-making management can be.

How do you obtain new customers? By giving them a poor experience when they first arrive at your website/store/office?

When someone arrives at a website they haven’t visited before (often via Google), he/she will form an opinion about that website, including whether they want to visit again, within a few seconds. If those few seconds are a bad experience, they’re gone. If they remember the website at all, it will be cast in a negative light. “I don’t know why Janice likes that site. It’s a mess.”

PG understands his reactions to websites he hasn’t seen before are not the same as everyone’s reactions, but when he is hit by a barrage of popups, ads, etc., he almost immediately leaves and whatever prompted him to visit in the first place goes into the huge internet bucket of broken promises (in part because he uses an ad-blocker and any site that engineers ads to avoid his ad-blocker is not a site he wants to visit for a lot of reasons having nothing to do with its unique content).

“There are lines you won’t cross with your loyal audience that you’ll cross with your fly-by-night audience” assumes your loyal audience is pretty much maxed out, so you need to get a fraction of a cent from everybody else via an ad impression, etc., because they’re all fly-by-night.

But in the standard course of operations for most commercial web sites, you’re leaking customers, high-value visitors, etc., on a regular basis but not working on replacing them in an intelligent manner.

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing

32 Comments to “Some publishers give Facebook and Google visitors a worse user experience”

  1. I was on YouTube last night. I had selected a one-hour electronic dance music track to write with.

    It was interrupted after three minutes by an ad. Three minutes after the track started with an ad.

    The next ad came at the 11-minute mark.

    So YouTube hit me with three ads within 11 minutes.

    That’s when I closed the tab.

    • I think it’s stupid of Youtube to put ads in the middle of the video. It often interrupts right in the middle of a sentence and I never watch those ads. I’m actually more likely to watch an entire ad at the beginning of a video.

    • IIRC, that’s a setting option for the content creator when they publish… but they might not realize the effect of whichever setting it is. Hopefully some people have mentioned it in the comments so they can adjust.

      My husband and I use a 10-hour “white noise” Youtube recording sometimes to sleep to, and so far, at least, none of them have been interrupted by ads – what a horrible way to wake up that would be!

  2. I don’t bother clicking links to articles from our local newspaper anymore because I feel physical pain every time I see their URL. If a barrage of intrusive ads and illegibly-scattered formatting is what it takes to make a buck in the business today, then maybe they should quit.

    • My local paper’s site has one advertiser that foists pop-ups on the first link you click on the link. If I go to the site, which is seldom because of the pop-ups, I keep my cursor in the right position so I can click to close the ad within a split second. I emailed the advertiser, saying if I ever need a car, their business is the one I wouldn’t go near. I even grit my teeth when I drive past their business. I asked them if they thought it is wise to create ill-will with the very people they’re trying to entice. They responded to say they were in the process of evaluating their advertising. That was months ago but nothing has changed. I’ve never bought anything pushed via a pop-up, but I have from time to time purchased an item that’s quietly off to the side of the site.

  3. “We’re less concerned with ruining the user relationship because we don’t have a user relationship. We’re going to be as aggressive as we can about turning that into a longer relationship.’’

    That’s hilarious. That’s like some dude going on a first date and being a complete a-hole/stalker, assuming his date will know that if she just marries him, he’ll turn into a total sweetie.

    These people are morons who’ve entirely forgotten the concept of “make a good first impression”.

    • “We don’t like where these potential customers came from, so we’re going to jerk them around and run them off.”

      What they’re saying is, “WE DON’T WANT YOUR MONEY.”

      I’m reminded of the time I went into a computer store, circa 1985, with several thousand 1985 dollars burning a hole in my pocket. After failing to be waited on, I walked over to a group of salesman-looking individuals who were standing together chatting.

      “Excuse me…”

      They all turned to look, and one of them said, “Do you MIND?! We’re having a sales meeting!”

      Oh. Well, then, there were surely advertisers in Computer Shopper who would be happy to take my money. And there were, too…

      • That is a hilarious story. My LOL really was out loud.

        Once in a restaurant I ordered a bottle of wine because I wanted it opened while I waited for my fiance to arrive. The restaurant employee told me it was their last bottle of that wine so he couldn’t sell it to me. I asked him if he was saying he couldn’t sell it to me because then he wouldn’t have it to sell to someone else. He said yes. I *think* he figured a woman alone wouldn’t leave an adequate tip. We did end up getting the wine.

        • Several years ago my wife was taking a college course two nights a week. I decided I would cook for myself one night and go out to eat on the other. I quickly discovered that most restaurants DESPISE single diners. On a couple of occasions I was ignored at the front desk in the hope that I would get fed up and leave. On another I was seated but no one would take my order until I insisted on speaking with the manager. There was one place though that seemed comfortable with single diners: IHOP.

          • When I was in my twenties (cough cough years ago), I wanted a steak, so I went (alone) to a restaurant/bar known for its charbroiled steaks. I was alone. As soon as I stepped in the door, the owner(?)/manager(?) took me by the arm, spun me around, and took me back outside. No conversation, no response when I asked him what and why questions. I was bewildered at the time, but over time I realized he thought I was a hooker.

            • Wow. That’s pretty outrageous. Nowadays, at least we have online reviews to tell people about experiences like that.

              I can’t actually recall ever having been mistreated as a single diner, but that’s probably because I don’t really go out to eat, much less to fancier places. I’d just as soon grab something to go and take it home. But my older single aunt used to complain about such treatment. It’s pretty ridiculous how some businesses treat customers.

    • That’s like some dude going on a first date and being a complete a-hole/stalker, assuming his date will know that if she just marries him, he’ll turn into a total sweetie.

      Hmm, based on cases I used to process, that strategy is not wrong in the romantic arena. Sadly, an awful lot of people really believe that marriage will turn a jerk into a sweetie. They’re always 100% wrong about this, though.

      I’ll give another plug for the browser Brave, which as far as these sites are concerned is the equivalent of throwing a glass of wine in their faces.

      • “Sadly, an awful lot of people really believe that marriage will turn a jerk into a sweetie.”

        This is what so annoys me about the preponderance of bad boy romance books. It’s a very dangerous and unhealthy sort of female fantasy that I really don’t think we ought to be encouraging because a startlingly large number of (mostly) women actually buy into it and enact it in their own lives. (I liken it to the equally unrealistic male fantasy of women who are perfectly pure and untainted until they meet that one man who they’re willing to drop their pants for, be absolutely loyal to, share with uncountable other women, do whatever he wants, be constantly available (but never clingy), be totally low-maintenance and non-jealous, and never expect a commitment. Both of these fantasies are extremely harmful to human society as a whole because they get in the way of people forming actual, healthy romantic relationships. Basically, the female fantasy is that she can fix the jerk, and the male fantasy is to find a woman who’s happy with a jerk. I want to yell at them both, “No! Stop it! Neither of those things are things!”)

        “I’ll give another plug for the browser Brave, which as far as these sites are concerned is the equivalent of throwing a glass of wine in their faces.”

        I’ve started using Brave as my default browser recently. So far, so good. It’s a little annoying to have to log into websites more frequently, but it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.

        • You’ve nailed it. Running into these cases everyday made me a bit of a misanthrope. I still get suspicious when I hear wedding announcements as in, “Hmm, I wonder what problems they’re sweeping under the rug?”

          The glorious thing about the passage of time is that it takes me further and further away from those days 🙂

        • @ Shawna

          “Sadly, an awful lot of people really believe that marriage will turn a jerk into a sweetie.”

          Yup. I’ve seen this (usually) feminine behavior more than once. It’s sad. And a lot of romance fiction buys into the “I’ll kiss this frog and he’ll turn into my prince.” fairy tale meme.

          Only the frog doesn’t turn into a prince. It turns into a snake… a poisonous one with fangs. 🙁

          A lot of women are attracted to such guys. They’re exciting and possible make-over candidates, smoothed out by the woman’s touch. But they don’t make very good spouses, discovered too late. Pamela Anderson Lee is a good example of that.

      • Jamie, RE: Brave

        Based entirely on the recommendations of TPV habitues, I downloaded and installed Brave. Ran into a problem with the install, so I uninstalled and installed again.

        Brave is great. When it runs. Which is not long.

        I commonly run Kindle for PC, Calibre, and Scrivener concurrently with my browser. I switch around to all these. I find that under these conditions, Brave hangs up and hangs up bad. I have to go to Task Manager and kill it.

        IMO Brave is not ready for prime time. I like it when it works, but I find it unreliable.

        Gimme a heads up when Brave 2.0 comes out. I will try it again.

        • Ah, that’s unfortunate. I haven’t had that problem; I routinely run Brave, Scrivener, and various Adobe CS6 Suite products at the same time. But–I had to increase my RAM to do all that since Adobe products are such memory hogs. Since most people don’t do upgrades I’ll be more cautious about the recommendations in the future.

    • That’s like some dude going on a first date and being a complete a-hole/stalker, assuming his date will know that if she just marries him, he’ll turn into a total sweetie.

      Hmm, based on cases I used to process, that strategy is not wrong in the romantic arena. Sadly, an awful lot of people really believe that marriage will turn a jerk into a sweetie. They’re always 100% wrong about this, though.

      I’ll give another plug for the browser Brave, which as far as these sites are concerned is the equivalent of throwing a glass of wine in their faces.

    • Best analogy, ever!!! 😀

  4. “We’re going to be as aggressive as we can about turning that into a longer relationship.”

    Why not? It worked so well for Radio Shack. 😉

  5. It kind of makes you wonder if these decision makers actually surf the Internet. Perhaps their personal assistants just print out hard copies of the stuff they should read.

    • Well, that, or they may only go to select corners of the internet, which include the sites with pricey subscriptions (that they pay). They don’t see the “coach class” treatment in the first place. In their offline lives they tend to be well-compensated.

  6. I can guarantee that visitors to my website will find NO popups, NO ads, NO pain, just stuff about my books. True, it’s an outdated design (doesn’t flow), managed with outdated software (anybody else remember Front Page?), and my entire IT department consists of my brother on the other side of the country. But it’s friendly!

    I think people come back. But I don’t have those fancy tracking plug-ins, so I’m not sure.

    • Yeah, I keep my plug-ins to a minimum, so I don’t even know how many visitors I get or where they click. Mo plug-ins, mo problems. 😉 I just told myself not to care about site stats, and that’s worked out pretty well so far.

  7. but when he is hit by a barrage of popups, ads, etc., he almost immediately leaves and whatever prompted him to visit in the first place goes into the huge internet bucket of broken promises (in part because he uses an ad-blocker and any site that engineers ads to avoid his ad-blocker is not a site he wants to visit for a lot of reasons having nothing to do with its unique content).

    You aren’t the only one. I can’t stand popping into a site and being hit with a pop up, especially those that don’t seem to have any way to shut them off. Sometimes I’m just following a link to some bit of info, so I guess I’m not the customer they’re looking for. Too bad for them, because I won’t come back.

    • Yeah. It’s like walking into a store to have a browse and there’s a dancing clown in the foyer, and as soon as you walks in, he locks eyes with you and starts dancing your way. It’s an immediate “Nopenopenopenope” and right back out the door.

  8. Is this a case of Chesterton’s Fence? If lots of people are doing something, perhaps they have a reason we don’t know?

    How many ways does a site owner have to make money, and how can he max revenue by profiling users?

    • Is this a case of Chesterton’s Fence?

      Nope.

      If lots of people are doing something, perhaps they have a reason we don’t know?

      Monkey see, monkey do. It’s a real thing, and I can tell you about hours and months and years of wasted time down the hole because the higher ups jumped on bandwagons without understanding them.

      The reason for crappy internet experiences: Cluelessness.

      Having sat in on meetings where adblockers were discussed, this is the reason I’m going with. Having talked to the advertising team, this is the reason I’m going with.

      They genuinely believe that adblockers are something that’s happening to them. They genuinely do not understand that adblockers are a natural consequence of their own bad behavior.

      Here’s a test: how many sites that ask users to whitelist them promise not to serve up obnoxious ads that put malware on your system, freeze up your system, or blast music you didn’t ask for? Instead, what I always see is Your adblocking hurts us. Please stop. No acknowledgement for the legitimate reasons why the customer would block them. All ad adblocking looks alike to them.

      I’ve never seen or heard evidence that they can tell the difference between a customer who would view a well-behaved ad from a customer who just blindly wants everything to be free. Or, second option, you’re just supposed to put up with the obnoxiousness for the greater good.

      To be fair, I’m not sure that these people spend much time on the internet to start with. To be even more fair, the ad team / decision makers weren’t selected for their ability to beta test what the end-user sees and experiences.

      How many ways does a site owner have to make money, and how can he max revenue by profiling users?

      Step 1: Do not annoy the customers.
      Step 2: Believe customers when they complain that you are annoying them. Don’t try and browbeat them into lowering their standards enough to put up with lousy behavior. Isn’t this Business 101, “give the people what they want”?

      • Something dumb that advertisers do is run a static ad for an item, but when the would-be customers click on the ad, they’re taken to a website that demands you enter your email address before you can even shop on the site. That’s an instant off-my-list-of-retailers-I’ll-do-business-with.

        • Thank you, Patricia! They’re on my never-shop list as well. If their metrics are any good, they “spot” people like you and me who will never get beyond that first layer. Will it make them change their behavior? Probably not.

      • Can you tell us the specific reason site owners are engaging in this activity? If we asked them, what would they say? From their perspective, why are they doing it? (I presume they wouldn’t say they do it because they are ignorant.)

        Unless we know that, we don’t have reason to tear down Chesterton’s Fence.

  9. More Trad Pub stupidity. Verging on suicidal stupidity in the long term, IMHO.

    Popcorn time?

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