Photo Credit: shutterstock
The online content world is broken and we need to realize it. In their desperate search for advertising dollars and new ways to monetize content, online content providers have apparently forgotten about the user experience. They think nothing of deploying annoying pop-up ads, videos that load without your approval, banner ads that seem to fly around the page as you scroll through an article, constant come-ons to subscribe, and full-page takeovers at unexpected moments. What’s sad about all this is that it’s not just a handful of bad apples doing this – it’s literally every major media company online these days.
The bad Forbes.com UX experience
Take, for example, the truly awful UX experience at Forbes.com. It’s amazing how bad the user experience is. The site is full of pop-ups, articles flying around, videos playing in the background (if they even manage to load at all in your browser), and huge banner ads everywhere. When you first land on the page, of course, everything looks OK. You see a list of “breaking news” items on the very top of the page, “popular articles” and “editors’ picks” on the right side bar, and a few interesting-looking articles right under the main page fold. But as soon as you start to scroll down the page, there’s a massive full-page ad takeover from Deloitte.
Then, once you’ve managed to click away that ad takeover, a whole new set of ads starts to materialize. You might click on an article about “Top 5 Digital Transformation Trends” and realize only too late that the “article” is really just sponsored content from T-Mobile.
As soon as you click on the article, your page is literally surrounded by garish pink ads for T-Mobile, making you realize that the content was really just a clever trap to get you to view some more ads.
So… you go back to the main page on Forbes.com and click on another article, this one about Bitcoin. This article, too, is not from a Forbes staff member – instead, it’s from a “contributor” who claims to be an expert on Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies (aren’t we all these days?). And as soon as you click on the article, you get a half-page banner ad on the top and a video promotion on the right hand side of the page. Can you even spot the content on the page anymore?
If you try to scroll down the page, the video promotion flies around to the left side of the screen, making it impossible to ignore. You’re also reminded that your “free” articles are almost over and it’s time to subscribe.
By now, of course, you’re done with Forbes.com. What happened to real Forbes editorial staff members and a pleasant, convenient UX experience for well-educated, curious readers?
Google and the page experience
Just about the only hope here is that companies like Google can convince online content providers to change their misguided ways. In November, Google announced that it would be making “page experience” a key factor in its search algorithm. In other words, if your page is full of annoying ads, full-page takeovers and incessant video promotions, you won’t show up high in Google search results.
And that new change is bound to have a cascading effect on the rest of the digital media space – SEO consultants will have to tell their clients to clean up their pages, content marketing specialists will have to advise companies to reconstruct the “Chinese wall” that once separated advertising and editorial, and social media consultants will have to tell clients that people aren’t going to be “engaging” with their content (i.e. liking, sharing, commenting) if they are so frustrated with the overall UX experience. Maybe then online content providers like Forbes.com will wake up and realize that the current content production model is seriously broken.