I made an interesting discovery the other day. In the course of setting up a new system at the office, I created a fresh Windows 2000 installation for the first time in a year or so. After browsing the web for a while, I realized something was different, but I couldn’t quite tell what it was. Then I realized that there were no snowflakes falling down on the Weather Channel site, no cars screeching across the New York Times, and no full-size Palm Pilot’s blocking my view of Dilbert. Although Orbitz pop-up ads kept appearing on a regular basis, the overall web experience was far more productive.
Eventually a pop-up window came up, informing me that I needed to install Flash to view some element of a page I was visiting. Of course, I was being asked to install this extra software solely so that I could view an ad; I wasn’t going to get any new content. So I clicked no, and for good measure went into my IE options and completely disabled ActiveX downloads. I consider myself a savvy computer user and software developer, but actually going and turning off Flash to reduce the intrusiveness of online advertising had simply not occurred to me.
Four days later, I haven’t noticed a single difference, except that the Weather Channel web site is usable again, and I haven’t had to sit around and be frustrated for fifteen or thirty seconds at a time while an ad marches across my screen and attempts to trick me into clicking on it. Like most people, I begrudge wasted time, which is also why I own a DVR.
I don’t feel the least bit guilty about undermining the business model behind web sites with Flash based advertising. They’re too annoying, and annoyance for information is not a trade-off I’m interesting in making. But there really is a problem here: running sites like www.nytimes.com is not an inexpensive proposition, and I’m not naive enough to expect that they’ll be able to keep functioning after all of their revenue streams are removed. I’m willing to pay for things I find useful; but I’d rather pay in money than in time and aggravation.
More to come…
By not participating in advertising like this, are we undermining the financial stability of the web? Will we just end up with even less palatable and accessible models?