Is this annoying to anyone else?
November 28, 2000 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Is this annoying to anyone else? I usually get most of my news from either or, then this morning I noticed that every time I load ABCnews, an annoying ad banner pops up for AT&T over the browser toolbar. I know that big sites have used popups before (usually as announcements or something else), but an ad popup on such a major site seems like an even further blurring of that line between media and advertising. I guess I'm switching news sources.
posted by almostcool (18 comments total)
I've been annoyed with CNN's popup to "choose an edition" since I'm always switching computers and browsers, but at least it goes away after you set the cookie.

I know CNN is trying to provide a custom experience, but I bet they're doing it to track where users are coming from (so they can say x number of people are from the US and read the US edition, and y number of people prefer the European version) so they can target ads.
posted by mathowie at 1:41 PM on November 28, 2000

On Linux, for whatever reason, CNN's "Choose an Edition" NEVER goes away. Pops up every time, even though I accept all cookies.
posted by waxpancake at 1:48 PM on November 28, 2000

I prefer The CSMonitor.
posted by silusGROK at 1:54 PM on November 28, 2000

I know CNN is trying to provide a custom experience, but I bet they're doing it to track where users are coming from...

But if a window pops up every time I hit the US CNN site asking me if I want to choose the European version instead, then they already know where I am: I'm in Europe on a French ISP and the IP numbers prove it. The IP allocations are not so vast that they can't be mined for location fairly easily: Netscape and Microsoft used to do it with the 128-bit encryption browsers were illegal for export; Yahoo is doing it now to prevent Nazi schlock from showing up on French computers.

[I finally just said "Screw it!" and went with the European version. I do like it better: less election news.]
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:45 PM on November 28, 2000

While the popup was annoying per usual, I think the Philip Morris banner ad on the front page was worse.

That, and that whole top third of the page... who designed that thing?
posted by hijinx at 3:55 PM on November 28, 2000

i complained to them the week before the election. they kept popping up this contest entry form. they actually responded. they told me "it was just until the election, for the contest". well, the election has come and gone, and so have a plethora of annoying popups. i've all but abandoned them, but not before telling them why.
posted by quonsar at 4:18 PM on November 28, 2000

So you want the content that these sites have, but you never want to see annoying ads? Or you want the ads to be out of the way and non-obtrusive?

Perhaps you'd also like to get rid of those annoying commercials on TV. Or maybe you'd rather not get junk mail or the little cards in your magazines?

Maybe you'd rather make ads illegal?

Who do you want to pay for all this content? The tooth fairy?

They aren't charging you jack squat to use the content and still you whine.
posted by y6y6y6 at 6:06 PM on November 28, 2000

Jon, it's the use of popup ads. There isn't an offline equivalent that I can think of for popup ads. They're so annoying that people are switching between the many news sites, just because of their use. Doesn't that make you think the advertisers are going a bit too far?
posted by mathowie at 6:09 PM on November 28, 2000

Me, yes it's true that I don't want to see ads, and I don't care about the money. Which is why I use a program which blocks certain addresses and certain HTTP patterns, so that when I load web pages the ads don't load.

Why? Because the pages load a lot faster that way. In many cases the ad is hosted on a different server than the parent page, and the parent page loads fast but the ad server is overloaded. Also, the ad companies use cookies to track where I've been and it's none of their mumble business.

I'm well aware of the economics and I'm uninterested.

What I object to is that as time goes on I'm subjected to more ads, more places, moreoften and they're more obnoxious. If there were fewer ads, fewer places and they were more tasteful I think I would care much less. The problem is that the ad industry never saw a place they didn't think would be improved with an advertisement. Each year I'm astounded to find someplace new that advertising pops up where I didn't think they'd have the gall to put it. They're completely out of control, and at least online I can fight back. They can put their ads on the web page, but they can't force me to load them. I control my computer, not them.

TV is an interesting case. Over my lifetime, a higher number of minutes per hour is dedicated to advertising and a lower number to content. Right now I'd say it's probably twice what it was when I was a kid. There are cable channels which are 100% advertising. I'm astounded that anyone watches them, but someone must or they'd be out of business (and a lot of overage undertalent movie stars would be starving).

My TV has a "mute" button on the remote control; the TV makers are no fools and know who pays them, and it ain't the ad agencies. The omnipresent "mute" button is there because the majority of people are fed-up with excessive and obtrusive advertising.

Many people tape the programs they want to watch and then watch the tape, just so they can skip over the advertising.

If they would just exercise restraint, they wouldn't be getting this backlash.

Back to browsers, popup windows are particularly obnoxious because I have to manually make them go away, and that's one of the things my firewall permits me to control on a per-site basis. There are very few sites I permit to create popup windows.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:21 PM on November 28, 2000

y6y6y6: they don't do crap like this on television. what if you had to hit a button on your remote in order to return from commercial break? your tv would join millions of others in dumpsters across the nation. on the web they are testing the waters. we need to be sure they know there is a dangerous undertow.
posted by quonsar at 7:25 PM on November 28, 2000

"Doesn't that make you think the advertisers are going a bit too far?"

Matt - I think the state of consumerism we have reached in this county became ridiculous a couple decades ago. But until we find some other way to market, I think we're stuck with it. And no, I don't think they go to far when taken in the context of other media. Especially when you consider that the content on these sites is free.

Can we agree that these sites have to either charge for access or run ads that will get noticed? You don't like it, and neither do I, but that seems to be the economic reality. I hate pop ups, but I also get real tired of people whining without offering a solution.

"I'm well aware of the economics and I'm uninterested."

Well, thanks for contributing.

"If they would just exercise restraint, they wouldn't be getting this backlash."

What backlash? People whining about ads? I don't think that will ever get Madison Avenue's attention. I suspect they're happy for the attention.

"they don't do crap like this on television."

What are you talking about? They halt the program! So you wouldn't mind if websites just shut down and showed ads every 15 minutes?
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:09 PM on November 28, 2000

The backlash:

* running a firewall which permits you to control HTTP access so that ads don't load.
* Taping your TV shows, then watching them on tape so you can fast-forward past the ads

For a while the networks were sending a slightly different signal during ads and program and someone sold a VCR which would record the program but not the ads. (The networks got wise and quit altering the signal.)

That's the backlash. But more of it is passive. When advertising is everywhere, people learn to ignore it -- and do. And that's backlash, too.

Or me: I no longer watch TV; the ads got too much for me, so I stopped.

I am one of many people who will never, never, never purchase anything which is sold by telephone solicitation. That's backlash. I don't even care what the product is; if they call me on the phone to sell it to me, I boycott that product forever.

And I'm not alone. Some of these guys have taken to sabotaging advertising.

posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:23 PM on November 28, 2000

The Internet news sites are presently inundated with reports that more and more dotcoms are doing what naysayers have been expecting them to do for some time. "Invalid Stock Value." They're crashnburning. In droves. Why? No one can come up with a decent way to sell enough advertising to insure steady revenue. Even the big names in dotcoms (eBay, Amazon, ZDNet) are either doing only nominally well or just barely treading water. Money makes the 'Net go around. If they can't sell ads, it's only a matter of time before the Information Superhighway becomes a much more expensive tollroad.

I hate the obnoxious runt as much as you do, but the party's over if Spuds MacKenzie's got no place to bark.

We should begin to at least pretend to advertisers, for the Internet's sake, that we give a crap about ads. The more ads the merrier. Let them spend their money. When they ask you, by all means tell them you buy everything online and read every ad and click on anything that says BUY ME. Then politely and quietly boycott any company that annoys you with ads. The advertisers are happy in their illusion that ads actually work. The dotcoms can keep their doors open. We still get the Internet for next to nothing. Everybody's happy.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:26 AM on November 29, 2000

I'm just hoping that these sites will find a way to keep giving us this content for free. I tend to think that pop ups are too annoying to pan out, but if they want to try.......

I personally find them much less annoying than junk mail and magazine inserts. That's just me.

"That's the backlash."

I still say that's more wanking than backlash. I don't think advertiser give a rats ass about the 1% of users who do things like this.
posted by y6y6y6 at 5:32 AM on November 29, 2000

I like magazine inserts, but mostly because I almost never read through a magazine in one setting. It's like a free bookmark (or 10) in every magazine. :-)

My problem with pop-ups is that I'm extremely anal about what happens to my computer, and what's on the screen at any given time. It's my computer, and it's one of the few things I can excercise a modicum of control over. When a site starts taking control (either view pop-ups or by blowing up to full-screen) I get peeved. The site's value to me ultimately goes down.

y6^3, I most definetely understand the point that advertising drives a lot of sites, especially ones like ZDNet or CNN, where the only revenue they get is from advertisement. But if pop-ups drive visitors away (which, I think this thread prooves, they do) then it's a revenue model that just doesn't work.

Banner ads are pretty much ubiquitous. Seeing a site without a banner ad is far more noteworthy than seeing one with, so obviously users are pretty comfortable with them.

I agree that complaining without offering solutions is a reasonably pointless activity, and I do wish I had one to offer, but to me pop-ups are far more of an interface or useability issue than an anti-advertising one.

For one thing, if I'm browsing with the window maximized (which I do at home, because I have a small monitor) and the pop-up takes the focus, it breaks the site flow.

Note that I have no problems with pop-ups or full-screening that are clearly identified as such. "Clicking this link will open a new window, full-screened." Even going to someone's personal site that opens links in new windows without warning irritates me, even though I tend to right-click and Open In New Window links. It seems a little silly, but by not warning the user what's going to happen, you change the functionality of the browser, and as Jakob will happily charge you $10,000 to tell you, breaking the browser functionality is a severe no-no. :-)
posted by cCranium at 5:45 AM on November 29, 2000

Matt (way up there) -

There isn't an offline equivalent that I can think of for popup ads.

I got one: the ads you see on ReplayTV, should you pause the recorder. Yep, you'll get an ad - no choice - and you have to clear it off the screen, just as a pop up window.
posted by hijinx at 7:30 AM on November 29, 2000

another offline equivalent for popup ads: perfumed pages in magazines

Even though I requested a perfume-free magazine, I still can't wade through my Texas Monthly without getting overwhelmed by Solicitation by Calvin Klein.
posted by Avogadro at 8:06 AM on November 29, 2000

They named a perfume Solicitation? Ye Gods. What next? Rape me?
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:49 AM on November 29, 2000

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