Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
September 6, 2008 9:43 AM

Most Magazine And Newspaper Sites Are Tricking You (And Their Advertisers)

Why do Websites for magazines and newspapers always make you click through multiple pages to read one article online?

Do you know one person who likes having to click the "next" button multiple times to read one article online?

Isn't it terrible usability for the reader?

Why does the publishing industry do this?

It's simply about pumping more banner ads and offers into your face. Nothing more, nothing less.

In traditional print, your reading is constantly interfered with pages of advertising ("this story continued on page 259"). It's how the publishers make money and it's based on the mass media culture we've all become accustomed to. We see the same format across all traditional media channels - TV, radio and print. It has been called the "interruption advertising model" - you can't enjoy your content without some form of advertising interrupting the experience. Advertisers believe this be one of the more effective methods of getting their message across to the general public. Marketers will even interrupt your every day routine with messages (billboards on highways, ads in the subway, TV screens over the toilet and in elevators, etc...).

There's nowhere Marketers won't go to get your attention. 

While consumers claim to hate this intrusion and interruption, rest assured there would not be much of a Marketing industry if those actions did not yield some kind of significant return. In the past few years the Digital Marketing industry has been looking at many formidable ways to build a better marketing mousetrap. The results are not in and - for the most part - we're still in the discovery phases of this transition. What we do know is that bringing in the old and traditional ways of advertising  into the new digital channels is not yielding the best results. Click-throughs on banner advertising continues to be abysmal (the party line is that online display advertising is now a great branding tool) and open rates on generic email marketing campaigns continues to drop (it's all about building, customizing and personalization for success in that channel). Pay-per-click advertising on Search Engines is definitely spearheading this new "pull versus push" move towards better advertising.

So, why do magazine and newspaper Websites continue this terrible user experience of having to click through multiple web pages to read a 750 word article?

Is it possible that those two extra clicks of the mouse generate enough page impressions and banner ads served that it's worth the frustration to their readers? The answer must be yes.

Is an advertiser really "winning" when they know that their ad is only being served because the publisher is forcing the consumer to click that mouse and be frustrated with their online experience? I think the results of those ad campaigns probably tell the tale better than any of us could ever guess. But don't kid yourself into thinking that this type of advertising is anything more than a trick by the publishers to generate more pageviews and ad impressions.

Here's what I do: I click on the "print friendly" version. No ads, no multiple pages to click through. It's the full article, nice and clean. The same way you would have seen it in print (but without the ads).

By Mitch Joel