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Michael Kay <[log in to unmask]>
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Thu, 28 Apr 2011 09:35:30 -0400
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Matthew Belge <[log in to unmask]>
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I have less experience in this matter than Michael Kay, but wanted to to say I completely agree with his analysis.
While its hard to tell advertisers, since they are the paying customer, what to do, high standards for ads does 
make a real difference both in the success of the ad and the relationship of the customer. 

Relationships are the key - readers will value these and begin to even seek them out. In the days when PC magazine was king, I heard from quite a few people who worked there that they had data showing that people would buy the magazine as much for the ads as for the magazine content. This turns out to be true about any subject about which people are passionate - a magazine about sail boats, vacations, food, or music would follow the same pattern. However, the key is that the ads have to speak to the readers passion. I heard it told that several car companies (BMW, etc) offered very large premiums to place ads in PC magazine, but the management team declined because it would detract from the reader experience.

In these cases, the ads form a type of synergy with the content provider. Developing policies along these lines will benefit advertisers, the reader and the publisher.

I used to work for a very high powered consulting firm, and one of our areas of expertise was creating ads and then buying placements for them. (I personally never worked on this part of the business, though.) But what I remember quite well is that the teams always strived for high relevance, building a relationship with the reader, and high creativity. If ads can do this, they will find much greater success and annoying practices like interstitial pages will not be necessary.

Best,
Matt

Matthew Belge
President
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781-259-9498



On Apr 28, 2011, at 8:01 AM, Michael Kay wrote:

From my days in the past working at newspapers and magazines, it was
constantly a struggle in the balance of advertising and content, and
judgment calls had to me made based on experience. We maintained that while
the content had to be superior in every case, advertising would get
placement in such a way to be best noticed. If the copy and the ads were
both clearly distinguished, in the way the page was divided, it was said to
serve both better the advertising and editorial goals. Some magazines
succeed by placing several pages of ads up front (or in the back) with
little or no editorial content, as the ads take on a life of their own. In
pages mixed with ads, I found that the ads in some cases even helped the
layout of articles that occupied less than an entire page.

In the web we have seen pop-ups and interstitials, which in a newspaper or
magazine would be the equivalent of putting the ad at the top of the page
above the article, forcing the reader/user to recognize it before the
content. You get more clicks this way, but it is hardly a good way to create
good will with your users in either mission of advertising or content. They
tend to feel that the content is filler for the forced ads, and the users
can create negative associations toward those advertisers who are thrust on
them. And eventually the effectiveness of those techniques wear off as users
grow accustomed to ignoring them.

Google and others have worked on providing more relevant advertising. If
advertising is smart, and made more relevant, the users would tend to have
better associations with both the advertising and the content. So much as
even the users may see the advertising as more of a value-added service
rather than an intrusion. In this, the ads work best separated from the
content and clearly distinguished as advertising. An easy, at-hand example
would be a travel forum where an ad placed to the side of a discussion
provides a means to buy an on-sale ticket or vacation package to the
destination discussed. The ads can appear in a separate column on the page,
or below the content, or somehow embedded in the content in such a way that
is not confused as content. The idea is to make them clearly appear as ads,
while not interrupting the user's experience with the content.

Another thing to keep in mind, a crappy ad will never work no matter what
you do. Well-made and relevant ads will. So a lot is at the mercy of what
the advertisers provide.

--Michael Kay



2011/4/28 Jeff Johnson <[log in to unmask]>

> Colleagues,
> 
> A friend who is a webmaster for several sites, some for-profit and some
> non-profit, asked me the following question:
> 
> "Questions come up about a particular area of UX in our case -- the optimal
> balance of content vs advertising elements in the design of a web page.  If
> advertising runs the show, we risk cheapening the value of our content and
> brand; if content runs the show, advertising complains about lost revenue
> opportunities.  I'm hoping there might be some best practice guidelines
> available from content providers who've fought these battles recently? Would
> appreciate any pointers you can offer."
> 
> We already checked Jakob's UseIt.com for relevant advice, and found some.
> Does anyone have any other advice?
> 
> Thanks,
> Jeff Johnson
> UI Wizards, Inc.
> 
> 

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