In the world of online advertising, a “new” phenomenon has recently started to rear its ugly head. Generally, for larger sites to keep themselves in business, some space needs to be set aside in the site to put little adverts up. Then the nice companies give the nice people a certain amount of nice money, and everyone is happy.
Well, except the users who have to trawl through advertising to read content.
It would be nice to have a world where no advertising was needed, where websites could just publish their content and we could read it, and no advertising would be needed. That would be nice. Very nice. However, the world doesn’t work like that, and I reckon most of us can accept that advertising is a necessary evil online.
However, as such advertising gets more widespread, people get more used to it and are thus less likely to click on it. So then more advertising is needed to generate revenue, and so the vicious circle continues. This has caused ever more intrusive techniques to be used, from pop-up adverts to inter-paragraph adverts to interstitials (pages that display an advert instead of the page you actually wanted) and more recently those annoying Flash adverts which pop up in front of the page you’re reading, and you have to search around for the elusive “close this” button which will let you get rid of it.
Unfortunately, the newest technique, known as IntelliTXT is even more insidious and annoying. For the detailed story, I’d encourage readers to study this Wired.com article (although you may want to be cautious of the fact that loading that page apparently causes Firefox to consume about 60% of one’s CPU resources – this seems to be caused, ironically enough, by a Flash advert). The basic story is that, instead of keeping the adverts clearly separate from the actual content, particular words (such as “developer”, “worm” or “sound card”) are converted into links which look just like “real” links, except they cause a little box to pop up linking to a sponsored site.
This technique claims to be 24 times more effective than other advertising methods, and I can tell you why in a second – it’s because it essentially revolves around tricking the user into thinking an advert is actually a legitimate link to something which might actually be of interest. While I do appreciate that websites need to make money to keep going, this seems to be taking it a little too far, such that it is pretty much deceiving people to do so.
Addendum: you may or may not remember that Microsoft tried to implement something a little similar into Internet Explorer 6, although that was on the side of the client rather than the server. That got dropped like a hot brick after people started screaming – hopefully IntelliTXT will go the same way.