I love OSX, I really do. But I love apple’s self laudatory announcement on finally adding fullscreen windows even more.
screw you, New York Times or: life outside the paywall
The New York Times is undoubtedly one of my favorite websites. Say what you will about the widely available content on the web, the Times is my paper of record for news, culture, and opinion. It’s been that way for a long time. It’s the first paper I check in the morning, and it’s my first favorite in the chrome launch window.
Which is why what the Times has started to do is so painful. I first noticed the changes a few months ago. Previously discreet video ads moved to the top of the page. Then they started expanding at will. I was never sure when clicking the “next” button in a story would lead to the interjection of a full page ad or an ajaxy video ad that expands itself across my window. The tactics being used are alarmingly similar to those used in the bad old days of pop ups (which most of us never see anymore thanks to built in pop up blocking technology).
I was, however, willing to put up with these problems. They aren’t great for my experience, but fine. Recently, however, the Times has really started to get on my nerves. They’ve begun to split articles up onto multiple pages for no particularly good reason. The standard length of a movie review was a single page. Now they stretch to two and three pages. Sometimes the final page is a single paragraph followed by rating information. Sometimes they slap more on. The message, though, is clear: we want you clicking internal links as many times as possible so that we have the opportunity to show you more ads.
And that is decidedly uncool to regular users of the site. It creates a suboptimal interaction where I begin to resent the ways in which I am forced to navigate on the page. And yet, I see why the Times is doing it. I know that they are being forced into increasingly desperate revenue generation tactics by the collapsing newspaper industry. Rupert Murdoch has begun throwing up paywalls all over the internet, whereas the Times is just trying to get me to look at more ads. For now, I’m willing to make that trade, but I wonder how far ahead the breaking point actually is. At what point have you degraded the customer experience enough that they will go to the paywall version? Is that an acceptable strategy? Would you achieve high levels of conversion? Would that be worth the damage to brand?
I have no idea how those dynamics play out in the long run, but I’d be curious to see it. It seems like it would lead to a Pyrrhic victory, but, at this point, I don’t know that newspapers can hope for anything better.
PS - I’ve consciously avoided discussing the bizarrely asynchronous design of the Times site. Why should Business Day and the Opinions section be structured in fundamentally different ways than the rest of the site. I’ve counted four different navigation bars across the site, which really does fly in the face of consistency and user familiarity. It feels almost as if they’re trying to make the user confused and annoyed.