Saturday, 24 October 2015
The Bristol Post and THOSE Oh-so-annoying pop-up adverts!
A few weeks back, in one of my more frustrated moments of attempting to access the Bristol Post website through the jungle of adverts, I sent my second lot of tweets to the Local World address - the group that runs the paper. When I looked back on what I had written, and saw the encouragement I received from others who felt exactly the same, I decided that a good old-fashioned letter to the editor - or Chief Executive - could be the order of the day.
I know that even for the best social-media focused companies, unfortunately tweets often get lost in the masses and don't reach the people they need to so I figured this was perhaps a more constructive way.
Below is my open letter, penned to the CEO of Local World, Mr David Montgomery. The reason I have decided to publish this online is because they have been good enough to send me not one, but two, positive and communicative responses, of which I give full credit to them for doing so. Even a written letter is so easy to ignore amongst the masses of communications senior business people receive on a daily basis.
Dear Mr. Montgomery,
As a hugely frustrated reader of, and contributor to, the Bristol Post online website, I hope you take this letter with the good intentions it is penned to achieve.
Everyone fully understands the need for media outlets to attain advertising income. The business model doesn’t work without it, of course, but every business must more importantly understand what its customers want and what annoys them so much they might not come back.
I’ll make an initial statement here to set the scene for the rest of the letter. The pop-up adverts and embedded video that bursts into life as you land on a page on your websites are, by some considerable distance, the most annoying, intrusive and un-customer focused I have seen across the entire internet. To quote one well-esteemed local reader, it is “simply the worst website I’ve ever used”.
Let me give you an analogy.
You open a shop, you have stuff in there people want to buy, but to maximise your income you rent out the front 2m sq to an advertiser. The key bit right by the front door. Your potential customers then have to walk into the shop and have a fistful of leaflets shoved in their face by an obnoxious, loud, brash salesperson who refuses to let customers see any of the merchandise in YOUR shop before you have read what he’s got to show you.
Would you continue to shop in a shop like that? Would you go anywhere near it again? No, of course you wouldn’t.
The real pity is that if you can brave the intrusiveness of the adverts and manoeuvre your way around the minefields of clicks you must achieve just to read, there is some great content there and your hard-working journalists might actually get to see their articles read by the numbers of people they deserve.
Advertising online is a mixture between a numbers game and careful targeting. The numbers game bit you may feel like you’re winning, especially when you can point to ‘number of people served to’ statistics and claim success. If you genuinely believe this is the long-term model for growth and success though, surely you, as a person and a consumer, can see this is woefully inadequate thinking
One day, when your readership has diminished to such a level that even in the numbers game you’re not achieving what’s required, you’ll look back at these tactics as naïve, abrasive and totally, wholly unnecessary.
“I don't even attempt to look on there anymore. The adverts make my phone freeze”
This has annoyed me for a number of years, and as such I estimate I read once a week, rather than daily, or multiple times daily as I do other key websites of interest to me. This particularly came to light for me as I have recently started writing an online blog on Bristol City for the Bristol Post, something I’m proud to be doing, but I know of dozens of people who have said to me words along the lines of “Sorry but I can’t read it, all those bloody adverts get in the way”.
Scale up the dozens who have gone out of their way and written or spoken to me to express this and surely you must wonder what sort of volumes this relates to across the region?
In this modern age it’s not as if there are a lack of alternatives? Long gone are the days when a brand could continually ignore what its customers want and just plough on regardless. If you want readers to engage with you across the multiple platforms, you need to give them reason to do so. In fact, you’re doing the polar opposite – you’re actively turning them off in a way I’ve not seen any other business do.
Look after your customers (readers) and they’ll look after you.
Listen to their needs and their concerns, do something about it, and they’ll respond, as long as it’s not already too late.
To get better advertising revenues you need better adverts and you need people to WANT to click on them, not be forced to.
To get better advertising revenues you need more readers. I conservatively estimate you could double your readers of the sports section in particular on the Bristol Post if you didn’t shove those obnoxious flyers in their face the second they walk through the door. DOUBLE!
The day your group realises that and changes its strategy, could be the first day of the rest of your lives.
Yours, a very frustrated and annoyed potential regular reader,
I won't reprint their replies word for word, as they are not my words to do so with and they were sent via private correspondence so they may not wish them to be made public, but firstly I had a response from Sarah Pullen, Managing Director of the South West regions, thanking me for my thoughts and offering me the chance to give more detailed feedback to their technical team so they cam look at improving the experience. I will be gladly taking her up on her offer.
This was then followed last week by a reply from the CEO himself, who thanked me for my "well-informed and insightful letter", stating he couldn't argue with my logic.
He promised imminent changes to content layout and an improved user experience.
So who knows, maybe letters such as mine do still have an impact and could lead to an easier read for all involved. There will undoubtedly still be adverts - and possibly some pop-ups - but hopefully they've learned some lessons and a less intrusive and obstructive approach will be implemented.
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