An Embarrassment of Pitches

Man, sometimes you have to venture out onto the real web to realize how far much of the “professional sites” have to travel before they have a viable model.

Case in point: The San Jose Mercury News. Today the paper (yeah, I’m calling it that) published an interesting-sounding piece entitled Silicon Valley job growth has reached dot-com boom levels, report says.  It was widely retweeted and otherwise socially circulated. It’s been a while since the Merc has mattered in my world, and I was pleasantly suprised to see the story pop up in my feeds. So I clicked through to the Actual Web Site to Actually Read The Story.

LordInHeaven I wish I hadn’t. Look at what I saw:


Now, it’s going take some work to break down this hot holy mess. So stay with me.

First off, believe it or not the belly flab ad isn’t the worst part of this experience (it’s close, believe me). The worst part is the layout, which looks like – well, something you’d wrap a fish in.

There there are the ads. As the Grinch might say…the ads ads ads ads. Six or more of them in this screenshot, and three more below the fold. There’s a Verizon site wrapper (on either side of the page), an expandable top banner, and three medium rectangle units crammed in there. Not one of them is what you might call a “quality” ad – at least by most standards. (Do you think Verizon is happy that their site takeover is overrun by social media buttons and competing with belly flab, diabetes, Frys’ Electronics and travel pitches?) If you bother to scroll down (who would?) there are three more pitches waiting for you there.

And check out the number of beacons and trackers on the right, in purple. That’s Ghostery, which I run on my browser to see who’s laying down data traps. Man, Merc, that’s a lot o’ data. Are you doing anything with it? (I’m guilty of the same, as a commentator points out below.)

It’s late, I’ll stop. But before I go, one more thing: I just don’t believe that’s the same person Before and After in that belly fat ad. Oh, and what was I reading again? Ah, never mind.

21 thoughts on “An Embarrassment of Pitches”

  1. pot/black? I added ghostery to my browser. Then I went to merc and they had 48 in the ghostery list. I came here to comment and you have 34 in your list!

    1. You are not kidding. It’s a mess here on Searchblog. But the layout is the real issue, not to mention, I have three ads on the page, not 10.

      1. The page kind of looks like an old school newspaper had sex with an old school penny saver

  2. From a user prospective, (beacons and trackers aside) ad layouts like this are on my radar less and less as I find myself consuming web content via ‘read it later’ services like instapaper that scrub out this garbage. If I must read in a browser, Safari’s ‘Reader’ does a nice job of displaying only editorial content. I realize this missies your point of big data collection but wanted to point out the emerging set of workarounds available to avoid laying eyes on page layouts like this.

    1. Given your and many others reading habits (I read in RSS most of the time and have for years) you’re making my point, more elegantly: Publishers have to change how they deliver their product, and how it’s accompanied by commercial partnerships. Hence our focus on “native”….

  3. I do this for a living for one of the oldest ad agencies in North America…and i am in total agreement John….but if the proof point for the rise of digital is the metric of increasing digital media dollars being spent, and THIS is what it is spent on….the 30 second spot is due to make a comeback….

  4. My grandfather owned the San Antonio Express. Hearst owns it now and they can have it. I now own Beer Business Daily. No advertising, but $580 a year to subscribe. I started BBD fifteen years ago, good biz. I took the WSJ and FT model of publishing…. people in a niche will pay.

  5. Maybe the SJM know’s what they are doing – nailing their target audience? Definitely applying the shotgun approach – there’s a little something for everyone. Shame, I once had them bookmarked but now there’s way too much going on…

  6. horrific — no doubt. but john, isn’t this the world that context-less audience targeting creates? real time bidding which is generating 40% + margins to agencies and flooding google’s coffers is driving down cpms and sucking all the revenue away from publishers. so this is the web experience that results.

      1. That’s what they’re making — info straight from folks at Google’s Intent media. Haven’t you noticed Sir Martin’s stopped complaining about disintermediation? RTB isn’t growing because it’s more effective, it’s because it’s more profitable. No one’s reporting on where the margin is going…

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