Commentary

Thoughtless Publishers Drive Away Readers

One of my favorite ways of staying abreast of industry news is to subscribe to newsletters from publications whose content I find particularly interesting. Publishers are clearly aware that this is a great way to get loyal readers, and it is not uncommon for publisher sites to promote newsletter subscriptions to their site visitors.

Sometimes, however, publishers appear so desperate to increase readership that they overstep their bounds, to the point of becoming downright annoying. Without naming names (and I am happy to say MediaPost is not one of them), I have seen two behaviors in particular that I find annoying. First, some sites fail to use cookies, or simply ignore them, and bombard me with takeover ads or pop-ups begging me to subscribe to their newsletter even if I visit the same site twice within a short time span, and even if I am already registered on that site and already subscribing to their newsletters. Second, and even more annoying, I have found some sites that show me the same persistent takeover ads even when I landed on their article by clicking a link from a newsletter to which I already subscribe.

As a matter of fact, I was inspired to compose this particular blog post just as I finished writing a polite but pointed message to one particular offending site that does both, which means that if I want to read, let’s say, three articles from their newsletter, I have to deal with three takeover pop-ups asking me to subscribe to their newsletter. Will it kill me to find the “x” to turn off the pop-up ad each time? No. Is this strategy making me want to unsubscribe and get my content elsewhere? Yes.

Now, I have mixed feelings about retargeting, especially when it’s done mindlessly (glad to see you are spending money serving me ads for a product I just bought from you!). But there are lots of technologies that can easily remedy this situation, and not using them sends a bad message and is simply not good for business. If nothing else, that blind persistence negatively impacts my perception of this particular publisher, who seemingly has no qualms about annoying its current readership.

These are the most glaring examples of how publishers seem to forget that customer satisfaction is an extremely important ingredient for success. But I have experienced many other, smaller offenses that can gradually erode the value of a publisher’s brand in the eye of readers: poorly designed site navigation and UX, excessive use of advertising, misrepresentation of “advertorial” content, and overly enthusiastic use of “touch” emails.

My suspicion is that, sadly, in many cases this is less an issue of desperation, and more an issue of thoughtlessness. I would encourage every publisher to conduct regular top-to-bottom site reviews from a user experience perspective. Perhaps use surveys, or provide simple ways for people to leave feedback from any page on your site – and then actually listen to the feedback and do something about it. These simple ideas can help ensure that desperation does not lead to desertion – especially from your existing, loyal readers.

Lest we forget: with very few exceptions, content is not unique, and readers will go where they can find content and have an enjoyable experience doing so.

2 comments about "Thoughtless Publishers Drive Away Readers".
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  1. Paolo Gaudiano from Infomous, Inc., June 19, 2015 at 4:05 p.m.

    @Mark - glad you agree. It does not seem like a difficult concept to grasp, but as you pointed out the rush to monetize creates internal disconnections and inefficiencies. I would not be surprised if in some instances, the same financial pressures that push some publishers to clutter their sites with ads, also leads to staff cutbacks that remove the kind of people who would concern themselves with things like UX and satisfaction.

  2. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, June 21, 2015 at 11:36 a.m.

    Nice piece Paolo.  IF sites would look at the user experience as a "physical one" it would be obvious how these missteps hurt their business.  Can you imagine walking into a brick and morter store, and having a person "pop up" infront of you as you try to get to the aisle to make the purchase you walked in to make?  I know we are both guilty of pointing fingers at what sites do wrong but so many gives us so many things to point at.

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