Brian Blum
April 6, 2011, Updated May 8, 2012
Which link do you click to get rid of the ad?

I understand that there’s no choice. But do they have to be so darn annoying?

In the last few months, two of the three main online Israeli news sites I visit have instituted advertising techniques that are particularly invasive…and there doesn’t seem to be any way to turn them off.

Haaretz was the first to get the revenue-building bug. When you visit the English language site, you are first treated to a full-page ad. There is a “close” button so you can quickly skip it, or the advertisement automatically disappears after a few seconds. The ad only appears when accessing the home page.

While the Haaretz ad slows down my access to the site (and I should point out that I have never once clicked on the link), The Jerusalem Post’s technique is downright infuriating. The Post uses the same style of pop over ad, but it appears every time you open any page of the site, not just the home page. To make matters worse, for some of the ads, there is a deceptive “close” link that would open the ad itself (the real “close” link was above it).  That strategy at least appears to have been removed in the last week or so.

The third main English language news site from Israel, Ynet (the online version of the Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot), has thus far withheld the temptation to force readers to suffer through the opening commercials.

Now, I know that the online news business needs to change – the revenue models have never been sustainable on display ads alone. And Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post are hardly the only sites trying to figure out how to stay afloat. The New York Times in March announced the imminent launch of its new web revenue scheme – subscriptions will be required for heavy web clickers (free if you subscribe to the print edition) and the fees are hefty by online standards, starting at $25/month. The Wall Street Journal online has required subscriptions since its inception, as has The Economist. New business models for publications delivered on tablet devices like the iPad are also in the works.

Naysayers claim that a newspaper requiring a subscription fee is shooting itself in the foot; that savvy web users will just move on to the next free site. Does that make the enforced pop over ad the better bet? Here’s an idea: why not give me a choice and allow me to pay a small amount to avoid the ads? I might not do it, but at least then I’d feel like it was my decision.

In the meantime, I’m slogging through the ads. But note to The Post and Haaretz – I’m visiting Ynet a whole lot more these days (oops, I hope no one at Yediot is reading this post!)

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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