The Antidote To Big, Obnoxious Web Ads : The Off Switch

Recently, I’ve noticed that the front page of the New York Times on the web had given way to a more, how should I put it, Times Square sort of feel:


This is an above-the-fold snapshot. As you can see, the ad is grabbing nearly 40% of the available real estate.

The New York Times web presence is, in my opinion, one of the best-designed news sites on the Web…and then these obnoxious ads get slapped across the whole thing. It’s a challenge for ad-driven sites like the New York Times. You want to present information in a useful, readable and constructive way, but you also need to pay the bills. When American Express or Apple comes knocking, you don’t want to shoo them away. So what to do?

Well, why not let the reader decide? Near the top-right corner is a click that actually hides the ad:


It’s an interesting tactic and one I’d never seen before. I wonder if their advertising clients are OK with this or if maybe they paid a little bit less for this functionality to appear. It seems to be universal.

A content-driven destination as successful as will inevitably have to draw a line somewhere because too much advertising undoubtedly detracts from the perceived value, reputation and prestige of a publication. Everyone has visited sites that splatter ads all over, under and in-between their content. They make you feel icky about being there. It’s a difficult tension between good design and good revenue opportunities. The New York Times has done a great job so far. The Minimize Ads button further highlights that tension.

Thankfully, the Web in general has gotten better. I still remember the days when balloons or dolphins would come flying across an article I’m reading. It’s pretty awful. Thankfully, the market seems to correct itself. Publishers have a better appreciation of finding that balance today. The New York Times is going one step further by empowering the visitor with the ability to put ads away.

4 Comments The Antidote To Big, Obnoxious Web Ads : The Off Switch

  1. Tobias

    I agree this is a good development, because readers are more in control over what they see. I guess the ads are back when you revisit the homepage of the NY Times. I don’t think ads will be seen less and thus that advertisers aren’t pleased by this. This is because you will be confonted with the big ads at first when you enter the page. After this when people click the minimize ads button, they have seen the ads and are interacting with them This is almost impossible without looking at the ads and storing it better in your memory. At least that’s what I think…

  2. John@PM

    This seems like a good technique, because generally people have made up their minds about whether to click a link within a few seconds. Thereafter it’s simply a pesky waste of screen space.
    With an ad that large, it’s almost impossible not to read it before clicking to hide it away, so the web surfer is still likely to consider the offer. Looks like a humane win-win. Good article.


    Advertisers have a gluttonous appetite for screen real estate, and for the companies that depend on advertisers, there’s no real way to get around it.
    But not that in the future, browsers and other tools will understand how to “recognize” an ad and hide it automatically. I imagine we’ll see a “Don’t show ads” option in our browsers just like we currently see a “Don’t allow popup windows.”


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