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 nytimes.com 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.