Tension Between Revenue Generation and User Experience

My wife and I are hosting Thanksgiving this year, so I was online looking for dressing recipes. My experiences mostly went like this:

Oh, this one is interesting. It’s got WHOA WHY DID THE SCREEN JUMP BACK UP TO THE TOP? (Scroll back to where I was.) Let’s see. Right, this one has walnuts in WOULD YOU LIKE TO SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTER? No! Stop it! Where is the dismiss button? Oh, it’s that teeny gray “x” on a dark background in the lower right corner. OK, where was I? CLICK HERE TO ENTER YOUR ZIP CODE TO FIND DEALS ON WALNUTS IN YOUR AREA.

Look, I understand the game. Website operators want to post compelling content that will attract viewers. They want to turn each viewer into as much cash return as possible, which means as many page views and ad impressions as possible. Getting someone to sign up for a newsletter is desirable because I imagine it massively increases the odds that he or she will return in the future, increasing page views and therefore advertising revenue. And compelling someone to sign up for a newsletter is hard with an innocuous ad sitting quietly in the corner.

The problem is that this quickly creates an antagonistic relationship with readers who just want to be left alone to read the content. Perhaps that’s the point–those viewers aren’t profitable and the website owners don’t care (or even would rather, to save on bandwidth) if they get annoyed and leave.

Or perhaps this is a grand experiment to determine how far revenue generators can push readers before they give up. I wish I wasn’t part of this experiment.

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