Like it or don’t, it’s advertising which greases the wheels of commerce in a capitalist society. What is advertising, and why is it a problem?
Advertising is a form of marketing communication used to persuade an audience to take or continue some action, usually with respect to a commercial offering, or political or ideological support.
With little effort most of us can come up with many ways advertising is beneficial to a modern society, and just as easily create a list where advertising is damaging, dangerous, deadly, or just plain obnoxious in its many forms.
In traditional media, generally speaking, roughly 30-percent of television programming in the U.S. is devoted to advertising and promotion. With newspapers, that amount ranges from 50-percent to 75-percent of all content; some magazines have a larger percentage of total content devoted to ads. Radio stations tend to devote about 15-minutes to 20-minutes to advertising and promotion, slightly less than TV.
Advertising has become so embedded into modern society that advertisers go to great lengths to overcome our annoyance (witness entertaining TV ads) and apathy with an ever increasing variety of methods, from loud audio, to flashing banners, to understated subtlety, to outright lies and misstatements. As if that’s not bad enough, advertising on the web is worse. My non-scientific survey of websites I frequent indicates that advertising, pseudo-advertising, and promotions account for between 10-percent to 50-percent of all website pixels, but carry the sigma of blending everything into a hell stew which obscures the very content which carries and attracts eyeballs to the advertising.
Hell stew? Flashing banner ads, animated pop up ads, website pages cluttered with ads of all sizes, some with audio, too many with video, and some that are completely inappropriate for the content displayed. Even Google’s famed AdSense ads (which you’ll see gracing my site’s pages) have difficulty understanding how to match content to ads. That explains why, when I say something about Microsoft Windows you’re likely to see an ad about replacement windows for your home somewhere on the page.
How worthless is that?
Is it any wonder website readers have taken to ignore advertising altogether, with many adding ad blockers to hide the most garish advertising? The problem, as I see it, is the competition among advertisers, and website publishers who need the revenue source. More ads means more revenue. For awhile. The more ads are displayed on website pages the less readers pay attention. Readers who don’t pay attention, don’t click on ads, and when ads are not clicked, there’s less revenue for publishers.
Where does Apple fit into this growing mess? Restraint and discipline.
Both are hallmarks of Apple’s successes in the 21st century. Apple’s ads are classy and comforting, definitely not the butt of jokes likes those of nemesis Samsung (whose paid shills often tweet Samsung’s promotions– from their iPhones). Wait. Doesn’t Apple sell ads within apps for iOS and OS X? Yes. Restraint and discipline. Unlike Google, Apple does not share personal data with advertisers, but instead matches advertisers with Apple’s closely guarded customers, acting much like an intermediary, protecting users.
See? Restraint and discipline. That’s a good thing. Apple’s Reader mode in Safari makes it easy to read an article, sans comments and advertising, with a click; but the ads on a website are visible for at least a moment. Everyone wins. Admittedly, I am disturbed by what could happen to iPhone and iPad users with iOS 9 when and if Apple allows for third party ad blockers. For a good review of both the problem and a reasonable, thoughtful response, check out this article and this follow up article from my friend and colleague Bambi Brannan.
By allowing advertisements– and ostensibly, not Apple’s own iAds ads– on iOS 9 devices, Apple is shooting Google in the foot (the search engine giant derives almost all of its revenue and profits from advertising, and most of its mobile advertising revenue comes from iOS devices) which is little more than another round of payback for Google’s blatant copying of the iPhone’s iconic design.
Unlike traditional media, the internet allows for a blend of visual, audio, and video advertising, and since bits are almost free, advertising clutter proliferates. The technology allows advertisers to track viewers, users, customers incessantly. Likewise, the technology also allows users to turn off advertising completely if they so desire, and a growing number do. Advertisers and unscrupulous publishers have created this backlash, and learning to live with it won’t be easy. Everyone pays a price for overindulgence, so I’ve decided to join the discipline and restraint crowd.
Plans are under way to reduce PixoBebo’s advertising to a single display ad per page by the end of the year; no animation, no video, no audio– just a simple message with little visual competition. In the interim, I trust that readers will reward discipline and restraint with support to the hand picked advertisers who remain, or place my site on an unblocked whitelist.