An open letter to friends and colleagues on keyword popovers
Dear every site advertising with keyword popovers,
You know who you are, and many of you are people I consider friends and colleagues in the industry. You’re smart, independent businesspeople carving out your niche in the new media landscape. You know how to connect with your audience. And yet you use keyword popover ads. You’re getting some of those ad revenue dollars from IntelliTXT / Vibrant Media and like ad services whose entire business depends on polluting your content, confusing your audience, and tricking them into clicking on ads that just won’t go away.
With all due respect to you, friends, fucking stop it. Seriously, stop supporting these shysters that advertise by generating fake links and popovers on your content. Obviously I’m all for giving your content away for free by advertising on your site, but there are limits. For example, on Engadget we have an extremely strict stance on popups (not allowed. Ever. If you ever see any, please email me ASAP.), what is referred to as “rich media advertising” (i.e. flash ads — they have to stay confined to their space, and can never interfere with content / nav areas. I know they consume a lot of CPU cycles, and I’ve been working on getting the ad teams to cut down on these a bit.), and in-column ads (ads that are shown in between stories — they have to be extremely clearly labeled as advertising, and not interfere with the content above above and below). It’s not perfect, but it allows us to stay in business and support our staff without completely ruining the reading experience (when not in RSS).
Treat your readers with a modicum of respect. These kinds ads are absolutely abhorrent, and just because you can run them doesn’t mean you should. The scary thing is keyword popovers are only getting more popular. I thought that after, what, a year since these ads started showing up, site owners would have started to realize that keyword popovers are possibly the most obnoxious and obtrusive form of web advertising around (no, spam isn’t web advertising, it’s email advertising). Yes, it’s even worse than popups, because at least those can quickly be cleared out with an alt-F4 / Apple-W. The keyword popover opt-outs are a joke, and often don’t work — and that’s IF you can find the opt-out page. (Surprise: they hide it!) But I guess all that hasn’t yet been made abundantly clear. So it’s up to you: exercise your choice to shut those ads off for your readers by not supporting that model of web advertising.
Here’s a pledge: as long as I’m in charge of Engadget you will NEVER see keyword popover ads on the site. And believe me, they’ve asked.
Will you make the same commitment?
Your pal, Ryan
Update: Digg here.
Update 2: I put together a short list of some end user solutions to disable IntelliTXT ads here.