Most consumers today couldn’t imagine a world without their steady stream of free online content. But this content would not be accessible in many cases without the ads that users have grown to hate. In the end, online publishers struggle to manage what can be conflicting priorities: respecting the user experience while monetizing their inventory.
To avoid the constant tug of war that has become online publishing, millions of consumers have resorted to ad blockers. According to an eMarketer study in June, nearly 70 million Americans (roughly a quarter of the population), will have installed an adblocker by the end of 2016.
This has forced publishers to reexamine their ecosystem and develop approaches that can serve their advertisers, while interfering less with the user experience. Auto-play outstream video ads, auto redirects and other new formats have helped to stem the tide, enabling access to higher CPMs and higher audience engagement, but they are creating a new problem: increased latency, bloated mobile pages and once again, an unsatisfying — even annoying — user experience.
With audio as a default, for example, outstream video ads can suddenly start blaring. If users are on a mobile device, the bulky video content can begin to eat into their data plans — even without users’ explicit permission.
Basically, we are left with an ad format that is perceived almost as negatively as the infamous pop-up banner, which means that publishers risk enduring a traffic exodus, a decline in social shares and an overall decrease in quality.
In order for publishers to save their user experience and ultimately retain their users, they need to focus on establishing better practices for these new ads. For example, having two, three or even four video units running at the same time is detrimental to the consumer experience as a whole. It causes high latency and creates a cacophony of sound. It’s also difficult for the user to navigate.
How to Fix Bad User Experiences
Some unsolicited advice? Kill autoplay for sticky units and prohibit automatic audio. Video ads should always be muted if they are outstream. The sound can be triggered when users runs their mice over the ad or can be turned on by a call to action button on the video.
Ultimately, publishers should strive to put users in charge of their own advertising experiences. Some of the best-performing video units are run in-line, between paragraphs of the article. These ads should be user-initiated. It might contain the view count, but it will keep users happy.
Balancing user experience and monetization is not easy, but it’s increasingly critical to master this kind of compromise.
In the end, it’s not just users who suffer; advertisers often have little knowledge of how their campaigns are served. If video ads created for pre-roll end up being used for outstream, it’s the brand that suffers the consequences with consumers.
While there are moves within the industry to rid us of intrusive ads, it’s time that publishers and brands put their heads together to tackle this issue. Holistically, we should all be aiming for a better user experience.
After all, content may be king, but consumers rule.