There’s an hilarious YouTube video knocking about that shows just how frustrated readers are getting with regional newspapers’ websites.
The home-made pastiche, entitled ‘The Real Life Frustrations Of Using The Hull Daily Mail Website!’, was posted by reader Terry Kent, and shows him sitting at a table trying to enjoy his newspaper.
Every time Terry starts to read an article, a hand smacks down a leaflet on top of his paper, or pulls it away, and each time he turns a page another leaflet is thrown down to obscure his view.
The 45-second video quickly becomes a flurry of hands slapping, pulling and literally fighting for the paper, with Terry exclaiming: “Get off! Can I have it back please? I want that one there… I wanted to read that. This is ridiculous! What’s going on here? Get off! Grrrrr!”
The snippet, for me, perfectly illustrates how annoying constantly moving and expanding pop-up adverts can be online, pushing and pulling articles away from readers and eventually making them click away.
Terry introduces the video by saying: “This is for the Hull Daily Mail to show them exactly what it’s like trying to read their website to get to their stories” – although of course what he claims to have experienced is by no means unique to Hull.
By yesterday (9 February), the video had been watched 4,913 times and had attracted 99 likes and 18 comments, including the following: “Spot on”; “Excellent”; “So true – time it was sorted out”; “Outstanding”; and “Very clever – and so true!”.
One commenter, going under the name ‘Vampyratus’, said: “This is perfectly accurate [and] it’s even worse on mobile devices with video ads that will randomly appear in the middle of the paragraph you’re reading, separating the lines of text and suddenly making noise … and full page ads that are a little too big for the screen so you can’t click on the X in the corner.”
Another observer, ‘Grantus Maximus’, said: “[This] should be the default first comment on every [Hull Daily Mail] news article until they get the message.”
And a reader called Paul Skinner had some useful technical feedback: “Adblock sorts it out. But it is excessive on [Hull Daily Mail], 46 ads blocked on each page (on average). All it does is drive people away from the site.”
Terry, who told me he was “just a very frustrated reader”, has twice sent the video to the Hull Daily Mail, but said he had yet to receive a response.
He posted his video on 18 December, but I only noticed it after a Facebook post on 1 February from Matt Kelly, the former Daily Mirror executive who is now Archant’s chief content officer.
Matt, who until last year was group digital director at Local World, the then publisher of the Hull Daily Mail, said: “The joys we had at Local World trying to explain why our online user experience was so s**t to the commercial team.
“If only I’d thought of this… Brilliant and true; what it’s like reading some newspapers on the web.”
Let’s hope that Hull Daily Mail bosses take heed of what their own readers (and Matt Kelly) are saying, and don’t continue to allow online adverts to plague would-be readers’ experiences.
They’re not the only offender, of course; there are few regional websites that I’ve been on which don’t make me feel like leaving with their blunt, intrusive and infuriating adverts.
We know they’ve got to sell space – fair enough – but why would any advertiser want to be as irritating as Terry’s above video brilliantly explains?
If regional and local papers remain so cluttered and unnavigable, online audience growth and ‘stickability’ will be damaged, ultimately hitting revenues and profits.
Meanwhile, I hope that Matt Kelly is now practising what he’s preaching at Archant…
Footnote: I asked Hull Daily Mail editor Neil Hodgkinson for his thoughts on the video, but he politely declined to comment.