Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Dear New York Times - About Your Video Ads

I have a paid subscription to the digital version of the paper.  With other online services, paid subscription gets rid of the ads, but not so with the New York Times.  I'm actually fine with ads that are images and text.  I understand your need to generate revenue, a necessary component in continuing to offer a quality newspaper.  Once in a while, though not too often, the substance of the ad interests me.

I am writing to complain, however, about your video ads, some of which auto play even when I am reading not at the part of the page where the ad appears.  When I was growing up with the paper version of the newspaper, I preferred to read in silence.  I can achieve that now by turning the volume down to zero on the device where I'm reading the paper.

But much of the time now I prefer to listen to music while I'm reading.  I find the music actually enables me to concentrate more on the reading as it helps me to be in a mental cocoon that is harder to achieve these days, given all the possible distractions.  This habit of reading while music is playing is quite entrenched.

I also prefer to use one device at a time, if possible.  When sitting at my desktop computer I'd like the music to play from it.  When using my tablet, I want that to be both my reader and my music player.  The use of one device is thwarted by your video ads, which play while the music is playing.  The resulting noise is intolerable.  The viable alternatives are either to read in silence or to have a second device for the music.

With either of the viable alternatives, I'm ignoring the content of the video ad when I'm not seeing it directly.  So the message in the ad is not getting through then.  Given that, might you consider outright abandoning video ads so placed?

I understand that this will mean more video ads up front, before getting access to a particular page.  That too can be annoying, though it is less so than the video ads placed within a page.

For your news and other content, while I appreciate on occasion having multimedia to complement the printed text,  I still consider the experience as reading the paper, not as viewing it (or listening to it).  I don't know if that makes me terribly old fashioned or not.

If I am representative of a significant fraction of your audience, two possibilities make sense to me for how to modify your approach.  One would be to limit video ads to aggregator pages, like the homepage.  The other would be to have a tiered pricing scheme for your subscription - at a higher price per week there would be no video ads.  While revenue generation obviously matters, subscriber experience matters too.  A solution that balances the two is desirable.

Thank you for your attention.

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