Web pages are suffering an obesity epidemic. They’re bloated with scripts and third-party plugins that bulk up sites until they take minutes rather than seconds to load.
John Gruber describes how a page that contains only 537 words of text can weigh in at an eye-watering 14Mb.
And it seems our industry is to blame. Programmatic ads depend on knowing much more about a site’s users than traditional advertising does, so pages are packed with code that tracks our usage and behaviour.
This helps exchanges serve up the ads that are supposedly tailored exactly to readers’ interests. At the same time, of course, the advertising helps the publisher cover their costs.
So it should be a win-win: users get free content AND they see only the ads that are relevant to them.
But the result is cluttered sites that take forever to appear on their device – and network activity that goes on after the page has loaded, killing the battery and the user’s data plan.
As Gruber puts it, “Advertising should be respectful of the user’s time, attention, and battery life. The industry has gluttonously gone the other way.”
Up until now, people used adblockers to get round the problem. However, these extensions are seen as the villains of the piece – depriving cash-strapped publishers of valuable income.
Now that Apple has announced that Safari will allow content blocking in iOS9 and El Capitan, perhaps adblocking will become more respectable – and encourage the networks to think of more innovative ways to serve up their display inventory.
Naturally, there are many other platforms, both digital and offline, with which advertisers can attract and retain customers. And clever clients and their agencies will always explore new ways to create conversations with people.
But in the meantime, if publishers are hungry for more revenue, they should begin by putting their web pages on a diet.