I hear voices. Or I did. I’m better now.
I was sitting in my office this afternoon when I suddenly heard unexpected (and unwelcome) females voices coming from my laptop. I usually have many open windows and tabs, and on occasion, more than one browser. The female voices would start to talk for a few seconds, stop and then restart an arbitrary time later. One sounded like somebody named Kirby Johnson telling me about the only cream I will ever need. The other voice was an unnamed female starting to tell me that Britney Spears was starting a line of lingerie.
It took me a while to track down the offending tabs. Turns out it was the Editors’ and Chris Schwarz’s blogs from the Popular Woodworking website doing something called ad rotation, the practice of showing multiple advertisements in a single location on a web page. Seems that every 8 seconds or so, one of the eight ads on a blog page is replaced by another ad. For some reason, the offending ads kept getting in the queue and reloading.
I did a search for ad blocking software and was surprised to find that there were many more articles written about bypassing ad blockers and using the ad blocker to form a strategy for bypassing the ad blocker than there are about ad blockers themselves. Reading the articles leads me to believe that people with a second amendment level fervor believe that they have a right to place ads on our screens. I understand that there is a quid pro quo, you provide me with content and I accept that I must tolerate some ads. They have bills to pay and need to make a reasonable profit. But they also run the risk of alienating their readers and annoying us to the point that we believe that they content isn’t worth the assault.
I don’t blame the editorial staff at Pop Woodworking for this. I do not believe that they are the masters of their fates. They have owners. And the owners have owners. And those owners have investors. All are out to serve the investors. In May, 2014, F & W, the parent of Popular Woodworking, was acquired by the private equity company Tinicum Capital Partners LP. At around the same time F & W Media (formerly F & W Publications) rebranded itself as just F & W. F & W bills itself as a media and e-commerce company.
Doing some more poking around, I found the following in an article from Folio, a multi-channel industry magazine:
For F+W, the change is more representative of the company’s ongoing strategic shift into e-commerce. Not long ago, it was known simply as an enthusiast publisher in the craft, art, writing and outdoors markets, then called F+W Publications.
As the company expanded its commerce product lines—related third-party products, pattern kits, digital downloads, etc. F+W also began to de-emphasize its media designation, instead using its brands as a way to support communities and their product purchasing power.
One thing that reading the Columbia Journalism Review for 40 years has taught me is that media companies like to make money. It’s the American thing to do. Many of them run with margins that would make manufacturers cry. Editorial content is often viewed by top-level management as what is needed to keep the ads from running into each other and to turn readers into customers. The people at the magazine level care about what they produce and do the best they can to balance the needs of the owners with interests of the consumers of their content. It can’t be easy.
This explains why I get two or three e-mails a day from Popular Woodworking or Shop Woodworking. Offering to sell me stuff I already own. They produce more marketing than content. For a while I was getting roughly the same e-mail from American Woodworker. This has tapered off.
I have gone to Woodworking in America for five years. I usually register the day registration opens. Yet I still get three to five e-mails a week singing the praises of WIA and encouraging me to register. I understand the need for marketing; I just wish they would do it more intelligently. It might cost more but it would be far less annoying.
The voices have stopped. For now. It could be the ad blocker plug-in is working. It could be that there was a browser/Java error that caused me to get the ads. Or a server error. I just know I am enjoying the silence.
Epilog: I didn’t think I was going to post this blog. I wrote it as a catharsis, one of those that gets written and left in the drawer. Then Friday I got five e-mails from my dear friends and posting it became necessary. One of the e-mails was an invitation to subscribe. I am one of their premium subscribers and my subscription runs through November, 2015.
They should know that.