Breaking the fundamentals

The fundamental purpose of an article page is to read the article, not read or click on something else.

Marketers and advertisers get a bad reputation because they continually break the fundamentals of design. This morning I was reading a post about how Facebook is calling out “local search” in its IOS app. As I was reading the article a Facebook Recommend widget pops up, blocking the very content I was attempting to read.


This is yet another case of interruptive marketing. Not only is this annoying, but I could not actually finish the article. I gave up, and instead of potentially linking to it because it is good content I’m now linking to it because it is annoying.

What do I mean about breaking the fundamentals? I mean that marketers and advertisers are ruining the very basic activities they’re trying to hitch a ride with. In this case, they’re trying to increase my “engagement” on their site by directing my attention to some recommended content. But they’re directing my attention much too early, before I’ve even had a chance to read the content I came to read. The activity I’m trying to do is to read the article. The activity the site should want me to complete is to read the article, for then I will be ready to do something else (like dig deeper on the site or read a related article). Instead, what they’ve done is discredit themselves and frustrated me. A horrible outcome for them.

So let’s state it plainly: the purpose of an article page is to read the article. It’s not to show an advertisement. It’s not to get a click. It’s not to create a lead. It’s not to read related or recommended items. It’s to read the damn article! Once that core activity is complete then we can think about doing something else, but not before.

I think this sort of thing happens because nobody really believes they’re building relationships with readers. They can’t see people reading and getting frustrated, so they start to focus too much on their immediate goals at the expense of their readers’. It’s too bad, if people just honored the very basic interaction they are asking people to have with their content, they might just build the relationship they’re looking for.

Published: April 8th, 2013