Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Marty’s Top 10 – How to irritate and repel your readers online
We are going to have a little fun and explore ways how publishers can irritate and repel their readers online. Here is list of my pet peeves using a Top 10 of what not to do. The success of any magazine will be to ensure that when readers arrive at your magazine they can easily read it and stay a long time. The debate going forward for publishers is to use a web site or an interactive digital magazine or both as part of their digital strategy.

1. Slow download speeds
You have 3-10 seconds to impress them or they are gone. The name of the game is download speed; there is nothing more irritating than waiting for your content to read or watch. If it does not download fast you will irritate and repel your reader and you will have what is called a bounce rate on your home page. The causes of this are large file downloads that can be caused by Flash or PDF downloads.

2. Bad design that is hard to read
Publishers looking to cut corners always seem to ignore that if you can’t read it there will be no response from the reader. The need to design for the screen is important and this corner should not be cut. We want to make the online reading experience as easy to read as possible, not a chore. Early web site designs were very cluttered that tried to maximize words per square inch above the fold. A digital replica of the print dimensions and font size is also hard to read as it resembles a microfiche reading experience. The latest wave of magazine apps and digital-only magazines are embracing this.

3. Email overload
What is the best frequency to send out email newsletters so readers will not opt out? Daily, 2x week, weekly, 2x month or monthly? According to Kim Machado of KMac Interactive, it will depend on the audience and business model as she has done daily with good results. Groupon, the online coupon company, sends offers daily and that irritates me as they send me specials that do not interest me. My personal preference is weekly.

4. Poor navigation — too many clicks to get to content
In the early days of web development the thinking was the more clicks the better as this will increase page impressions and thus revenue. In my opinion this will have an opposite effect on readers as they have to hack their way to find the content they want. Publishers will have to learn that easy navigation is the key to reader stickiness on your site or digital magazine. Perhaps a table of contents is not a bad idea and everybody understands how to use one.

5. Flash video/digital magazines that do not work on iPads and older Macs
My latest pet peeve is web sites and digital magazines that don’t work because they are Flash based. My iMac purchased in 2002 still works, but the latest Flash does not work on it. On my iPad I get this “Video does not work as it is not html5 compatible.” In today’s fragmented device market publishers must find a solution that works on all devices. With the projected dominance of Apple devices in the marketplace, using Flash is not a good idea. No matter how attractive the cost is, if they can’t see it, it is a waste of time and money.

6. Online stalkers sending messages every two hours on social networks
People who send messages too frequently to my social network accounts are the new spammers. One contact kept sending me updates 5x a day which I think is very bad online etiquette. That person has now be deleted from my LinkedIn network updates. Imagine getting five phone calls a day from that person and you will get my point. Publishers are having tunnel vision when they are posting on social networks and are trying too hard sometimes in promoting their content. In my Twitter account posting every hour is just plain irritating; this is a reason I don’t read my Twitter account often. The volume of tweets is having a negative effect. Who wants to read 100+ tweets a day.

7. Animation that acts like a strobe light
Here is a feature sure to irritate readers: animation that causes a strobe-like effect on the reader’s eyes. The major cause of this: advertisers thinking this will get the reader's attention to their brands.  But most likely it will create a negative impression, not a positive one. The culprit again is Flash. The creative tool it provides is great for advertisers, but ask any reader; they do not like it. What can publishers do about this, not accept advertisers’ ads?

8. Sound that starts automatically
There is nothing worse than visiting a web site and having the sound blaring when you get there. Imagine sitting at your desk in an office and the video/sound starts to embarrass you with your co-workers, especially in an open-office concept. It is important that sound/video is a permission-based model; the reader can listen to it if they want to. On the other hand this will get their attention.

9. Ad clutter/Pop ups/Splash pages
Publishers attempting to create additional ad revenue by adding as many ads as possible can be a cause of irritation too. We must find a way that ads are part of the reading experience, not a disruption, just like in the print magazine model. According to a Smart Media Sales study, published by Josh Gordon, interactive digital magazines have shown to have the best reading experience versus a web site and other media. Perhaps there is a message here, that magazine publishers can get a competitive advantage versus other media for advertising dollars.

10. Too leading edge
Just because you can do it does not mean you have to do it. Employing the latest technology sometimes will confuse readers and they will not know how it works. This means the reader will have to learn to do something new and sometimes this will intimidate the reader. Keep it simple and easy to use. The best example of this are the QR codes that is over the head of most people except for geeks who think it is cool.

If you have a pet peeve, please add you comment to the posting and share your experience of what irritates and repels you, so together we can create a truly rewarding online experience for magazine readers.

- Martin Seto
About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the producer of the Canadian Online Publishing Awards (COPAS) with 30 years of life expereince in technology, advertising, media and creative exploration. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at)
reflexmediasales.com or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

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