A Modest Proposal

Browsing reddit, I click on this nice little link :

If there’s one thing the internet knows beyond doubt when I click on this link, it is that my primary intention at this moment in time is to read what The Economist has to say about the corrupting of democracy.

However, this is what I see in my browser :

In its zeal to sell me an HSBC bank account (HSBC is already my bank, by the way), the Economist has placed the ad above its own masthead. Despite the fact that I have clearly declared my intention to read the article about the corrupting of democracy, the Economist then decides that it is more important to give me the option of switching to another topic, perusing the current edition, the tantalising “More”, Subscribing (I am already a subscriber), logging in (I should be logged in already; I’ve typed in my login details about 20,000 times), managing my subscription, or searching.

I don’t want to do any of those things right now; I want to read the article about the corrupting of democracy, which intention I made abundantly clear by clicking on the link.

Not only does the Economist decide to put a (presumably searingly relevant) picture underneath the article title, its formatting means that I can’t even see what the picture is. Instead, I am offered the chance to achieve Simple, Powerful Forecasting by none other than IBM Planning Analytics (in a rare feat of planning, they’ve made the ad small enough to fit in the space available).

Now, since I am a pretty practical and persistent sort of chap, I simply scroll down the page and get on with reading the article (jolly good stuff, by the way).

You know what I didn’t do ? I didn’t click on the HSBC ad, or the Subscribe button, or the Log In button, or the Manage button, or the Search button, or the IBM Planning Analytics button. And you know why I didn’t click on them ? Because I wanted to read the article about the corrupting of democracy. Duh.

Which is ironic, given how much money HSBC and IBM presumably paid to place their ads where they are.

This kind of thing is so ubiquitous that it’s hardly worth remarking on.

Not only is it wasting my time, fragmenting my attention and preventing me from actually focusing on the content, and driving me crazy, it’s also almost certainly not delivering its intended result.

Sorry about all that wonga Vanguard ETFs (whatever they are) paid to have their ad where it is — I’m not clicking on it because I’m here to read about how to cut my emissions. What’s the point of putting the Share button at the top of the article ? I haven’t read it yet ! What’s the point of putting the Top Stories along the side of the article ? I’m here to read about the lifestyle changes I have to make to save the planet, not about Hurricane Dorian.

This childlike eagerness to stick a tire iron in my bicycle spokes at every available opportunity is getting so out of hand, it’s a wonder that I ever actually read any content :

herewith a pop-over ad for Behati Prinsloo (whatever one of those is) that’s actually getting in the way of me seeing a Walgreens ad. Between them, the cement dinosaur, schoolboy wardrobes and Spiderman deep-fakes, poor John Bercow doesn’t stand a chance.

Clearly, the current situation is sub-optimal : nobody’s getting what they want.

So here’s an idea:

Put All That Stuff At The End

When I get to the end of an article, I’m putty in the hands of the internet : I’ll click on anything. I’m so desperate to shovel pointless information into the gnawing void within my soul, I’ll click on the “Elsewhere on the Web” Outbrain link to What That Actress Looks Like Now (admit it — so will you). I’ll click on any ad you want to run past me, hell, just put the full ad content right there inline and I’ll read it, every damn word of it. I’ll click on all the share and login and subscription and any of the other folderol you want me to.

Just respect my intention and show me the content first, without distractions.

You know it’s what we both want.

I once made the mistake of letting other people use my software; the result was www.disguise.one. Now I’m trying to figure out how to fix what’s really broken.

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