I’ve gotten a lot of complaints about bad and intrusive ads over the last few weeks, and justifiably so. I wanted to give our readers an update on what we’re doing. I just got off a conference call with the techs at the company that is providing our ads (it’s Patheos, actually; I don’t know if I’ve ever revealed that publicly before, but they are providing our ads now). There are several specific problems we talked about.
1. Autoplay audio. This is a problem that is not just happening here, it’s happening all over the web. Starting a few weeks ago, there was a concerted effort by vendors to violate the rules of the ad networks and sneak in code for autoplay audio into ads that weren’t supposed to have them. We’ve had a particular problem with Verizon doing this. But it usually happens in the middle of a long string of ads that show flash video without audio. You may have noticed that some of the ad slots will show video (without audio) ads for multiple companies or products, one after the other. And in the middle of a string of those, suddenly one of them has audio. Very, very annoying. The techs think they have identified the two networks responsible for those ads and they are shutting them out of our feed (they get ads from a large number of ad networks, so it can be difficult to track them down). It is inevitable that some of these will sneak through now and then, but it’s been happening far too much and they think they’ve done the sleuthing necessary to slow that down.
2. Pop up ads. Our rule is simple: One pop up ad that easily and immediately clicks off if you hit the X. But we’ve had two pop ups going some of the time and it’s because one of the ad codes was written incorrectly. That should be fixed now. We’ve also had a problem with a pop up ad that doesn’t click off immediately but gives you a second “are you sure you want to leave” window. That ad should be killed in the next day or two.
3. Mobile ads that go straight to the Google Play or iPhone stores. Lots of complaints about that lately from those who view the site on tablets or phones. Patheos has had the same problem, as have many other sites, and they’re working on killing those ads as well.4. The slider ad that kills the scroll bar. This one may actually take some changes in the way our html renders to fix. We’re setting up a call with our site tech and their tech people to figure out how to fix this. It only seems to be happening on certain browsers (particular IE). I’ve never seen it, neither have most of our readers. But we’re going to fix it, whether it takes changing the ad code, changing our site code, or both.
I apologize for the inconvenience. Believe me, I’m as annoyed as you all are with this stuff. But some of it is not just us, it’s all over the internet and it requires the big ad networks to do more to screen the ads they serve and it’s not easy to get them to do that. The Patheos folks are going to a conference next week where the ad networks and major publishers will be getting together to discuss those issues and put some pressure on the networks to do more to prevent these problems. I promise you, we’re working on fixing it.
In the meantime, please do keep sending those tech help emails. When you do, give us as much information as you can — your OS, browser and version, the company the ad is for, a screenshot of it, anything you can. It’s important that I know this stuff so I can fix it. And even if we don’t reply to each of you that sends one, please know that I’m taking it seriously and working with Patheos to address the problems. And thank you for your patience and understanding.