Do Interstitials Suck?

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angry_small.jpgADOTAS – There was a big fuss on TechCrunch yesterday about interstitial ads — Dell was running a display takeover before sending readers on for their tech gossip — that culminated in a column by founder Michael Arrington titled, “Real Blogs Don’t Have Interstitial Ads.”

“[Interstitials] aren’t as bad as the ridiculous ads that float over the text you’re trying to read, but they are in the same ballpark,” he wrote. “They also slow the site down significantly.” He said he’d go through the pain of dealing with parent company AOL to get the interstitial ads stopped.

Adotas has never used interstitial ads (to my knowledge) but plenty of my favorite sites — such as Salon and The Onion — use them. When interstitial ads first appeared years ago I rolled my eyes, but I soon got used to them — when the “skip” button first appeared, I was pleased.

From an advertiser standpoint, skip isn’t a bad thing either — I may not have watched the full ad, but I’m likely to remember the brand. And I don’t have a negative opinion of The Economist because an interstitial begs me to subscribe every other time I click on a Salon story. In fact, I keep thinking I should subscribe to The Economist because it’s a fantastic magazine.

An interstitial is the equivalent of a T.V. football announcer reminding you that the game is brought to you by so-and-so before returning you to the action — that’s only annoying to the perpetually petulant and impatient.

One commenter noted that he stopped reading Forbes.com because of interstitials and I cry BS — that guy stopped reading Forbes because he/she didn’t think the quality of the content was better on Forbes.com versus its competitors to justify sitting through a few seconds of an interstitial. The quality of content comes first in a reader’s mind, and superior content is worth waiting for. Do I have to lecture again that Internet content is not free?

Also, I don’t really read TechCrunch in the “traditional” sense — using the Rockmelt social browser, I installed a TechCrunch feed on the righthand side. I open it, scan recent headlines (the same as people do on Twitter) and click on anything of interest.

I’m a little surprised Arrington even responded to the whining, but he has been jostling his new AOL bosses — a recent hissy fit about Engadget that stretched several blogs was pretty embarrassing for the parent company of both sites. AOL famously said Arrington would be sticking on board TechCrunch for another three years — perhaps they’ll look for an exit clause in that agreement.
But I put the question to you, readers — do interstitials suck? Does the hate encompass most Internet users or just a cantankerous and vocal group? Are they an effective form of display advertising? How could they be better?

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