For those of you with children (or those of you who can recall when the adults you’ve raised were children), you might remember one of the great parental moments. It’s the one where the child – probably only 4 or so – realizes that they can do things for themselves. Maybe it’s pour a drink of water or maybe it’s get dressed on their own. No matter which of the dozens of tasks we as parents undertook for our kids, at some point we all hear “I can do that all by myself!”
I bring this up because by the time most folks are old enough to use the web, they can do most things by themselves. Which is why I can’t understand many sites’ choices to present audio or video elements which aren’t user-initiated. As someone who used to run a large site that made a fair amount of money based on ad views, I get that showing more ads is a good thing. But as someone who spends too much time (and more than a second is too much time) finding and closing the pane providing me with an annoying sound or a video that’s running down my laptop’s battery, I can’t help but wonder if web-masters are doing this just to increase their video views, ads served, or audio files played. They can’t be doing it because users like it. More importantly, advertisers are starting to ask the same question and about how it affects consumer response to and engagement with their ad.
There is a significant difference between auto- and user-initiated video ads, which results in two different user experiences. An auto-initiated ad plays automatically when a user visits a web page, but the video ad does not block the user from viewing intended content. User-initiated ads must be viewed by consumers before reaching their desired content, such as a video or game. Because higher levels of consumer engagement are associated with user-initiated video ads, advertisers are willing to pay a premium for them.
By not letting the user decide what they want to see, publishers may actually be shooting themselves in the foot, since the value of the content displayed is diminished. We can all do the web all by ourselves and choose what we want to see and hear. Turns out it’s better business too to let the user decide. Imagine that!