Is this the future of reading on the web? I sincerely hope not. I keep reminding myself of these words by Jeffery Zeldman:
Most of all, I worry about web users. Because, after ten-plus years of commercial web development, they still have a tough time finding what they’re looking for, and they still wonder why it’s so damned unpleasant to read text on the web — which is what most of them do when they’re online.
The scary thing is that Zeldman wrote that in 1999 (he revised the post slightly in 2005). And many years later the experience of reading text on the web seems to be getting worse, not better. As I wrote in The demise of quality content on the web, I’m worried that the wells of attention are being drilled to depletion by linkbait headlines, ad-infested pages, “jumps” and random pagination, and content that is engineered to be “consumed” in 1 minute or less of quick scanning – just enough time to capture those almighty eyeballs.
As advertising clickthrough rates continue to drop, the ads become more desperate and invasive, and readers are starting to notice and do something about it. I’m doing the majority of my reading in RSS and Instapaper where I can read in peace without being pummeled by distractions.
The thing is, there are better ways to make money from writing – ways that are more respectful of readers. Ad networks like The Deck come to mind, as well as the growing number of sites that offer memberships (like The Loop and Daring Fireball).
It’s time for publishers to think different.