Opinion

Free platforms need to avoid overloading their users


Free TV isn’t free, at least not here in the UK. Regular advertising breaks mean that consumers pay with their eyeballs and attention spans, if not with their wallets.

However, this shouldn’t give the channels licence to pay their way at the expense of content.

Take the Xfactor, for example (yes, I’ll admit it – it’s a guilty pleasure), where the first show of the weekend had ad breaks in between each act. So that was roughly one every seven minutes for the first half of the show.

We’re just not used to that in the UK.

Granted, head over to the US or Canada and their stations have to take a break (or two) during the credits for 2001. But on these shores, it feels like a bit too much.

Sticking with the Xfactor, there can be no doubt that splitting the show to two instalments – one on Saturday and one on Sunday – is nothing short of maximising revenue at the expense of the viewer.

Especially when there’s virtually no content in the second show. Since we were watching Apocalypse Now (Redux), we decided to record the Sunday night instalment – and got through the entire thing in under 20 minutes on fast forward. And that was only because we wanted to see what the guest act was like.

If all we watched as a linear progression from the previous evening was the voting results, we’d have been done in 15 minutes., tops.

15 minutes of content in an hour’s worth of viewing.

If your website was 25% content, 75% advertising, you’d be out of business. Can you imagine if Facebook used that kind of metric – so for every message posted by your friends you had to wade through three ads? The platform would implode in a week.

This therefore raises an interesting learning point.

How much advertising is too much?

We all accept that free isn’t really free. And for something to be free, someone’s got to pay at some point down the line. (I blogged about this a while back as well).

But where, exactly, is that line?

The short answer is that I don’t know. When I used to act as CD on a range of free publications, we tried to run at 50/50, rising to 70/30 for other magazines which were underwritten by the brand.

However, my gut tells me that when you are offering valuable content (or at least a way to spend a Saturday evening with a bottle of wine), there should be a limit to how much you can take advantage of the consumer.

Free TV isn’t free, and I pay with my attention span. But when it tips into ads every seven minutes, the price goes up just that little bit too much for my liking…

What are your views? What should the percentage split content:advertising look like for TV and other platforms? And how much of a percentage difference are you willing to tolerate on all other platforms, disregarding TV?

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2 thoughts on “Free platforms need to avoid overloading their users

  1. For me, platform is irrelevant, it’s the content that makes the difference. I read some blogs with a huge amount of advertising, but I live with it because the content is fantastic. Make it worth my while, I’ll sift through. If the content is just pap, then yeah, I’m not going to put up with anywhere near as much advertising.

    Clue: I don’t do much in the way of reality TV ;-)

  2. Hi James

    Totally agree with you about the fact that the platform doesn’t matter too much. I think that the principle holds true for any platform on/offline.

    It does all come back to the content, but I do think that great content can still be ruined with too much advertising. I unfollowed a marketing/business industry expert a while back because his self promotion got way too much. Great content when it wasn’t self promotional, but he really tipped the scales for me!

    Neil

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