Jacob Kaplan-Moss

The taste of shame and humiliation

I wrote this post in 2009, more than 15 years ago. It may be very out of date, partially or totally incorrect. I may even no longer agree with this, or might approach things differently if I wrote this post today. I rarely edit posts after writing them, but if I have there'll be a note at the bottom about what I changed and why. If something in this post is actively harmful or dangerous please get in touch and I'll fix it.

What a way to start the morning:

ljworld.com now haspop-unders

Yup, that’s right; my former employer the Lawrence Journal-World – one of the most ground-breaking, award-winning, forward-looking, innovative news organizations in the world – is now serving pop-under ads.

I really did think that my former bosses, friends, and colleagues there knew better. I can only hope this was a top-down do-it-or-lose-your-job edict, but even that smacks of the kind of dictatorial micromanagement I thought the company was above.

The Journal-World I knew thought of itself as a member of our small community. We viewed our role as that of service to this community. Apparently this is no longer true.

Pop-unders are the worst kind of advertising: outright user-hostile. Even if you ignore the fact that they just don’t work, they’re a terrible idea. They sell out user experience for temporary gains in revenues. But over time they drive users away, which leads back to failure.

I know the state of journalism is bad. But I also know that the long-term prospects for the online properties of the Journal-World are bright – I was there when those strategies were drafted, and nearly a year later I see no reason why they should have changed.

I can’t see how this decision could be anything else than a knee-jerk reaction to this recession; it certainly can’t speak to any sort of long-term planning.

Selling out your users to please advertisers isn’t a strategy; it’s just stupidity. This is a dark, dark day for what was once a beacon of hope in the online journalism landscape.

I’m so disappointed about this I can barely speak rationally, so enough said, I suppose.