rethinking the ownership of the web canvas

I still read a lot online; mostly through a feed reader, which I pay for. Part of reading through a feed reader is not seeing the content in its original context, except for those sites that encourage the user to click through to read something.

If you’ve been online for a while, you will be deeply familiar with the way that online advertising generally works. The banner ad itself is over 20 years old. Immunity to online advertising is called banner blindness: the particular structures that appear on a webpage are often not noticed by seasoned readers of the web.

This led – over many years – to an escalation of online advertising: becoming more and more difficult to avoid – full-screen pre-roll pages, site takeovers: all kinds of things.

I wouldn’t normally comment, but the Next Web, May 2015 (I’m including the date in case you need to find it in the wayback machine) did something I haven’t seen before, and appeared to change the relationship between ad and content.

On this site, when it loads, you’re presented with the site’s top nav, and some social media buttons, and a small “show article” link, but the article itself has floated off to the right of the browser window, so only a small sliver is showing. You know you’re on the right page, but the message is a new one to me – this is the advertiser’s space, and we’re just going to place the article over the top of it, because we know that’s important to you.

It made me think “I should pay more attention to this ad” – admittedly, for products I’d already heard of, and with really beautiful design – in a way I haven’t seen for a long time.

The ability to shape the experience of a visitor to your site should not be underestimated, even as there’s perceived pressure that “no one reads your site” anymore.

There is still a strong tendency among the people who build the web to think of it as a “page” first, and to limit their output to the constraints of print and paper. Admittedly, of responsively designed paper, but paper nonetheless. The capacity to communicate a sense of home and place, a hierarchy of interactions between stakeholders, has barely been tapped.

I expect to see even more innovation in the content-publisher space, even as the giant sites like Facebook move to bring more of the web’s content within their walled garden.

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