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Here’s a very quick example of what can happen when you stop caring about your users, or, become overly-influenced by your ad sales department.

The culprit here is E! Online, the entertainment site that is one of the top 1,500 most popular websites according to Alexa.

Take a look at this beautiful screenshot:

E! Online plays 'spot the story'

So then, you visited to read a story but are now faced with a terrifying dilemma, and one that has nothing to do with the reason you visited.

The dilemma is this: Which advertisement should you click?

Find The Story
I printed this out and in a highly technical exercise involving a ruler and some primary school maths, measured the amount of page estate being used up for the content. As you can see, there’s not much of it without needing to scroll below the fold.

In fact, the ‘content’ part of this page (the story, the reason for my visit) amounts to less than 5% of the visible page estate. This is sucky in the extreme. A lousy five percent. I didn’t bother trying to find the rest of it - I just took the screenshot and hit the 'Back' button. Others will have done the same, minus the screenshot.

Double Trouble
Not content with a leaderboard at the top of the page and a skyscraper on the right, E! Online has sold in another two ads, both intrusive formats, and both above the fold.

Why are we still using pop-ups? Am I missing something? Is this acceptable? Do visitors actually tolerate this sort of thing? Is it ok to display two pop-ups at the same time?

Also, with that Hanes pop-up (the tasteful shot of the lady in the bra) there doesn’t appear to be any kind of frequency capping, and certainly not per unique user session. I’ve seen it three times in one visit. Ho hum.

I get the message, which is this: Buy American Apparel (On General Principles). Loud and clear. Sidenote to Hanes creatives: Sex sells, but not if it's in a pop-up.

If nothing else, this looks like a hopelessly desperate ploy from E! to suck up as much ad revenue as possible, and to hell with the consequences, prompting the question: Is E! Online desperately screwed for cash, or is it just selling out its visitors regardless?

Chris Lake

Published 16 April, 2007 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

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