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Unintended Consequences: Pre-Roll Advertising in Photo Galleries 27 April 2010

Posted by sbrashear in Media, Reflection, Websites.
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Recently, I’m not sure when, the Seattle Times has started the equivalent of pre-roll advertisements for photo galleries. If a user opens photo gallery he or she is subject to a twenty-second video advertisement. What a great way monetize content. According to my non-scientific, non-academic survey, photo galleries generate some of the highest web traffic on newspaper websites. My editors at previous papers where I previously worked and editor for whom I freelance and reinforced this notion time and time again.

The Seattle Times is the first, that I have seen, to add pre-roll, or perhaps more aptly named pre-gallery advertisements. Most include static advertisements that border photographs in the gallery, but probably generate few clickthroughs. The advantage of a pre-roll advertisement, as it has always been, is that is has a captive audience, something that advertising on the web has always lacked. At a recent conference, the president of MSNBC said that they cannot sell pre-roll advertising fast enough. Add pre-roll advertising to photo galleries seems pretty logical and inexpensive when compared to the time to shoot and edit an online video or audio slideshow.

Oh yeah, the whole unintended consequences thing. It could very well be fixed or mitigated by now as I cannot find a current example. Occasionally the Times has a two- or three-picture photo gallery and shortly after I discovered the pre-gallery advertisements, I came across three-picture photo gallery for which I had to wait through a twenty-second pre-gallery advertisement, an eternity on the Internet. Not only that, when I went back to the beginning of the gallery, clicking through on the last photo, I was subjected to another pre-gallery advertisement.

I’m all for monetizing content, but don’t subject me to pre-gallery advertisements for a three-picture gallery. I know it sounds weird coming from a photographer who would prefer to see one really good picture than twenty so-so pictures (I’m not saying that galleries with a lot of pictures are so-so), but there’s got to be more than three pictures in a gallery to justify a pre-gallery advertisement. It’s a bit of a let down sitting through a 20-second pre-gallery advertisement to find a three-picture gallery.

That said, this could have been a glitch as I cannot find any small galleries on the Time website as I write this. Maybe it’s something they already found and changed and I’m simply howling at the moon as grumpy news photographers are known to do. I’m also wondering if the Times should do it with galleries created using Associated Press or non-Times photographer photographs. Perhaps it is something that they should only do with galleries of photographs made by Times photographers as it is exclusive content. Perhaps advertisers will demand that if viewers refuse to sit through a pre-gallery advertisement to look at photographs that they can see elsewhere without having to sit through a twenty-second advertisement.

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