Other things engineers (should) know

Autoplay video hits new lows at Bleacher Report

There are many many blogs and articles decrying the growing popularity of autoplaying videos on the internet, and just as many content websites resiliently persisting with autoplaying videos. They annoy me but, for the most part, I think it’s a battle we’ve lost. On Bleacher Report’s website, though, the practice is more than I can handle. I once checked sports news on BR twice daily. I think I’ve visited 3 times at most in 2017. Beyond the extensively detailed problems with autoplay, here are reasons why Bleacher Report’s implementation of them is particularly unbearable:

1. Videos are unrelated to the article I am reading

On most news websites, the video that starts playing when you attempt to read an article is of a reporter pretty much telling the same story. It’s annoying if you are just trying to read or have anything else, like music, playing in the background. But there is a case to be made that it could save some customers time. The video may explain the same concept in a shorter amount of time than it would take you to read, and you might be able to multitask as you listen, instead of reading at all. But I have never had a BR autoplay video that was remotely related to the article I clicked on. Majority of the time, the video is about a different sport. Who thought it would be a good idea to have users listen to a clip about an up-and-coming baseball coach in California, while they read a piece on a European football match between teams in Turkey and Germany? And how did no one correct them?

This is an article about Dustin Johnson, golf’s current #1 player, winning a tournament. Autoplay video is about the career of Vince Carter — a basketball player.

2. Videos are unrelated to my interests

Worse still, BR has a list of sports and teams I follow under my account settings. All the articles that show up on my homepage are dictated by these settings. But the videos that autoplay are almost never to do with any of the sports I have declared interest in. If the goal is to increase user interaction with video content (because we all know videos are king in today’s internet / digital advertising world), then this is a grave failure of product design. I would be willing to listen to or watch interesting videos about topics I enjoy, that I would not otherwise have seen. And I have given BR a list of these topics. But instead, it tosses up a whole load of videos on every imaginable topic not on that list.

“If the goal is to increase interaction with video content, this is a grave failure of product design.”

3. Videos take too long to load

It’s just a few seconds in reality. But they take long enough to appear and buffer before they begin that I could have started to read the article. On the rare occasions I visit the BR website these days, I have trained myself to wait out these seconds so I can pause the video once it starts rather than have my reading interrupted. It would be fine* if the video was right there to be paused when the article is opened. At least then I could get to reading straight away.
* well not ‘fine’ but slightly better

4. Sometimes they just don’t make any sense

I once opened a BR-produced video with no related article. The video was the entirety of the content there and, instead of it autoplaying, an unrelated video in the corner of the screen popped up and autoplayed. Amazing.