We say we don’t hate our audiences. Our mobile strategies suggest otherwise.

Some people’s phones are filled with photos of their families, of their friends, of beautiful landscapes, of adorable pets. My phone is a museum of rage-inducing mobile experiences.

I had the opportunity to channel that rage into an Ignite talk at a journalism conference. This post is an adapted version of that presentation.

POYMAAAS: Pissing Off Your Mobile Audiences As A Service

Almost everything I do on the internet, I do on my phone. Which means that every single day, I am provoked to John McEnroe-esque reactions by what Ye Average Media Organization forces audiences to endure.

Like the, “oh, you wanted to do that thing? First jump through several hoops to download our app”:

Apple: punishing you for having deleted their not-at-all-best-in-class Podcasts app.
Pinterest: judging you for daring to want to check out Disney Princess tattoos in your mobile browser.

Or the “sign up for our newsletter that might or might not have anything to do with the story you want to read but now can’t because of this full-screen call to action that our growth team insisted we force upon you”:

On the left, Fusion. On the right, Blavity. At least neither of them went for the guilt and shame strategy.

Or the “how many things that are not the thing you want can we put between you and the thing you want”, in which the distractions from the journalism include “and now some content from our sponsor” that takes up an entire screen:

What exactly do you want me to do here, HBR and Runners World?

Or the “please allow us to passive aggressively shame you as only the English can even as we take that sweet, sweet money from Outbrain and Taboola”:

And we haven’t even gotten to the proliferation of the “Read More” button, a way for publishers to make your user experience worse so they can prove to advertisers that someone saw the ad that immediately follows your dispirited tap. Or the inescapable ad that autoplays as you try scrolling past it:

Or the truly evil forced browser redirect to the app store, where you might be prompted to download an app you already own or one you would never even consider because wow, ad targeting is terrible:

And so I ask: what have our audiences done to deserve any of this? And why do we think we deserve to have any audience at all when this is how we treat them?

I’m spending my year as a 2016–17 JSK Fellow at Stanford University trying to improve mobile news experiences. If you’re someone with ~opinions~ and perspectives on these issues, please do get in touch.
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