I've complained about ads a lot here -- we need to have some kind of policy reform on advertising, or at least some kind of advisory board, that gives advertisers a seal of approval, like registering plumbers. One of the big things that needs to be on that list is ads that look like the content the site is offering.
This picture is from the BBC's US and Canada news page:
Here are some of the problems I see with this ad:
- The only indications that it's an ad are in small print, off to the side.
- They're in an image/text format similar to the format of the actual articles on the BBC page
- Many people skim headlines, and come to conclusions about reality based on those. That's the problem with articles titled things like "Is Obama a communist?" -- even if the bulk of the article is saying "No, absolutely not, what are you even talking about," you're still misinforming people scanning the page.
- The ad company's logo looks similar at a glance to AP's logo.
You see this kind of treatment all over the internet. Google's ads look like search results. Ads on filesharing sites have huge "CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD" buttons.
Ads aren't intrinsically bad. It's possible to have advertising that's about connecting interested customers with worthy products, and that's a mutually beneficial arrangement. But this kind of advertising isn't about helping out the customers. It's about harvesting the potential monetary residue of lazy browsing habits, at the cost of net trust in the world.
I don't want my internet to be a collection of pit traps. I don't want there to not be ads -- I've found some stuff I really like that I heard about because it was advertised. But I don't want every webpage to have links that look like they're going to give me cool new content, and are actually just going to deliver me to a sales staff.