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My Web is Text Based

I noticed that my visits to espn.com have become fewer. It wasn't a conscious choice, it just started happening. When I thought about it more, I realized that my decreased usage directly coincided with their recent re-design; the same redesign that made it a more video centric site.

My main pet peeve with the old espn.com was that it had a video player (with sound!) that started playing automatically when opened the page. At least that is no more. But the new site is pretty much entirely a rich media experience. The main story box: video. The headline box on the upper right: 50% or more of the stories are video stories. Even the Bill Simmons' contributions are more often than not a pod cast, not a column. At times its actually hard to find stuff to actually read there.

Of course all of that is well and good if you like to consume your sports news through video. I do not. In fact, I pretty much avoid most video offerings on the net. I prefer the quiet and personal, text experience of a web site. Flash apps, video, audio all tend to turn me away. Now, with that, there are times that I will actively seek videos. In those instances, like everyone else, I go to the sites dedicated to video (YouTube or Hulu) and search for them. Other than that, I'm reading, not watching.

I bring this up because of the news today from Yahoo that they are going to start monetizing their search results with rich media ads. Videos as part of search results? Hmmmm...I'm skeptical.

Search is a lean forward experience. You're looking for something and you want to find it fast. You're not there to lean back and consume a video in the midst of it. Honestly, I can't personally ever imagine clicking on a video as a search result (outside a video search, obviously). Oy.

Now I know why they're (espn.com, yahoo, etc.) doing this: advertisers love rich media ads. The cpm's they carry are MUCH higher than those associated with standard display ads. Fair enough. But as a user, I hope this trend doesn't continue. I prefer my web to be text based.

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Comments (15)

dave:

Search smerch. If ESPN.com doesn't fire up Mayne Street again (and soon), I'm gonna go chimp on someone's ass!!!

Greg:

This post doesn't go nearly far enough. How many times have you skipped learning about something because it was described in some video, with no textual equivalent? Even Google has started doing this. L-A-M-E.

And even worse: Video responses to blog postings? What a dumb idea! I can skip over a silly text comment pretty quickly; video wastes some of my time if the comment is good, and a lot if the comment is dumb. So I never watch 'em.

Brian:

I've noticed the same patterns, personally. And my reaction has been similar: find another source of information/entertainment.

Andrew:

I hate the new site too... then again - I think ESPN has really gone down hill since Disney bought them... it's 55% fluff and 40% speculation - seriously, watch with that in mind and you'll find that there's only about 5% actual sports news content. I find the ticker with the channel on mute is more informing then their site.

I switch to TSN.ca a couple of years ago, mainly because they don't relegate hockey to only appearing in the Top 10.

Mike:

I totally agree. Why would I watch a video if I'm looking for information?

However, big brands might find creative ways to use them on search results. Check out the one for Pedigree (Pedigree ad) This commercial first ran during the Super Bowl and is pretty funny. I'll bet certain campaigns could do well in search, prodding the user to dive into the ad experience more (i.e. hangintherejack.com)

OtherMark:

You lost me at ESPN. Ball sports == fail.

disappointed Sports Guy fan:

I'm no sports fan, but I'm a huge Bill Simmons fan. I'll read anything he writes.

Which is why his podcasts are such a crime.

I don't have an hour available to stare at my computer while I listen to him talk to people.

On the ESPN homepage right now, his promo box is offering three podcasts and no columns. I refuse to listen to any of his audio pieces because they just don't fit into my routine or life in any way. I want more columns, dammit.

mike:

I totally agree with you on that - I never listen to his podcasts and am actually annoyed when i see his latest piece is something other than a written column.

just another guy who thinks the new espn.com sucks ass.

Tom:

I work at Yahoo! but I'm not spokesman. All I can say is my personal experience.

Generally I agree with your article. Personally I see video and other media as an optional enhancement. Some people like it, good for them, as long as I can get to the content anyway I'm happy. Since multimedia sucks for search indexing I'd be surprised if text article go away any time soon.

That said I'm going to be a shill and defend our strategy on search ;). Right now using the snappily name "search monkey" technology if you search for something that has a youtube video in the results that video will get an enhanced listing. That means that you still get the same text entry, albeit with a thumbnail, but you also get the chance to play the video without leaving the page.

To me this is exactly the right direction. You are adding without taking away. It seems like the new ad enhancements will be similar.

Just my 2 cents. But just to say it again this is my opinion not Yahoo's.

mike:

I never click on the organic youtube imbeds in search results, unless i am in video searching mode (in which case i would likely be searching on YouTube to begin with)...to the degree the presence of the imbeds lessens the number of above the fold results that i might click on, i would argue there is a takeaway...

btw, not to pick on Yahoo, but i actually have the same frustration with Yahoo's home page as i do with espn.com's - many times i see an interesting news headline that when clicked, fires up the video player instead of sending me to an article page....


english:

You may want to consider proof-reading your blog posts. Your use of "your" versus "you're" as well as an instance of "they're are doing this" really drags the reader's focus away from the interesting things you have to say about the distracting nature of overly rich media content. I support your argument though.. I often close a website immediately upon seeing "XX% loaded" or "buffering" and seek out an alternate source for the same information.

davis:

I loved this post. I was thinking about how I turned away from espn.com when they implemented video automatically playing. I avoid any site where sound and/or video plays automatically on a visit. If I want that sound or video, I will click on it. A site that I can think of with a lot of video content or links to video content that does a great job of summarizing the content before the link is Huffingtonpost.com.... Whatever one's feelings about their politics, I don't think that I've seen a site integrate multimedia content in such an effective way for a generally text-based browser. Other good sites I find myself frequenting for their lack of noise are web pages of newspapers... a pretty straightforward progression. However, for a mainstream site, the HuffPost does a pretty good job of including video but making it a value added part of the experience rather than a "I wish i could get the content of that piece but I just don't want to sit through a few commercials and the 5 mins of a talking head."

mike:

typos should be fixed....and yes, I should proofread more...!

Jesse:

This is why I love the FlashBlock Firefox extension. If you install FlashBlock every flash item on every page has a "play" button, and will not play until you click it.

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