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A simulated SunTimes.com experience

Monday, Jun 22, 2015

* Let’s start by visiting http://chicago.suntimes.com

* Within what seems like milliseconds, an overlay ad covers our screen…

* But before we can click the “x” to close it, this pops up…

* And then we notice that a “pop-under” ad has been lauched…

* We hit the “x” on that, and we get this…

* After we’ve finally closed all the ads and solicitations, we click the “Navigation” button…

* Then we click “Early & Often”…

* Since there are no drop-down options under the main “Early & Often” link, we have to scroll through the page to look for Springfield news…

* Oops. We can’t find anything we need because for whatever reason they only display a handful of stories. But, luckily, we notice another “Early & Often” link at the top of the page. This one does have a drop-down option…

* Hooray!…

* Finally, we get to the story we want to read, but…

* And…

* Another pop-under…

* And…

* Huzzah, huzzah! We’ve arrived at the article we’d like to read…

* But we can’t read it until we answer a survey question…

* And after we answer that question, another survey question appears…

* And then a video ad starts playing…

I don’t know about you, but my browser usually crashes before I can ever read the story.

Now, all these ads don’t appear every single time. Like the headline says, this is a simulated experience. But it’s also too much like work.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

63 Comments
  1. - Centennial - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 8:37 am:

    Agree times 1 million! I’ve been trying to read that exact article for 2 days. I gave up this morning.


  2. - MrJM - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 8:40 am:

    I hope MrsJM doesn’t hurt her neck nodding in agreement with this post.

    – MrJM


  3. - Sheesh Hecuka Cupajava - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 8:41 am:

    Haha so true! When I get bombarded by ads like these I just close the article/site down. What’s the purpose of advertising if your advertisement is just making people angry?


  4. - Outsider - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 8:45 am:

    Which is why I no longer go to their site…..


  5. - TotesMcGoats - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 8:45 am:

    Come on guys, it’s 2015! Install an adblocker already!


  6. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 8:46 am:

    ===Install an adblocker already===

    They don’t work on that site.


  7. - Montrose - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 8:46 am:

    The Sun Times is the worst at this. I won’t click on links to their articles because of it. I doubt I am the only one.


  8. - Deep South - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 8:52 am:

    I believe many newspapers are still trying to figure out their relationship with the Internet. In the past six months or so, it seems many of the papers I visit online have started going through similar gymnastics. I imagine most people are like me…you can only take so much of it then you give up and aren’t likely to come back.


  9. - Stones - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 8:52 am:

    Agree their website sucks. It’s weird to me to click articles I want to read on the right side of the page so they appear on the left side of the page. Not sure who designed this mess but the S-T paid too much for this garbage.


  10. - Albany Park Patriot - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 8:56 am:

    You get what you pay for.


  11. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 8:57 am:

    “They don’t work on that site.”
    For me, ABP (ad block plus) at least killed 11 of the pop-ups. The sign-up for email was the only thing I had to close.


  12. - Give Me A Break - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:00 am:

    Like others, I don’t even bother going to the site anymore. I have pop-up and ad blockers and they don’t seem to work. The Sun Times better figure this out and soon. Last time I was on the site, it locked up my PC.


  13. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:03 am:

    The site is desperate for eyes to justify the ad costs. 55% of users now use ad blockers, so to keep ad prices at where they are, there needs to be a doubling of the ad views, from where they were pre-ad blocker.

    Ad blockers are eliminating the chance that the media had for revenue. Without revenue, there won’t be an online newspaper.

    We’ve been enjoying a free ride on the Internet for twenty years, and the providers of that free content are struggling to survive. We are rapidly moving to an era of subscription-based news. Free content is killing media and what we are seeing here is the flailing of a news source, struggling to survive.

    Overall, this is a sad thing to see because it might be inconvenient to you, but how will you feel when it is gone?


  14. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:03 am:

    AdBlocker just took out 17 ads for me on the main SunTimes website. Don’t forget to turn it off on pages you support!


  15. - Lincoln Parker - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:05 am:

    Thank you for writing this. Their website is terrible.

    I also cannot figure out how to find articles by a particular columnist, something that should not be difficult at all.


  16. - AC - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:05 am:

    This is so timely, as I was trying to read about fake outrage over the color of the jersey worn by the governor, I suffered from outrage over the website. I’m not sure what was in the article I was going to read, ad I gave up a few minutes into the process.


  17. - Soccermom - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:11 am:

    I absolutely support newspapers as they seek strategies to monetize the internet. But the S-T is just ridiculous.


  18. - yes - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:11 am:

    ugh, thank you for this post!


  19. - Muscular - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:13 am:

    Rich, I am surprised you are complaining about this, considering you are a journalist. You are receiving a free service. Reporting needs to be paid for and creating more ad impressions increases revenue for a free service. Might you have no ads if you subscribed?


  20. - A guy - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:14 am:

    Not sure why, but all of this happened when I started going to their “new site”. Frustrating to say the least. I do visit every morning and the number of ads has dissipated and the survey questions are rare now. The only thing left that irritates to no end is the auto-start video. It’s on the ST group suburban papers as well. Not sure if a roll over triggers it, or it’s just automatic. Doesn’t happen every time.

    With frequency, the irritation goes away. I really wonder if it’s just a bad navigational program that has too much redundancy. It was a pain before. Now it’s barely tolerable.


  21. - cdog - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:15 am:

    Radio has has been free to the user since its beginning over 100 years ago. Radio ads can be extremely entertaining and sometimes annoying. Internet sites, like Sun Times, need to respect the user and not offend.

    One consumer question, some cute cats, and access to the article should make everybody happy. “What we need here is moderation, nothing in the extreme.”


  22. - Wildcat D - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:19 am:

    What makes this even more frustrating, is that Wrapports is a digital media company. How do they not know better? Give the site to Trump, he can fix it for $3.


  23. - Chicago60609 - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:22 am:

    Neither the Sun-Times nor the Tribune are worth the time any longer. I would pay for decent web content, but what they have is typically uninformative or slanted nonsense.


  24. - Steve Earle - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:26 am:

    Chrome with AdBlock worked pretty well. I just had a few pop-ups, and was able to read the whole article.


  25. - OneMan - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:35 am:

    True that…


  26. - AlabamaShake - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:37 am:

    **Rich, I am surprised you are complaining about this, considering you are a journalist. You are receiving a free service. Reporting needs to be paid for and creating more ad impressions increases revenue for a free service. Might you have no ads if you subscribed?**

    Rich has ads here on CapFax. He makes money off of them. A lot of money.

    But they’re not obtrusive. They don’t make it difficult to read the site.


  27. - AlabamaShake - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:37 am:

    Also, re: the ST website. Even when you get past the ads, the layout is just god-awful. Its ugly and clunky.


  28. - scott aster - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:38 am:

    Just another step to save the paper and create revenue…doesn’t your column appear in the ST Rich??


  29. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:43 am:

    ===doesn’t your column appear in the ST Rich?? ===

    Apparently, you don’t pay attention too well to that site.

    I was disappeared from it over a year ago.


  30. - Amalia - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:46 am:

    Priceless! yep, it’s very disturbing to experience.


  31. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:47 am:

    ===They don’t make it difficult to read the site. ===

    Exactly.

    Charge more for ads so you don’t have to run so many.

    I actually limit the number of ads that can appear on this site at any one time. It creates a shortage, of sorts, which drives up the price I can charge.


  32. - Bystander - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:50 am:

    After reading Rich’s post, I typed “mike madigan sends a message by showing his softer side, sun-times” into my Google Chrome browser and got directly to the article.


  33. - The Historian - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:52 am:

    I haven’t looked at the Sun-Times even once in 9 months or more. Who’s still there that there’s any need to read? I avoid the SJ-R’s horrible site too. The Chicago Reader has a *great* web page: if you want to see what Ben Joravsky’s written most recently, you find it in 2 clicks.


  34. - WonderfulWorld - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:56 am:

    Thank you for writing about this. I can’t stand their site anymore. I no longer go on it. I am thinking about canceling their newspaper subscription just to protest the website. And, I work in IT! It is too burdensome to use.


  35. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:57 am:

    === and got directly to the article.===

    Hooray for you, but how would you have found the article without my post?

    lol


  36. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:57 am:

    I don’t even try anymore to read the SunTimes online. It’s just not worth it.


  37. - Betsy - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:58 am:

    Agree with the complaints here. Similar issues when reading from your iPhone. Oh, then get the Sun-Times app. That should solve things. Not so much. Not easy to navigate the app, and then you get links to stories on other platforms where it’s cut off at the right margin, and you have to guess what 1/3 of the article is saying. Very frustrating. Thanks for posting, Rich. For some time I thought I was overly peeved at these ad pop ups and survey requests.


  38. - anonymous - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 10:03 am:

    To echo many other commenters, I don’t even bother with the ST website anymore. But it was interesting to note that Zullily shows everyone the same shirt in their ad :)


  39. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 10:07 am:

    Once I am on their site, I can’t use the back button on my browser on my pc or on my android phone. I’ve started skipping the paper completely. Very poorly designed.


  40. - ??? - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 10:08 am:

    The print version of the paper is horrible, too: clunky layout, a few local stories (like the whole section devoted to who got shot and robbed recently), then it goes to the USA Today section of the paper, 8 million inserts and advertisements….

    It is crammed full of junk, and I just don’t have the attention span or the patience to read it anymore.


  41. - Gooner - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 10:09 am:

    I try to check it, but other than for stuff about the Bears, I rarely read it.

    The one strength of the paper is City Hall coverage. The problem is that articles about City Hall tend to be a bit tough to find.

    Right now, my primary source for information is either this page or Crains. I will pay for Crains (and likely will start paying for the extra content here in the near future).

    The Sun Times needs to realize that if you deliver content that people want, they will write the check for it.


  42. - Anon221 - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 10:11 am:

    Thanks for the posting, Rich. I was getting a persecution complex trying to read articles there:)

    As far as ad revenues, there is mining and then there is mountain-top blasting away. The SunTimes has obviously chosen the later.


  43. - Anonymous - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 10:30 am:

    Yes to all this, but I did notice in the first ad shown, Jamie Fox is now boxing too! (under the pseudonym “Shawn Porter”)


  44. - Liberty - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 10:53 am:

    ==The Sun Times needs to realize that if you deliver content that people want, they will write the check for it. ==

    Actually Gooner, even if true, the mega corps who own America want every penny they cans squeeze out of you.


  45. - Michelle Flaherty - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 10:59 am:

    Just adjusted the pop-up blocker. It seems to have cut out much of the hassle and clutter.
    Now the site just instantly freezes.
    Much better.


  46. - SunTimes Who??? - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 11:10 am:

    Honestly this is so annoying! This is why I read everything politics here with CapFax and RebootIllinois.com , they have some ads, but great content and not nearly as bad as Sun Times GARBAGE!!!!


  47. - Bystander - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 11:13 am:

    - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 9:57 am:

    ===Hooray for you, but how would you have found the article without my post?===

    You’re right. Am completely dependent! Haven’t time to read anything other than what am led to by
    Capitol Fax.


  48. - If that's what it takes - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 11:38 am:

    This sort of thing has become ubiquitous on newspaper sites that don’t have pay walls, which hasn’t proven effective for the most part. They’ll get it figured out eventually. In the meantime, I’m just grateful for the newspapers that still exist. Sure, it’s a PITA. But consider the alternative of no newspaper at all. It might actually be a barometer to determine which stories/sections are worth keeping. If readers are willing to go through a bunch of hurdles to read Early and Often but aren’t willing to do so to read, say, the cooking section, that would seem to help the paper identify what it should build up and focus on, which it should know to begin with. But bean counters being bean counters…


  49. - Rich Miller - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 11:42 am:

    ===But consider the alternative of no newspaper at all===

    I would argue that the CS-T is hastening its own demise with its ridiculously difficult website.


  50. - Wordslinger - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 11:54 am:

    The Sun-Times exists as a vanity possession now for Ferro. He could pull the plug at any time.

    He cashed out the suburban papers, the only assets that were making money. They have more columnists than reporters (what’s the point of Neil Steinberg, anyway? Do you get tax credits for hiring the hopelessly irrelevant?). There isn’t even one photographer for the whole rag.


  51. - If that's what it takes - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 11:57 am:

    RM,

    Fair point. Agreed that it is over the top and, if continued, is going to do more harm than good. I prefer to think of them as trying to find the right balance. I give up on a fair number of stories, and not just in ST, due to too many click-throughs. But I stick with it if I think that the story will be worth it.

    Interesting, I think, how perspectives can change. If this had been 15 years ago (I know, a veritable eternity), readers would have said “What? I don’t have to go outside and brave the rain and snow to fetch the paper? I only have to click a button ten times? Great!”

    I know–an eternity ago.


  52. - Under Further Review - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 11:58 am:

    I am shocked that the Sun-Times has survived. I thought that it would cease operations months ago.

    Horse players are obliged to read the Sun-Times because the Tribune effectively discontinued printing horse racing entries and results long ago.


  53. - Formerly Known As... - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 12:06 pm:

    ==browser usually crashes before I can ever read the story==

    Used to be 50-50 whether I get to read the story or the browser crashes.

    Now I just don’t visit the site.


  54. - Anonin' - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 12:25 pm:

    Tribbies and Crains not a lot better, but who is countin’ Stick with WSJ
    Some day try followin’ the news from the TV sites. All are awful.


  55. - Qui Tam - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 12:45 pm:

    “We’ve been enjoying a free ride on the Internet for twenty years, and the providers of that free content are struggling to survive. We are rapidly moving to an era of subscription-based news.”
    My paid subscription to the WaPo includes both a price and pop-up ads.


  56. - MrJM - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 1:19 pm:

    I get to stories on the S-T website almost exclusively via Twitter links. Trying to find worthwhile content via the S-T homepage is burdensome and nearly impossible.

    – MrJM


  57. - Just an Old Guy - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 1:23 pm:

    I agree, I did get the article, and I thought I had all the add ons closed, but guess what, I tried to open another page and presto…another Com cast ad!


  58. - Carlos - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 2:10 pm:

    >

    Um, no, the print version is actually very clean, and the USA Today pages are a great addition of national and international news.

    >

    Um, again, no. There are hardly any inserts and ads. Not sure where you’re getting this 8 million figure.


  59. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 2:42 pm:

    I’m using the Twitter route like MrJm. Works like a snap.

    Can’t miss Novak and Fusco!


  60. - RNUG - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 3:02 pm:

    == The only thing left that irritates to no end is the auto-start video. ==

    Me too. In fact, on a web site I’m responsible for, I insisted on having the video auto-start disabled.

    == I avoid the SJ-R’s horrible site too. ==

    It’s not as bad as some, but there is plenty of room for improvement. The one that really drives me nuts is the SJ-R’s inability to understand I am a subscriber without having to log in with my username and password every time. They’ve apparently never heard of cookies or other methods for making it transparent.


  61. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Jun 22, 15 @ 4:25 pm:

    RNUG, I’m not technology-savvy enough to figure it out but there is something about the service Gatehouse uses on all its sites that is really FUBARed. I occasionally turn cookies off to get unlimited access to a site that otherwise limits me to 8 free per month (rhymes with Cruise-A-Jet) I’m already paying for a ton of content. When I go to Gatehouse sites- Cookies off-total lockout. Cookies on-completely random as far as logon, access limit, subscriber. I guess results may vary.


  62. - SweetLou86 - Tuesday, Jun 23, 15 @ 12:01 am:

    Journalists need to get paid and consumers aren’t willing to pay for news anymore. Can’t have your cake and eat it too.


  63. - Rich Miller - Tuesday, Jun 23, 15 @ 8:08 am:

    ===Journalists need to get paid and consumers aren’t willing to pay for news anymore===

    I’m kinda doubting they’re willing to work that hard to read a story they can find elsewhere.

    There are just too many ads on that site. Charge more, sell fewer.


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