Can you find the content on this page? I couldn’t when I visited it – until I scrolled down the bottom half of the page. And notice too how the icons placed next to the Google AdSense links make it seem like the AdSense links are navigation/story elements meant to be clicked on.
I’ve met Mark before, and he was a nice fellow, but I’ll never visit this site again because it represents the worst in what happens when a hobby site, born of a personal passion for a topic, becomes commercialized in an ugly way. I’m not one to begrudge anyone making money online, it’s how I pay my bills after all, but when a site is more advertising than content, there’s a serious problem. When your visitors have to scroll down to search for the content, you’ve crossed over the line from providing legitimate content supported by ads into the dark realm of an advertising site “supported” by legitimate content. When your content is secondary, you have to ask yourself why you’re even offering it other than wanting to make money off it.
Does Mark have the right to hide his content among advertising? Certainly. But does it hurt his credibility when everything about the site is designed to trick people into clicking on ads instead of finding the content they want? You bet it does. I always struggle with the fine line between content and advertising on the Thoughts Media properties, but I find that if I keep my readers first and foremost in my mind, and think like them, I usually end up integrating advertising in such a way that it doesn’t interfere with what people really want, which is the content. And I also hope (and know) that if I ever cross the line with my sites, people invested in them (community and team members) will smack me upside the head 😉 and remind me that I’m not in this for the money, I’m in it because I love technology and community.