Counting Ads

A friend recently posted an article which I found interesting in terms of content. Specifically, what content (and context) was present, what wasn’t, and a look at the amount of advertising on this specific online article.

Rather than risk the potential headache of copyright violation in posting the headline, I will summarize it as “inert munitions released from military aircraft due to unfortunate bird/aircraft interaction over Florida.”

My initial response:

See… this is one of those weirdly misleading headlines…
One of the common steps in emergencies dealing with maintaining power to remain in controlled flight may require “jettisoning external stores.” This includes external tanks, bombs, or whatever else is hanging from the aircraft. Even civilian airliners often have to dump fuel inflight to meet the safe landing weight for the situation or emergency.
So… not knowing all the details of the investigation but understanding how emergency procedures go: there was a bird strike (probably an engine) and the pilot had to safely jettison what he could. 
It happens more than you realize and, unless caught by the media, is a nonevent.

For understandable reasons, the checklist for the A-10 isn’t readily accessible online; engines, hydraulics, or landing gear failures all come to mind following further reading as possible justifications for the pilots’ actions.

However, that ended up not being the point for this post.

One of the problems with having a 10-year old computer is that it gives me time to think as pages load. In the article above, I noticed a trend which prevents me from using many news outlets like Reuters, AP, and BBC: I frequently get the “Google Chrome (Not Responding)” banner with tabs freezing or my favorite error page with a list of every tab open and, therefore, problematic:

“…but we know you are going to wait.” (Source: stackoverflow.com)

While irritating, my thoughts drifted to a previous post where I wrote about media and advertising. On a hunch, I started counting advertisements – both active and static – out of curiosity.

For the clarity’s sake, I define “active” advertisement as any window or text which is animated or changing either shape, definition, color, or image when the mouse pointer is over the ad. “Passive” advertisements are exactly that and include links to associated articles which might draw the reader even further down this computer-bogging morass of hopeful interest.

For a 224-word news article, the balance was… intriguing:

  • 10 active ads (to include 5 bars of various icons for social media)
  • 10 promoted links
  • 7 sponsored links
  • 1 clearly marked ad (oddly enough, this changed to 5 when I went back to the site after I closed the tab out of annoyance)
  • 24 Links to other articles from the same source
  • 1 Link to an external news site (CNN)
  • …and 1 link to a .mil site

For 224 words.

A brief discussion in the comments following the post from “More Things to Consider” provided insight as to how little I understand about marketing, advertising, and programming. After counting the ads on a balky computer, I am left with the question of “do I really want to start down that rabbit hole?”

I am a history guy – tangents like this are somewhat uncharacteristic for my usual interest in research and focus in writing. That being said, I have this rather intangible feeling that, decades from now, historians and digital anthropologists will be looking at how our fascination with information is commodified and therefore distracting from what we seek.

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