Hey Yahoo – it’s native not naïve advertising

October 23, 2013 6:22 am

Yahoo’s webmail service is still very popular. The last figures we saw put it neck and neck with Gmail. But Yahoo Mail has recently had some well-documented problems since its second overhaul of the year. Here’s one nobody is really talking about.

I have used Yahoo Mail since the late 1990s and although it is has never been my main account, for certain things – like shopping – I like to use it. But Yahoo now has me looking at all kinds of products I don’t care about.
Oops imageI mainly use the service over my Android smartphone and sometimes on the desktop. I can’t say I’ve encountered the same thing over iOS (iPad/iPod) or other mobile OSes. What happens now is that when I go into the mail over Android, after a short pause, maybe a couple of seconds, often a ‘Sponsored’ message appears at the top of my inbox.

This is worrying on a couple of levels.

Yahoo has got the native advertising bug, like most other big publishers. We have nothing against that at Collective Content. Placing content in the editorial flow – albeit signposted and high-quality – can be a great, profitable service that publishers can offer brands, one that really helps the brands’ content marketing mix.

Only we’re not sure top of a mobile email inbox counts as native.
Many people have been used to ads in webmail since Gmail’s launch, first from Google and then from the other main webmail providers. But placing ads among your normal messages? Not so much.

Here’s the second thing. Because of the way the ad loads (by design? by accident?) if you go to click on your top, newest message you are likely to hit the ad, which remember takes a couple of seconds to appear and knocks everything else down one notch.

That’s not good. If someone at Yahoo considers this native advertising, they’re naïve.

We’re reminded of the story of a major web publisher that two or three years ago launched an iOS app in very similar fashion. Only in its case, when a user went to scroll from the bottom of the screen, after a couple of seconds an ad appeared in that position.

Hey presto! Click-through rates went through the roof.

Yet those are false metrics. To that publisher – quite possibly for Yahoo too now – they have improved figures to take back to advertisers. But they are also cultivating annoyance from users towards both themselves and those advertisers.

Experience tells us that is never a good outcome, even if in week one the metrics tell you it is.

*photo credit: ktpupp via photopin cc

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