So, I'm a couple paragraphs into this Dan Walters' column on a coalition of education groups filing suit in Alameda County to declare California's public school system unconstitutional when my laptop screen goes dark.
I thought I accidentally pulled the plug out of the outlet. Again.
Nope, for a split second later, a video screen appears over the shaded Walters column and a commercial for something I cannot possibly afford starts rolling.
A note at the top of the black box from Walters' Sacramento Bee overlords informs, “Your free content will return in 14 . . . 13 . . . 12 seconds . . .”
First I was annoyed.
“Fuck the Bee!”
But then it hit me: a slight variation on this approach may hold the financial solution for online media–especially a print media struggling to migrate to the web.
In case you haven't paid attention, many print outlets can't pay for the same level of reportage–especially from foreign bureaus and long, tedious, investigative journalism–with the current online model. Everyone wants content for free, it seems, and not enough online advertising is being generated to pay the bills.
The Weekly's extensively covered the struggles over at the Orange County Register, the emergence of nonprofit investigative journalism and, just Monday night and Tuesday, the demise of the online-only OCLNN, a Los Angeles Times project that lasted only four months.
But, as I was reading the latter posts earlier today, I was doing so through a computer running as slowly as Heather Mills. For every keystroke, it seemed my demand was being pushed by a Yorkie on a skateboard to Guam, fulfilled after a fat bureaucrat got off a union-demanded smoke break and returned by Juan Valdez's coffee mule.
Network slowness was fresh on my mind as I was reading Disco Dan and that confounded online ad showed up like a herpes sore. But it gave me this revolutionary idea:
Instead of forcing advertising on readers while they are in the middle of, you know, reading, make the commercials appear when computers and various programs are barely running.
A super friendly note can inform, “We are ever so sorry, but [INSERT: the network is busy * the server's being served * you should have bought a Mac]. While you wait, please enjoy the following from our sponsor.”
Trust me, we'd appreciate looking at anything–even advertising–over
virtual spinning circles, hourglasses or frisky puppies. The good vibes would then me more likely to buy the crap being hawked than when I'm TRYING TO READ A GODDAMN DAN WALTERS COLUMN ON A COALITION OF EDUCATION GROUPS FILING SUIT IN ALAMEDA COUNTY TO DECLARE CALIFORNIA'S PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM UNCONSTITUTIONAL!!!
You IT boys and girls get right on that.
Sounds like I'd better take my commission in Fry's gift certificates.