The Next Web’s IE9 partnership: the future of advertising or a load of crock?

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Websites, especially ones that only provide content, have to constantly find new and interesting ways of ensuring that users click on their display advertising. This is the only way that they can stay in business. But where do you draw the line between objectivity and “advertorial”?

The Next Web is a four-year-old online publication that is focused on spreading the latest news about internet technology, business and culture. Boasting an average monthly audience of around 5.1-million (absolute, not unique) and around 7-million monthly page views, the site is certainly seen as a relevant and objective content provider.

As part of the eternal quest for new digital advertising methods that work, The Next Web has entered into a content series agreement with Microsoft.

The website’s main page entices users with a banner (shown above) that highlights exclusive content for IE 9 users. When you click on the banner, you are taken to a Microsoft, Bing, and Internet Explorer 9 branded page with every single piece of real estate screaming at you.

The page that you land on claims that you will receive a 24 hour head start on the rest of the sites visitors who are on other browsers. In other words, IE9 users will have the fresh, new content, 24 hours before anyone else. Oddly though, the landing page content was already four days old (at time of writing) — this did not bode well for the content to come.

In the spirit of fairness, I decided to put it to the test…

The image on the left is of the site in Chrome (my browser of choice), while the one on the right is the IE 9 version of the page (I included the About IE window to prove it).

Apart from the banner ads being on slightly different rotations; the pages are identical! No exclusive content to be seen. In fact, when you examine the posted times of the first article (14 and 15 minutes ago at time of screenshot) there is NO discernable difference.

Another small problem with the page, which is a personal bugbear of mine, is that it The Next Web is still trying to convince those with IE9 as their browser; that they should download and use IE 9. It is clearly making use of browser detection — so why not use it and make the call to action useful and relevant to the user on your page? They’ve already converted to IE9, sell them on something else now. Since it is a “Microsoft themed” page, perhaps a Bing or Live call to action would have been more effective.

Let’s assume for a second though that the content was exclusive. Is this not severely crossing the already blurry line of free, fair and objective content? Does this not discriminate against the freedom of choice for users to make use of any browser they wish?

Maybe we are looking at the first of a new trend in content partnerships and not at a one off anomaly. One thing’s for certain, though, better execution is definitely going to be needed to ensure that users are not left feeling lied to and cheated. After all, it takes a lot of personal commitment and a real want from the user to muster up the courage to change their default browser.

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  • http://twitter.com/matthewarnold Matthew Arnold

    I think it’s a nice concept for a short term campaign / takeover. In the long term, trying to give some content earlier makes no sense, then the website would be outdated and irrelevant to all non IE users, essentially making the website less competitive. They should have made additional rich media content (interviews etc) available to IE users. However as you mentioned very poor execution all round.

  • http://www.brandsocial.co.za Michael Cowen

    This is just stupid. It shouts to me that they have no integrity – they will sell your loyalty to the highest bider.

    They are also “forcing” someone to use something they dont want. If i was a next web loyal user and they did this to me, when my browser of choice is Chrome, i would be peeved.

    Net effect – They are abusing their readers loyalty for the sake of a dollar.

  • GuestWho

    Just because you had to download IE9 once to see if there really was any exclusive content doesn’t mean that you can never go back to using chrome ever again. Google won’t revoke your Chrome pass for cheating on them. It’s just a way for them to get people downloading the new browser in the hopes that it might stick. I prefer chrome but have every other browser installed regardless. 

    I think it’s a nice effort of keeping their advertising relevant. People are always so quick to jump on the “advertising is the devil” bandwagon but you wouldn’t have had anywhere to write a story about how lame it is if it wasn’t for advertisers and the publishers who work really hard to get them to invest in their sites. 

  • http://twitter.com/Jingo27 Jonathan Houston

    Hi there,

    I have not said that advertising is the devil; and in fact I have not vilified advertising anywhere in this post. I think advertising is a necessary part of “free” websites as it is this self same advertising that continues to allow those websites to be free.

    This article touches on 2 concepts.The first is that the alignment with a single browser. This is dangerous ground as users today do not like feeling as though they are forced to “choose” any specific direction. The fact that many of us (including yourself) have the others browsers installed is in fact testament to that fact. The second point is that the execution of the campaign was not particularly effective. The content was not truly “exclusive” which misled users into downloading a browser which from the get-go failed to live up to the expectations of the users.

  • Premises187

    IE9 smoked the competion? More like TNW smoked Microsoft’s cock.

  • Premises187

    IE9 smoked the competition? More like TNW smoked Microsoft’s cock.

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