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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

St Cloud Times Online Edition Advertising Warning!!!

Before you advertise online with the St Cloud Times, read this!

WebWizard Works provides web design and hosting services, in addition to hosting the sites we create, we also have a separate division for hosting websites not created by us called HostWizard Works.

St Cloud Times Online Edition
For a while I've been meaning to run some leaderboard ads in the St Cloud Times Online Edition. I finally created a banner ad and contacted the St Cloud Times Online Edition to work out my advertising. The rates were acceptable however the representative was concerned over what exactly I would be advertising. Apparently Times Media is also in the web design business, therefore they won't run competitors ads. Good thing they don't also own a bank or car dealership... they'd loose a big chunk of their advertising revenue.

Isn't it a conflict of interest that the St Cloud Newspaper's parent company is involved in other businesses and has the policy (and power) to ban competitors from advertising in the city's main newspaper???

I assured the rep that I was advertising for my hosting division only, he replied with "Yes that would perfectly fine. Thanks!"

The next issue that came up is the fact that they charge 70% more if the leaderboard ad is "rich media". That's fine, rich media is normally flash or some sort of embedded script that creates movement. I, on the other hand wanted to use an GIF89a file format. In other words it would be a plain old animated GIF image and I was going to do something like have the click here button blink. They said... that's rich media. Nowhere on the Internet can I fine another place classifying a GIF of any kind as "rich media" and certainly not Star Tribune's online edition in the Twin Cities - which is where I'll be taking my advertising business.

Since when is a GIF of any kind "rich media"???

Ok, moving along... I made arrangements to run the ad. Afterwards from time to time I would go to the St Cloud Times Online Edition to check out other ads. I repeatedly noticed that the pages take a long time to load. That's understandable since they have a lot of content. I'm talking 9-23 seconds to completely load. The bad part is that the leaderboard ad (banner ad at top of page) seem to load very last. I started to feel a little concerned that 9-23 seconds is more than enough time for someone to start scrolling down the page pushing the top out of sight and completely missing the ad by the time it eventually appeared.

Top banner ad takes so long to load, it can be easily missed!!!

I contacted the rep and provided the load time info captured from a site that can officially measure such things. The rep implied "Load times vary for lots of reasons…user’s device, connection method, server traffic. You are right, our pages have lots of elements that affect load times…this is one of the reasons our Webmaster asks a lot of questions when people want to add more stuff to the umbrella. Our pages are designed to load ads last…but I don’t think your 9 seconds is a typical time."

That answer is all well and good except I didn't use my system to measure the load time. I used 3rd party online tool and did it multiple times over several days. It was never under 9 seconds and most the time in the high teens. As you can see from the answer above, they design the page to load the ads last.

Loading ads last rips you off!!!

I'm telling you folks, if you do this sort of advertising with the St Cloud Times Online Edition, you run a serious risk of paying for ad exposures that load so late they will never be seen. The viewer will have long since scrolled down the page.

Well, what do you know - I then heard back from the rep and he says "You do SEO, website developement, and some other things that compete with us. We can't accept advertising from you. Thanks."

I got dropped like a hot potato and why???

Not only had we already covered this, but my banner ad had been submitted and reviewed over a week earlier. I was expecting it to start running any day.

Given my profession, I probably have a little more awareness than the average advertiser regarding these matters and was starting to seriously wonder if I was making a mistake, but was still on course to proceed. Now that I think about it, they probably did me a favor.

I don't have money to throw away on advertising that won't be seen - Do you???

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