OK let me preface this by saying that there are a lot of horrible websites out there, truly. That said today I ran across something that stopped me in my tracks. I guess I have been completely dependent on RSS feeds lately that I had not been to Forbes.com lately, so when I did to read an article (Jane Goodall talking about email communications? how could I not be at least a little interested) I had to take a minute to find the article!To the left here is a screen shot (click to enlarge) of the entire page where I have highlighted the article in red.
Honestly folks, this is just embarrassing... can you fit another banner, sponsored ad, navigation element, etc onto this page? the worst part is that the Fisher Investments ad actually started playing with audio and everything.
What could Forbes.com possibly be getting out of this. There is no way users are being responsive to all of these ads and clutter. What's crazy is that the content on the page, which is what's actually relevant to the user, completely takes a back seat to Forbes.com's interests. The article is squished to and wraps around non-relevant content. The additional related topics are found well below the article, and should I want to do anything with the article I would need to find those links up top fairly disconnected from the article itself.
So here's how I look at this, not only does it look like they have taken a "and the kitchen sink" approach to managing their site it certainly appears they have missed the most important thing... content sites need to be about the content. I know what you're saying: "Thank you captain obvious!" but seriously how many sites have you seen that are driven by content but put that same content in the back seat. Users come to the site to interact with the content so why not have every element be building on that content, that's what the customer wants.
The key thing to realize is that the experience should meet their expectations and foster further interaction with the content and the site, after all that should be what these companies want more people doing more with their sites. If you do need/want to have advertising then at least make it relevant and engaging.
Anyone who needs help with this there are tons of resources out there but the one's who really got it from the get go are FutureNow, Inc., check out their Persuasion Architecture, and their Blog always has good tips.
(By the way, I had to put the entire screenshot because I was laughing when I saw how long the page was, the content stopped halfway past the first page but the ads keep going and going, hysterical... wouldn't want to be one of those advertisers)
Evidently others feel the same way, check out ClickZ's blog post about Forbes.com.