The New York Times has started to use intrusive ad formats for users of its iPhone news app, with full screen interstitial ads appearing between pages.

These ads can be pretty annoying on the internet, so will they discourage iPhone owners from using your app?

Many apps are given away free, especially from publishers, so its understandable that they want want to use advertising to make some money from, or cover the cost of apps.

Indeed, according to a recent Admob study, most free apps aren't making any money, just the top 5% of apps, which is likely to include the NYT app.

Much of the advertising I have seen on apps so far has been unintrusive, such as this ad for Ralph Lauren, which doesn't interfere with the content: 

NYT app ad

However, interstitials, as routinely demonstrated on, are one of the more sucky online advertising formats, even if they can be bypassed. 

If I see such an ad format on a site I'm visiting, I'll immediately hit the back button, as many other web users would. Perhaps there are some stats somewhere that show that such intrusive ads are effective, but I haven't seen any, and I suspect that many clicks are accidental.

Here's the NYT ad from its app; though it does give users the chance to close the ad, it still sucks: 

NYT app intrusive ad

While most apps I have used tend to prefer the banner ad format used in the first NYT app screenshot above. I have noticed one or two other interstitials on apps.

Words with Friends is a free Scrabble-based app which, unlike sister app Chess with Friends, uses intrusive ad formats. It is free, so users will put up with a certain amount of advertising in return, but they can be pushed too far.

In this app, an interstitial appears after every single move, advertising albums for download from iTunes, which doesn't give you any clue how to avoid it, until you figure out that clicking at the bottom brings up options to download or skip:

In my case, such intrusive ads displayed so frequently were enough to stop me using the app and delete it, and perhaps I wasn't the only one. 

While these ads are annoying on the internet, they are even worse for the user experience on a mobile. If you are looking to read some news on variable mobile internet connections, loading up full-page ads like this wastes time and could end up being a source of frustration for many users. 

It remains to be seen how effective or otherwise this ad format proves to be for mobile users, but I would advise publishers and app developers to think carefully before spoiling the user experience like this.

Graham Charlton

Published 24 August, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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Comments (4)


Stuart Crowder, Internet Marketing Consultant / Social Media Expert at n/a

Today we are all living in a society of advertising escapists where you can digitally record and store your TV, and skip or FF through the ads, watch your favourite programs online with little or no interruption, block popups and spam and pretty much ignore every type of display advertising. This is evident on the internet too with larger emphasis being given to non-intrusive and search/content related advertising.

People will not take kindly to this sort of marketing and I think you raise a valid point that it will only turn off users of app's who will be looking for functionality over irritateing ad messages.

Intrusive advertising – how long will it last?

almost 9 years ago



I do not think developers have a choice, with over 60,000 apps and growing in the iphone store you are lucky if the app gets found. If your apps not under $1.99 your lucky if anyone buys it. So these developers are cornered into selling their apps for $0.99 or worse free and the only way to make money is to run ads. Are they intrusive, maybe a little but I believe these small independent developers do not have a choice.

almost 9 years ago



All intrusive ads are irritating.  There should be a law against it, especially when it comes to mobile phones. 

almost 9 years ago



As a developer myself, I and my partners can't continue to produce apps consistently w/o a business model to support our efforts.  I choose to spend my time developing apps, not selling advertising.

While perhaps annoying at times, properly inserted ads which are appropriately presented to users ultimately benefit both the developer and all of us who enjoy these free apps.

Just remember, you get what you pay for.

almost 9 years ago

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