- The Washington Times - Monday, September 9, 2002

The small number of companies using pop-up ads to win the business of Web surfers are finding that they are annoying potential customers as much as attracting them.
Many major online companies, such as Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com, are cutting down on the use of pop-up ads or even banning them altogether.
The Internet had 11.3 billion impressions or distinct appearances of pop-ups ads between January and July, according to Nielsen/NetRatings data. About 9 billion, or 80 percent, of those impressions came from just 63 of the 2,208 companies advertising on the Web.
"Pop-ups quickly gained notoriety since their introduction in early 2001, with the ads attracting negative feedback from Internet surfers," said Charles Buchwalter, vice president of client analytics for Nielsen/NetRatings. "Consumers may be surprised to find out that pop-up advertising comprises such a small percent of the total ad market."
Pop-up ads are defined as any Internet advertisement that creates a new browser window. They usually appear atop the browser but often appear behind it. Many Internet users find the pop-ups intrusive.
IVillage, a Web portal catering to women, banned pop-ups in July after 95 percent of its users said the ads were "the most frustrating feature on the Web."
Fewer than a half-percent of the ads used by Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, EBay, Spiegel and FTD were pop-ups, and the companies did not allow other companies to use pop-up ads on their sites. Popular search engine Google recently said it would not accept pop-up ads on its site.
Meanwhile, free software designed to block pop-up ads has become one of the most popular downloads on the Internet. Earthlink, the world's fourth-largest Internet service provider, began including pop-up blocking software as part of its subscriber packages.
About 2 percent of all companies advertising on the Internet used pop-up ads between January and July. But in certain niche areas, usage was much higher, perhaps contributing to pop-up ads' perceived ubiquity.
The hardware and electronics industry, for instance, has created nearly 1.6 billion pop-up ad impressions this year. The entertainment industry has created nearly 1.3 billion impressions.
The biggest user is X10 Wireless, a seller of small Web cameras, which has created more than 1 billion pop-up impressions alone this year.
"Despite consumers' general distaste for the ads, a few advertisers clearly view the benefits of pop-up advertising as greater than the potential harm for brand image," Mr. Buchwalter said.
Pop-up ads are effective, at least in the short-term. Statistics indicate that a pop-up makes a potential customer 10 to 20 times more likely to "click-through" to the advertiser's Web site. In the case of X10, about 30 percent of all Web users go to the company's Web site at least once a month, according to Jupiter Media Metrix, a New York-based Internet analysis firm.
Pop-up ads also provide a method of advertising for companies that have been shut out of other avenues. Online travel site Orbitz, for instance, resorted to using pop-up ads because large portals such as AOL, Yahoo and MSN had signed exclusive advertising agreements with Orbitz's rivals, including Expedia.com and Travelocity.com. Orbitz created 687 million pop-up impressions between January and July, second only to X10.
Difficulty in finding banner space on popular Web sites has led smaller companies to use pop-up ads. Between January and July, 15 percent of the ads created by community-oriented companies were pop-ups. Reference and educational companies used about 10 percent of their ads on pop-ups.
The big question is whether pop-ups work against advertisers in the long term, particularly if Web users associate them with intrusiveness. Analysts say pop-up ads are unlikely to go away but may appear in a less-invasive form.
"While a growing number of Web sites are addressing consumer concern by outlawing them altogether, we anticipate the continuing negativity surrounding pop-ups will lead to new ad designs that are less intrusive and more responsive to consumer expectations," Mr. Buchwalter said.

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