The Jerusalem Post gave its online readers a gift for the Jewish holiday of Purim: no ads.
The paper, which boasts about 2.5 global readers (about 2 million of which are in the U.S.), hoped its audience would only appreciate the break from advertising during the year's most festive holiday, but would notice the ads that much more once they returned.
"I was looking for ways to improve banners and get the readers' attention for banners," said Tal Nir, Jerusalem Post VP of interactive media. "And I was thinking that if you take off something this dramatically, people notice it, and they see that something is missing."
All day on Wednesday, visitors to JPost.com saw tiny Post-It notes declaring "No Ads Day!" where the banner ads would normally be. The notes expanded upon rollover to read, "For real!" Clicking them brought readers to a page where they could get more information about advertising with the paper.
The idea, said Nir, was that, "The day after, they [would] be curious and look to see what is usually there."
Purim celebrates a story from the Book of Esther in which the Jews are saved from a violent anti-Semite. In Israel, the holiday was celebrated over two days -- Tuesday and Wednesday -- while those in the U.S. generally observed the holiday on Tuesday. The Post decided to run the promotion on Purim, in part, because the holiday involves dressing up in costume.
"We felt it would be great to do it on Purim as a costume, like the site is dressed up," Nir said. "We're doing this as an interactive way to relate with our readers, who see the Jerusalem Post as their home."
Nir wouldn't state precisely what the promotion was costing the paper. "I can say it's in the thousands," he said. However, he did concede that some advertisers were initially displeased with the decision to go ad-free.
"Some customers, of course, raised their eyebrows, but once we explained it to them they were pleased," he said. "Most of them actually liked the idea and supported us."
And readers, not surprisingly, supported it, too.
"They're very curious," Nir said. "Some are asking, 'What is the idea?' and some are asking us to keep it. They thank us and they like it."
Many Web publishers of late have struggled to reduce ad clutter on their sites. Just last week, the Online Publishers Association unveiled a series of new, larger, more interactive banner ads that would cut the number of placements on a page without reducing an advertiser's share of voice.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014