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New York Times Opens Door to 'Welcome Ads'

Website Visitors May Now Be Greeted by Full-Screen Interruptions

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Websites are continuing to explore just how far ads should creep across their sites without bothering visitors too much. The most recent example came yesterday, when The New York Times for the first time allowed a full-page ad to interrupt people trying to reach NYTimes.com for their initial visits of the day -- before they could view even one headline.
The New York Times has previously allowed interruptive screen takeovers further along in the online experience, but had never sold such ads in front of its own home page.
The New York Times has previously allowed interruptive screen takeovers further along in the online experience, but had never sold such ads in front of its own home page.

The ad, for The New School's Environmental Studies program, appeared as The New York Times Co. told its annual shareholders meeting that it was experimenting with new online ad units. The Times has previously allowed interruptive screen takeovers further along in the online experience, but had never sold such ads in front of its own home page.

Digital revenue rises
Digital revenue comprised 10% of the company's total last year, up from 8% in 2006. But online revenue growth has slowed to 11.6% in the first quarter of this year from 21.6% in the first quarter of 2007.

"We have been doing full-page interstitials for years," said Todd Haskell, VP-digital sales and operations, responding to questions via e-mail. "This is just a different placement in the user session."

"We collaborate with customers to provide ad units that help them meet their marketing needs," he added, "and clients have been asking for a 'welcome ad' placement for some time."

Calculated risk
Although this kind of ad disappears after a few moments and includes a small link allowing visitors to skip it even earlier, some sites have hesitated to delay visitors for even an instant upon their first arrival. People use the internet to perform tasks, the thinking goes, which makes interruptive advertising more irritating than on TV or in print. It's precisely because these ads can't be missed, however, that they have become especially attractive in a digital environment where banners and other units are sometimes overlooked.

Mr. Haskell said The Times would not go overboard. "We will see how our reader behavior is affected by the ads and determine from there how often we can do this," he said, "but we do not expect it more than a few times each week."
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