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The Online Advertising Invasion

There is a theory[1] that claims it is not humans who dominate the earth, but much lower forms of life: the bacteria that we carry within us. We are merely the vessel in which they travel. I am reminded of this whenever I visit the web site of a major content provider these days. The relationship between content and advertising is much the same: advertising is ascendant and ubiquitous; the content is now just the carrier.

popup1All I wanted to do was click over to theatlantic.com to read the esteemed Ta-Nehisi Coates’s take on the Charleston shootings. But an article that should have taken two minutes to read took more like ten. Here’s why:

Before I could even finish reading the headline, my screen froze, commandeered by a big gray box. I had to wait to delete it, which allowed time for the usual sidebar ads to load.

I’ve learned to ignore them, but it’s not as easy to gloss over the latest in ad-mania, the screen-freezing, expanding video ad, in this case a CG cartoon with happy kids and happy mom extolling the virtues of frozen food[2]—in the middle, let me remind you, of an article about nine people shot and killed in cold blood—nice placement, Atlantic. cartoonA trip to my frozen food section was exactly what was on my mind.Then, more in-story ads, and more sidebar ads. I’m glad The Atlantic is doing so well, I guess, but I can’t help wondering if they’re practically giving those ads away at reduced rates just to get advertisers on board—the print edition of the magazine is pretty light on ads compared to just a few years ago. Reminds me a bit of late night cable channels, where people like the Temp Tooth[3] company can afford to advertise.

Finally, for those who have persevered to the end of the article, the reward is a phalanx of minor or self-promotional ads, encouraging the visitor to spend more time on the Atlantic site and waste more time viewing ads.

The web is rapidly becoming more like TV. You can’t watch anything now without ads not only interrupting programs for 15-20 minutes each hour, but also liberally peppered throughout the shows themselves—those annoying promos for other shows that pop up in the corner of your screen while you’re trying to watch your chosen show. Even PBS has ads now, at the start and end of most programs, even if they don’t admit it.

But you know me, always looking at the positive side of things…

In a funny way, maybe the saturation of advertising in our media may be the best thing that ever happened for the book. Maybe people will become so fed up with this ever-increasing barrage of intrusion that they’ll seek refuge in the last place where one can spend quality time without an advertising assault. Then again, maybe it’s just a matter of time before the Big 5 figure out a way to implant interactive ads within the pages of a novel, ads that make it physically impossible to turn the page until you’ve stared at the ad for at least ten seconds.

I can hardly wait.



[1] See research by Justin L. Sonnenburg, Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Stanford University.

[2] I can only assume they were extolling—at least I have the foresight to mute the sound on my computer when I surf.

[3] Yes, it’s real. Who could make this shit up? (And, yes, they have a pop up video.)

Morning News

8/1/15: Tahoma Literary Review Volume 2, Issue 2 is now available. Great poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, as always. You can purchase a copy on Amazon, or download an e-file on our site.

11/2/14: Tahoma Literary Review co-Publisher Kelly Davio and I will present "The Literary Magazine Goes Digital" at the Northwest Bookfest in Kirkland, WA on Sunday, Nov. 2. There's still time to attend the conference, which runs Nov. 1-2 and includes two days of intense workshops (and lunch is included). You can register on their web site.

09/23/14: My story "How to Live at a Hotel" received an Honorable Mention in the Stoneslide Corrective Fiction Contest. Publisher Christopher Wachlin said he would also like to run it in an upcoming issue of Stoneslide .

08/19/14: Minneapolis, here we come. My friend Lori A. May's panel proposal for The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) annual conference has been accepted, so she and I and three other writers will present "Literary Citizenship: It’s Not About You," in April, 2015.

03/31/14: My story, "Plunge," is live at Stoneslide Corrective. They're a cool new journal and book publisher. I used a pseudonym for this one, for future marketing considerations, as they say.

02/28/14: I'll be moderating a panel titled "Stoking the Fire," about finding the writing life that's best for you, at the annual AWP conference on Feb. 28.

10/03/13: Here come da judge! I've been named final judge for the Adult Fiction category of the Detroit Working Writers 2014 conference. I'm excited, because judging the Poetry category will be US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey! Just being mentioned in the same sentence with her is an honor.

9/24/13: Woodward Press co-publisher Dora Badger and I will present a discussion on Self Publishing Options at the annual Rochester Writers Conference on Saturday, October 5 at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Registration is still open for the event, so if you're in the area please join us.

8/1/13: The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) has accepted my panel proposal for the 2014 annual conference in Seattle. "Stoking the Fire: Maintaining the Passion for Writing When Success Eludes" will feature co-presenters Kobbie Alamo, Teri Carter and Q. Lindsey Barrett.

“Curtain Calls,” Available Now

Curtain Calls: A Novel of The Great War is my new book released through Woodward Press. The novel follows three American performers who travel to Paris in the summer of 1914, where they become caught in the passions and politics of a nation on the brink of war. Separated by events, they fall in with factions for and against the conflict, and move ever deeper into a mysterious underground world of political intrigues.

The Face Maker and other stories of obsession is my collection of short stories out now from Woodward Press. Kelly Davio, author of Burn This House, says. "In stories that range effortlessly across time period and place, Joe Ponepinto delivers the kind of masculine character we crave in literary fiction; these characters wrestle with the most essential questions of morality, and they bare-knuckle box with their human frailties." Find it on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Want a signed copy? Email me at jpon (at) thirdreader (dot) com.

For the editing and tutoring services I offer, please see my companion site at Third Reader.

I am the co-Publisher and Fiction Editor of Tahoma Literary Review, a literary journal.

For links to some published stories, go to my Publications page.

Tahoma Literary Review Now Open for Submissions

TLR is officially open for submissions of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. To find out more about this new (paying) literary journal, please visit us at Tahoma Literary Review.

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