Testing and Research

Switch Off Your Lightbox

Mar 16, 2018

Why Overlays Are Bad For Your Site And Can Hurt Your Revenue

During pledge week, public media organizations across the country take to the airwaves and the Internet, raising money in support of their journalism and programming. Inside stations, it’s a time of hustle and bustle, of camaraderie and anxiety. But underneath it all lies a tension -- a balance between fundraising efforts and a duty to deliver quality programming. To be good stewards of our public funding, we should ask ourselves what’s the right balance of campaign messaging versus clear delivery of our content.

Twice a year we step back and look at the overall digital trends in public media. When we last looked at websites, in the fall of 2016, we saw that station sites were under performing the growth we saw in other local news sites. More recently we see that station sites are experiencing some growth while other local news sites decline, but none of them are seeing the tremendous growth experienced by NPR.org. 

During pledge week at stations all across the country, every boy's and girl's fancy turns to one thing: Show me the money. Teams focus on the best ways to drive awareness (and conversion), and we wonder how to best use our web site as part of the package. So we try everything: 300x250 ads, big banners, lightboxes, interstitial pages, and more.

But here's the question: What actually works? Which of these online formats actually drive increased conversion rate and pledge amount? And do the intrusive ad formats negatively affect user engagement -- do they annoy people so much that it discourages them from using the site?

We decided to run a test and find out.