In Case Of Emergency, Watch This Erectile Dysfunction Ad Before Getting News

When I tuned into Twitter this morning, like many other people, I saw tweets about a bomb threat of some type in Times Square. How serious was this? So I went looking for news and found an erectile dysfunction ad along the way. Classy Fox News — and shame on you CNN and the New York Times for being screwed up, as well.

I started looking for news about what was happening when John Battelle tweeted:

Bomb threat still not on but it’s all over Twitter

I hit Google and ignored the main search results with their real time tweets that were integrated, going straight to Google News. The only article I could find was from a site I’d never heard before, DNAinfo, which I gather covers local news in Manhattan.

It was useful. I’d been hearing things about NASDAQ and a bomb threat but I quickly learned this seemed to be a suspicious van parked near Times Square. Probably nothing at all.

Still, I wanted to learn more from news sites. Maybe they had articles out that Google News hadn’t picked up. So I headed over to CNN.

There, I couldn’t find a news story, but there was a live feed being offered. It was buried way down on the page, nearly similar to where I’m pointing in the screenshot below: - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News

I fired it up. A commercial loaded, which I found odd. Here’s a potential emergency — I could know people in the area and be extremely frightened and worried — and I have to wait for a commercial, first? Worse, after the commercial played, there was no live feed. They were showing the weather, instead.

Hey, I know news sites are looking to monetize stuff and there’s that whole debate about people expecting news for free when they should pay. But give me a frigging break. In an emergency, that’s what news sites do. You get the news out first and worry about the monetization later. That’s your job. Make up the money in other ways.

I went to the New York Times next and found nothing, just as I see now as I write this about 30 minutes after I first went there:

The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia

Figuring they probably had something, I drilled into the local area of the site and there, buried, was a news article:

New York Region News - The New York Times

Why wasn’t that on the front page? Seriously, the editors at the New York Times didn’t think when this news broke that people might think they should find it? I mean, it is after all happening in New York, from which the Times takes its name.

But really, Fox News beat them all. Similar to CNN, there was a live video feed about in the same place as the screenshot below shows:

Fox News home page

I clicked on it, and a Viagra ad started playing.

Look, I’m not a prude, but I kind of got enough of those freaking Viagra ads during the Major League Baseball playoffs. They’re really fun to watch with your 8 and 10 year old. It’s one of those cases where I appreciated how in the UK, certain types of ads simply could not be shown before a certain hour, when kids were assumed to be bed — or in association with certain kinds of TV shows.

But imagine the scenario. You’re a family worried about other family in New York. You head to Fox News on your computer, all the kids gathered around, and here’s the Viagra ad. Nice.

OK, if it’s a real disaster, you might not have the kids sitting next to you. So set that argument aside. The “why the hell are you showing me a commercial” one still stands up. Someone’s worried, concerned, perhaps freaked out. They’ve come to your site, grateful to discover they can get some type of live information, and you first make them watch and ad about how to get their dick hard.

Really, really classy.


  1. M. Van Citters says

    I’m not sure if the objection is to showing an ad at all, vs. showing that specific ad. But I’m guessing the ads displayed are not targeted by article content. That being said, I also don’t see how it’s any different than turning on the TV to find news about the problem, and seeing a commercial – which could also just as likely be for Viagra. Would you object to seeing a commercial on TV before the broadcast was back?

    Are you advocating for commercial free broadcasts of all kinds on all platforms during all emergencies – or alleged emergencies – or just for specific types of advertising during these times? I don’t see the difference (web ad vs. commercial).

  2. says

    I’m advocating common sense. When there’s a tragedy unfolding, you don’t show ads. I don’t remember seeing many ads or commercial breaks during 9/11, for example, on the live telecasts. I didn’t tune in for the Ft. Hood shootings, but when the story was first breaking, I’m pretty sure the TV stations didn’t insert commercial breaks. It’s just not appropriate.

    This wasn’t a tragedy. This was a scare. But the same principle applies. You had people not sure what was going on — even the news organizations didn’t — hence putting out the live webcasts. If you don’t know the situation, and there could be a tragedy or you’re trying to get breaking news of a serious nature out, yeah, drop the commercials. Don’t show the ad. Showing the Viagra ad just added insult to injury to me.

    Aside from the viewer concerns, it’s bad for the advertiser. Do you want to be Target, having your ad show just before the live webcast potentially cuts to a scene of death and destruction?

    I think when a situation is more known, when there’s less uncertainty, when you’re pretty sure the immediate emergency is over — I’m not going to see dead bodies, death and destruction, have people who are possibly frantically worried tuning in, then bring the ads back. You know, like for coverage of a freeway chase :)

  3. M. Van Citters says

    I see your point about actual, confirmed tragedies. And during those situations they aren’t as likely to go to commercial breaks, because they want to keep the viewers on their coverage of the actual event.

    But this wasn’t a tragedy, or any kind of confirmed event at all – bomb scares happen all the time, in many major metros. My guess is that once there was actually something to report – if something had in fact happened- they would bump up the coverage – it would be front and center – and without the interruption of ads. Because at that point, again, they’d want to keep the viewers on their site.

    With live streaming, sure the potential exists for a cut from an ad to a scene that you wouldn’t want your brand in front of. But I wouldn’t want my kids in front of that either (death/destruction/people getting killed) so I think caution and consideration on all sides needs to be taken when deciding what to live stream, and what to put ads (and kids) in front of.

    The new phase of always on journalism is going to be met with some bumps, but in this case, I don’t think what Fox did was crass or intended. I think it was the result of an automated system (ad platform) doing what it is programmed to do. And I think those instructions would have changed the minute the nature of the news changed, and there had been an actual tragedy vs. another report of something unknown/unsubstantiated.

  4. says

    I know it wasn’t a tragedy. I also know that no one knew what was going on. I mean, they didn’t even have articles up at CNN or Fox, much less news hitting Google News. But there were rumors of something to do with NASDAQ going around on Twitter and I presume elsewhere. So if you turned to a news site like Fox, you don’t know what’s going on. You just got a link that said “suspicious van” and you click to find out more. And an ad…

    I know Fox didn’t intend to show me a Viagra ad. I know it was all automated. But then again, this is a major news organization. Yeah, I do expect someone over there to be thinking hmm, we’re putting out a live feed of something that either might turn ugly or where people might be concerned about whether there’s real danger. You know, flip that switch to turn the ads off for a bit.

    I’m hoping it’s something they’ll think about more in the future. Put in a crawl ad if you absolutely must monetize ever bit of video content you put out. But I want more thought, and I don’t think any was given here.

  5. says

    I’ve chuckled at this post every time I’ve seen it in my reader.

    You have a point, Danny, and common sense is a rare, heady thing — the kind of thing that makes some pass out when they’re around it. Can’t have that happening in those news rooms.

    By the way, my daughter lives in New York, so I called her about this, oh, about 3:00pm NYC time that day. She said, “Huh? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” This is the response I get from a kid who’s going to school up there. Later she said, “Mom, stuff like this goes on all the time up here and it doesn’t make the news.” Great. Then she proceeded to tell me of all the horrific things I’ve been missing. Man, that made me feel good. Maybe I’d rather see the ED ad.

  6. xony says

    Have you tried subscribing or use DNS settings that block adult content/adds. they work pretty well, you can disable them via online control panel. I use OpenDNS and it works great specially for my kids. Hope this helps.