Would You Like A Side of Music With Those Ads?


mohamed_hassan from Pixabay

From the multimillion-dollar Super Bowl ads to the endless political flyers stuffed into mailboxes, advertisements vying for our money, attention, or time are everywhere. It feels like we spend more time viewing ads than what we were trying to watch in the first place. I can’t help but wonder, just how many ads am I really watching per day? 


I decided to gather some data on this question throughout a typical day of media consumption. For reference, I will only be counting television ads, ads on streaming platforms (specifically YouTube and Spotify), and any other video or auditory ads, such as radio ads.  


I usually begin my day listening to music on Spotify, and continue listening to music throughout the day as I work.  Like 156 million other Spotify users, I do not pay for Spotify Premium. This means my beautifully curated playlists are often interrupted by a minute and a half bursts of obnoxious ads. For this tally, I kept track of two main Spotify listening sessions. 


The first session took place on my computer and was about 1 hour and 45 minutes long. During that time frame, I listened to about 11 minutes of ads, or about 10% of the session. These ads, typically about 30-seconds long, play in groups of three and occur after about every three songs. 


Regardless of the songs’ length, I only listened to 3 ads in between songs. While using the computer, I did not have the option to listen to one longer ad in exchange for 30 minutes of uninterrupted music, which is an option on the mobile app.  


The second session of listening to Spotify from my phone took place over a longer period of time, totaling to about 4 hours worth of music. Surprisingly, I only listened to 21 ads, taking up about 11 minutes of my listening time. However, I did choose the option to listen to a “short video for 30 minutes of ad-free music” twice. 


During this session I still received little pop-up ads. They were not auditory and did not interrupt my music, but I had to click out of them to see the music I was listening to.  


While it didn’t happen during this listening session, there have been times in the past when I clicked on the banner to get uninterrupted music, but after two or three songs it would go right back to giving me ads. This leads one to wonder if the promise of “ad-free music” is real, or just Spotify’s tactic to get people clicking on ads. 


Like most people with time to kill, I also spend time during my day watching YouTube videos. As I documented YouTube ads, I discovered it was more difficult to detect a pattern with these than it was with Spotify. For example, before watching a fifteen-minute video, I watched a fifteen second ad. However, before listening to a simple, three-minute song on YouTube, I listened to 30 seconds of ads, almost 20% of the time I spent watching that particular video.   


Even more challenging was trying to count the ads included in the YouTube videos I watched. Content creators’ videos include subtle promotions throughout, making them difficult to catch. 


Finally, I usually end my day watching some television with my family, specifically watching a thirty-minute news program and then a thirty-minute episode of Jeopardy! (during which my family screams answers at one another and cackles maniacally when we answer before someone else does). 


During the thirty-minute news show, we watched 8 minutes and 30 seconds of ads, roughly 24% of the time. Jeopardy! had even more with a total of 20 ads, lasting about 9 and a half minutes, or about 32% of the total time. 


This experience of counting how many ads I watched in one day was eye-opening. It was difficult to remind myself to keep track of them all, because these kinds of advertisements have become so rooted in the whole experience of media consumption. There is a high likelihood that I missed several of the ads I was supposed to be counting, because after a while I was so desensitized to them that I would not even realize that the video I was listening to had stopped and an ad had started playing.  


Are these ads excessive, or are they the price we must pay for getting to use services like YouTube and Spotify for free? And if these ads are necessary, what is a fair number to watch per video or listen to per song?  


This number varies for everyone. Personally, I believe that ads should never take up more than 10% of the time spent consuming the media you clicked on in the first place. Otherwise, the amount of time you spend listening to purely ads gets tedious quickly, and is not worth waiting through.  However, what I believe is fair often is not the same as what Spotify or YouTube believes is fair. So, it looks like we may not be getting rid of these ads on streaming services anytime soon.  Unless, of course, we want to pay for the convenience of not having to hear them.  



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