This article was published on May 7, 2015

What’s the deal with TNW’s new Canvas ads?

What’s the deal with TNW’s new Canvas ads?
Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten
Story by

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten

Founder & board member, TNW

Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is a serial entrepreneur who founded not only TNW, but also V3 Redirect Services (sold), HubHop Wireless Internet Provider (sold), and Boris is very active on Twitter as @Boris and Instagram: @Boris.

One key part of our redesign is our new Canvas ad format. I thought it would be worth telling you a bit more about how and why it came about.

Canvas ads have been developed to make it easier for advertisers to design and show beautiful full-page ads. Our goal was to offer ads so beautiful that people would consider them good enough to tweet about. It looks like we reached that goal, but of course a lot of people also have questions. So here’s a list of questions we often see, with our answer to them.

Q: What is the canvas ad?

A: The Canvas ad is a new advertising format that allows an advertiser to design a full-page image, or movie, that can be shown in the background of an article. If a reader is interested in seeing the full ad they can click in the background and the main article will slide out of view. On some visits we slide the article out of view right away to reveal the ad, but you can hide it again simply by hovering over the article.

Q: How can I skip the Canvas ad and read the article?

A: As soon as the page loads you can move your cursor to the article and it will slide back over the Canvas ad. Pro tip: hit the ‘c’ key on your keyboard and the article will move in or out right away. Try it now to see how it works!

Q: Why are the ads so big?

A: We believe that ads don’t have to be annoying and ugly. But that means they have to be designed well. With traditional, small banners it is hard to show a beautiful photo or design. Our Canvas ad is designed to be easy to navigate away from, but also show you a whole page if you are interested.

Q: Not all images look like ads. What are those other images I see?

A: We invited some artists to give us their best work to show in the Canvas ad format. We thought it would be inspiring to show real artwork as well besides just commercial ads. If you are an artist and want to submit your work to be considered do contact us ([email protected]). Being featured as an artist is free, and we link to your website or portfolio.


Q: Isn’t this just an interstitital?

A: No. We don’t like interstitials either. They sit between you and the content and require another click and new pageload before you can proceed to the article. The Canvas ad surrounds the article and the article loads at the same time. All it takes to move the article back in view is to hover over the article. It’s a much more intuitive and smooth process.

Q: I dislike ads and don’t want to see any. Can you remove all ads?

A: Ads are one of the necessary business models we depend on to run our business and pay our employees. Producing content 24 hours a day and 365 days a year is expensive. Regular banners don’t generate enough revenue to run a business any more so we went looking for a format that would be able to show beautiful ads and be visible but easy to skip for readers.

We understand some of you would rather not see ads at all, but we hope you understand that we can’t keep working for you unless we generate some revenue. And no, subscriptions aren’t the answer – we, and many other publishers, tried offering Pro accounts without ads, but the numbers simply didn’t add up.

Q: I don’t want to see an ad, I came here for the article!

A: We understand that and we want to make it easy for you to enjoy our content. We do think it is only a small price to pay though. Consider this; at least we don’t put up a paywall like the Financial Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal or Economist, or one of those ugly interstitials like they do at some other sites.

Now pick up a paper magazine. You’ll usually see a 50/50 mix of content pages and ad pages. And with the latest issue of Wired I had to browse past 7 ad pages before I got to the content. Compared to that, we think seeing one nicely designed ad, that moves right out of the way if you want, isn’t so bad.

Q: Are these canvas ads here to stay?

A: They’re an important part of our strategy, but we are going to improve them a lot over time. We want to limit the amount of ads you see every day so that the ones you do see really make an impression.

Our goal isn’t to annoy you, it’s to share great content with you while also showing the most beautiful, inspiring ads we can – and if you’re annoyed, you’re not likely to be inspired. We also want to make sure it is as easy as possible to remove an ad if you want to.

So, we still have work to do to refine Canvas ads and make them perfect.

Q: I did a search and found a few complaints as well. How about that?

A: With any new ad format, or anything new in general, we always see people complaining and wishing things would stay like they were. Some people really dislike ads, and a bigger ad to them is by definition a bad idea. We believe these ads are an improvement over regular banners that are just pasted into websites and nobody likes or clicks on anymore. So to people who complain we say ‘give it a chance, try it for a few days, and keep an open mind.’

Q: I have a great idea to improve the ads. Want to hear it?

A: We sure do! We love getting constructive criticism and we reply to all email. Send an email to [email protected] with your suggestions or improvements.

Q: How can I share my gratitude or frustration with you in a public manner?

A: Well, why not tweet your ‘boo’ or ‘thanks’ to us? Click the links underneath this article!

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