Letterboxd, we like you, please don’t put ads on your pay to join webpage!

My original Letterboxd profile page a year ago on Letterboxd … for historical purposes, you know

Letterboxd (https://letterboxd.com/) will always have a place in my heart. Love what that site does for being able to efficiently track movies you’ve watched, rewatched and write short (or long, if you desire) reviews, sharing, and to mark if there are spoilers in your review. If you ever want to take what you’ve done with you, they have an excellent export user data function. They are good eggs in the movie-related world.

I have the app installed on my phone, but don’t use that very often. Prefer to type a review on a bigger screen — laptop, computer, even a tablet is better than a small phone screen.

Not saying I haven’t typed a short movie review on my phone (I have) but it isn’t as satisfying for me. I’m over 50 years old, my eyes suck worse every day, so smaller screens and my bigger, clumsy fingers just aren’t as functional on a phone. If you love the app experience, more power to you. Use what you like and don’t let anybody else sway you away.

Also, maybe more importantly to readers here, the use of Letterboxd prompted starting this blog. We still regularly link to our movie reviews over there and, only recently, started posting full text new movie in theater reviews here. Someday, we will post all movie reviews here, but for now, just our TV reviews and movies in theaters are posted here first and in full text. The vast majority of reviews here are spoiler-free, but some do include spoilers and warnings are provided so readers don’t go in and find something ruined.

The title of this post aside, which appears like I’m going to bag on them — and I am, a little bit but it’s meant as constructive criticism and to help them get and retain more people paying them something — I still adore Letterboxd and maybe always will, unless they just ruin the user experience. Sadly, that’s happened with some sites I’ve loved in the past.

It’s a great service and the site needs to make money to stay afloat. I have been supporting them by purchasing a pro subscription ($19/year). It’s a small price to pay for their service. We can, do and will support sites we enjoy using.

Recently our “Pro” subscription for Letterboxd expired and I went to review the service for renewal. I don’t usually save any credit cards used on sites and change the cards regularly, so most sites can’t just auto-renew yearly subscriptions (I know they like to because this is easy money), this means these subscriptions will lapse and then we have to go and decide if we want to support/buy again.

I like to see what it’s like being a free member to a website that I use, how things have changed in the past year. Sometimes the way a site has changed for free members will alter my decision to renew. That’s not going to be the case for Letterboxd this year, but I have to point out the website is uglier and less usable if you aren’t a paid member. (duh?)

About 30% of the screen real estate is ads for free members, a side video and a footer banner ad

The Ultimate Sin – Ads on Pay To Join Pages

I went to their join page and even that was loaded with ads. Hint: remove ads from your pay to upgrade pages! These are potential or returning customers, why on earth would you want to have the join/pay page be cluttered with ads?! Drop those badboys post haste.

If you can’t criticize something you like, what’s the point? Don’t put ads on join/pay pages never, ever, ever, ever.

This is constructive criticism and maybe nobody at Letterboxd sees this, but if they do, turn off the ads on your web pay/join page ASAP. It’s one line of code to block a single page from displaying ads, so use it. You don’t ever want ads on your pay to support/join pages. This is a potential customer or, in my case, a returning customer. Don’t push me away from this page, wallet in hand, and instead prompt me to screenshot, write about it and say, “Guess maybe I’ll come back later and buy, because I can’t even see the button to pay.”

Parting with hard-earned money is already a challenge. Don’t add to the internal strife.

I don’t remember there being so many ads on Letterboxd a year ago. Maybe there were, and missed them. The before and after effect for usability and ad intrusion is noticeable and intentional. It’s about 30% of the screen and there aren’t popups or other even more obnoxious ads, but suffice to say, I’m not clicking any of them. I don’t click like 99.5% of all ads that appear anywhere. They don’t work on this hardened netizen, sorry.

Usually, that’s the point, make the ads abusive and intolerable so people want to pay the subscription fee to get rid of the ads. I understand this marketing strategy, but there are other ones like Wikipedia uses a couple times a year, go on an advertising drive.

You earn our business and support by being something we enjoy using, reading, visiting regularly

There is an app we use for pictures called Pic Stitch. You can see pictures we use here for that because they allow easy creation of picture layouts like comic strips on your phone. That app has ads that play before you can save the image and it costs like $3.99 one time to get rid of them forever. I paid because the app was something we regularly use. The practice of ad intrusion to drive paying to remove ads works or nobody would ever do it. I’m not saying it’s a practice that doesn’t have merit, I’m saying it isn’t without consequences. Sometimes, in some places it hurts adoption and continued support.

End users can and do utilize ad blocker scripts in their browsers, but site owners who rely on paid subscriptions and donations to keep the virtual lights on really don’t like these. I’m not going to get into the debate about whether using ad blockers is a good idea for end users, but everybody knows they exist and many like using them.

Suffice to say, Letterboxd isn’t among the worse sites out there for ad intrusion (pretty much any major news site is worse), but it seems uglier than it was a year ago. Maybe it’s no more intrusive in 2020 than it was in 2019, but I don’t remember it this way. These are hard times, and money is tight everywhere, so I don’t blame them for being more aggressive with ads, but the condition reduces my interest in visiting their site.

This is the side of things that website owners sometimes forget: you can drive away influencers, passionate users by trying to over-advertise to them. Maybe some would love to pay you, but don’t have the money to do so (that’s not our case, but is most certainly applies to a percentage of your visitors). Some of your most ardent fans might support you when times are good, but be turned off when you make your site less usable. Just don’t forget about them. Make some way that the most engaged visitors at your site can be rewarded without paying.

Just to be clear, I support monetizing websites. The comments area below shouldn’t devolve into a debate over monetize vs. not monetize and the whole bogus “the internet should be free.” Bandwidth isn’t free to somebody (even free hosted sites have owners paying a bandwidth bill), time is valuable, we all have to eat. People deserve to be paid for their hard work and effort.

Anyway, I did a search on Google for Letterboxd to see what others are saying about Letterboxd more recently. This is one way to keep grounded about sites and services we like that change as they grow in popularity, users and site expenses.

Right at the beginning of Chicago’s stay-at-home order at the start of April, I downloaded Letterboxd. “The social network for film lovers,” Letterboxd is any movie geek’s fantasy. It’s even better than Instagram. The app allows you to search up anything related to a movie (actor, director, genre, so on), compile lists and interact with the film community. 

Rosca’s Ramblings: How Letterboxd Saved Me During Quarantine

This blogger is using the Letterboxd app more than the website. I went back to the app and tried to see how that differed from the website experience while I’m temporarily a free member.

Happy to report that the Letterboxd app experience is much better for free users. I mean the ads seen there are embedded between text and much more graceful. It’s a vastly better app experience. I wish the web experience looked like this. Maybe they don’t want us old, sight-impaired folks using the web, they want us to use the app?

Letterboxd UI much cleaner for FREE users in September 2020

Moral to this story: FREE users should use the app. Those that use it a lot and can support, the Pro upgrade, it is well worth the $19/year. If you really love the site and it’s in the budget then throw down the 49 bones for patron status for a year. According to the text, that also opens up for some beta testing and first look features that the Pro subscribers don’t even get to see.

BTW, the purchase screens through the app to upgrade do not have ads. I liked this so much that I went ahead and renewed the patron level for $49+ tax.

Yay, a happy ending!

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