Back in January of this year, I tweeted at the Liverpool Echo Twitter account (@LivEchoNews) asking about all the tracking on their website:
I included two of the Echo's journalists that I follow - you can see in the tweet thread that they aren't even sure what all that non-sense is.
Here we are, more than 6 months later, and the Echo has removed less than 10% of its website tracking code:
Why on earth does the Echo continue to need so much tracking code on its website?
Let's highlight a handful of these scripts and see what their purpose is.
- Google Adsense
- Google Publisher Tags
- Google Safeframe
- Perform Group
- Vindico Group
- Google Analytics
- Integral Ad Science
- ScoreCard Research
- Adobe Dynamic Tag Manager
- Gigya Beacon
- ScoreCard Research
- Criteo (Search)
- Eyeota (Behavior Tracking)
- Facebook Social Graph (Widgets)
- Google AJAX Search API (Search, Widgets)
- Lotame (Lead Management)
- Pinterest (Social, Widgets)
- SkimLinks (Affiliate Marketing, Other)
- Taboola (Video Player, Widgets)
- Tinypass (Widgets)
- VisualDNA (Segment Data)
Here's the Liverpool Echo's script strategy in a chart:
LIVERPOOL ECHO: WHY ALL THE TRACKING?
Maybe this bloated script strategy is common on all news websites?
Let's take a look.
BBC: 7 SCRIPTS
MANCHESTER EVENING NEWS: 20 SCRIPTS
RUSSIA TODAY: 9 SCRIPTS
THE NEW YORK TIMES: 17 SCRIPTS
Hmm. That's not looking good.
Maybe those websites who provide soccer news have a more aggressive script strategy?
Let's take a look.
WORLDSOCCERTALK: 11 SCRIPTS
ESPNFC: 14 SCRIPTS
Here's the Liverpool Echo's script strategy compared with those noted above in a chart:
THE LIVERPOOL ECHO IS NOT WINNING
(How about this website?)
WILJR.ORG: 4 SCRIPTS
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
That's a good question. Who really cares about all this scripting and coding and "stuff"? As a reader, you should. This should be extremely important to you for a number of reasons:
- It's a shitty experience. Every time you visit The Liverpool Echo, 41 different requests are made to a third-party site (see scripts, above) to add some type of functionality to their website. 41 times! Is this enhancing your experience when visiting their website? (Ps: It's an awful experience.)
- What are they doing with all this data? Behavior tracking? 19 scripts for advertising. NINETEEN! What business is The Liverpool Echo in if they need all these scripts? Here's my guess - their web team likely tried a bunch of tracking scripts and never really turned them off. They may not be using them anymore. Or, maybe they are? I don't know. I'm just visiting.
- Do you trust them? If it is true that they tested some of these scripts in the past but aren't using them anymore, then why don't they remove them? Is that best practice? Do the old scripts remain on their site in case they want to use them again? It's sloppy management. The data they are tracking you with is being poorly managed. Or, maybe they are using all 41 scripts to track different parts of your visit to their website. Still sloppy. Immensely so.
WHY AM I WRITING THIS?
- I'm a Liverpool FC supporter. I follow James Pearce and Neil Jones on Twitter. I listen to the Blood Red, the podcast from the Liverpool Echo.
- I'd like to visit Liverpool one day and see a game at Anfield.
- I do website stuff all day. Every day. So this stuff is important to me.
- Collectively, we should be focused on the customer's experience, not what we might potentially do with some data.
- I do marketing stuff all day. Every day. Brand. Trust. Relationship. Engagement. All that stuff. It's important to me.
- I want to be a paying customer of the Liverpool Echo through Anfield Extra.
- I want the Echo to succeed!
Unfortunately, I'll just keep coming back to the site, having a shitty experience until one day I just give up. I'm moving in that direction - I save most of the Liverpool Echo articles I want to read to Instapaper, stripping away all the scripts and noise.
By the way, that's a shitty experience, too as it removes images and videos. The Liverpool Echo's site is that bad.
And I can't be the only one. As more and more users install ad blockers and more companies build anti-tracking features into their browsers, what will happen to these sites and institutions?
That can't be good for anyone.