Ad Space: The Difference One Year Makes

I hopped on CNN this morning – where I generally spend five seconds making sure there’s no breaking news that hasn’t hit the top of Reddit yet – and was greeted with an ad the size of a hero image. Now, I’m in the business of ads. I get it. But this was one of those ads that you kind of wait to go away because of how… intrusive it is. How you’d imagine a picture for the biggest news story of the year – that’s how this ad was served up.

It got me thinking, when did this happen? WHY did this happen?

So I crunched some numbers.

Using the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, I calculated the percentage of my browser’s 1,393,737 pixels occupied by ads in June 2014 compared to today for a handful of websites. No scrolling allowed. Sponsored posts not included.


  • 2015: 22.6% (2 ads)
  • 2014: 5.4% (1 ad)


  • 2015: 18.5% (4 ads)
  • 2014: 0% (0 ads)

Fast Company

  • 2015: 18.7% (2 ads)
  • 2014: 6.2% (1 ad)

Fox News

  • 2015: 0% (0 ads)
  • 2014: 5.2% (1 ad)
  • Note: The ad space is now occupied by a stock widget. Also, this site has more text links on its home page than I generally see in an entire day. Wow.


  • 2015: 32.2% (2 ads)
  • 2014: 5.2% (1 ad)

Quite the jumps, except for link-ridden Fox. I mentioned not including sponsored posts, but Fast Company uses a huge header for its top article which, if that were sponsored content, would take the ad percentage up to 57.5% of the homepage. Crazy.

So, does this matter?

I think we’ve been trained to accept it. Now that we’ve been introduced to frustrating interstitial ads that block what we’re trying to view, these header and sidebar ads don’t seem so bad after all. What surprises me is the huge spike in some of these percentages, as all the talk over the past couple years has been around native advertising — working products and promotions into articles that feel natural to a platform. Those have undoubtedly grown, but clearly not at the expense of traditional ads.

Maybe you’ve noticed this growth and maybe it’s been gradual enough that you don’t really care. But it’s happening, and I think it’s because Social is king. Most people consume more news content from social media than actually going to mainstream news sites. So, naturally, ad space has to become more lucrative to keep it appealing. Supply and demand.


  • The Wayback Machine may not provide a 100% accurate representation of the site (but it’s the best tool available)
  • Sites like CNN rotate ads throughout the day. By the time I published this, the homepage was back to a smaller banner ad up top