Dear Online Publishers: Stop the Autoplay

Dear Online Publishers,

I have a bone to pick with you. Not about your banner ads, not about fake news, none of the gripes I know you already hear about.

The video autoplay.

Why do you do it? I don’t get it. And also, I hate it.

I clicked on a link to your article because I thought the article sounded interesting. I. Actually. Want. To. Read. It.

I know you think of me as an outlier – a millennial who actually wants to consume information by reading the words on a page. None of the research says we still do that. Apparently all we want is video contentand we have terrible attention spans.

But I exist. WE exist.

This isn’t about dissociating from the millennial archetype or insisting that “you’re wrong about us.” I am genuinely disturbed by this trend. Because the thing is, I visited your site with the intent of behaving like a normal reader. So why are you trying to interrupt the very reason I’m on your site?

It would be one thing if I had the choice to actively click “Play” on your video myself. To make a conscious decision that, hey, that video looks interesting enough to delay what I came here for and give it a watch. But apparently, even that is a privilege deemed too great for my status as a mere reader.

Don’t you want me to read?

Don’t you want me to scroll down the page, spend more time on your site, and consume the information I came to your site for? Or do you really only care about what I see and consume on the first 700 pixels of the page? So you’ll keep with the autoplay at the risk of unmistakable, infuriating annoyance?

You see, I think some wires crossed somewhere along the way of executing your digital experience. Like a wild game of telephone, where perhaps the key words made it through to you, but the transition words disappeared, thereby changing the whole meaning of the message. From planning to implementation, is it possible that something went wrong, where people forgot about the fundamentals of user experience and sensory overload?

Here’s the experience you’ve created for me: I click a link to your article, intrigued to read about why Stitch Fix’s shares plummeted after its successful IPO. I scroll past the conspicuous video in the hero space to the bulk of the article. By this point, the video is partially or completely out of view. Suddenly I hear a newscaster yelling at me from somewhere on the screen. I hope that continuing to scroll will signal to the video player that I’m not interested.

Doesn’t take the hint.

As I keep scrolling, a thumbnail of the video, still playing, magically appears on the margin of the page, still playing and still blaring. I’m confused – I already scrolled past this video. I’m reading. Leave me alone.


I will happily admit that there are some instances where emphasizing a video, and even programming the autoplay, make sense. When I click on a link that says, “Watch the first trailer for the new Oceans 8,” clearly my intent is to watch something. I’ll even concede that an autoplaying video is often appropriate for breaking news headlines, when it’s more effective to provide immediate access to a live stream than constantly updating copy. But when I go to read that article about Stitch Fix’s shares plummeting, you can bet that I have not one ounce of interest in watching, listening, or engaging with a video about “getting good meats for half the price.” In fact, my interest is beyond nonexistent – it’s in the negative zone. This video actually impinges on my experience as your site visitor.


Please, don’t wait for developers to come up with new plugins that mute or disable autoplay, or for new web guidelines to punish you for punishing your users (by the way, newsflash: this is happening right now.) Be the company to set a new standard for the way online publishers conduct business and respect users – especially the ones who read.


Yours in readership,



Laurel Marcus a design and technology enthusiast. In real life, she is a Senior Manager of Data Insights and Analytics at Tank Design in Cambridge, MA. In her spare time, Laurel likes to cook, play volleyball, bike, listen to This American Life, StartUp and How I Built This podcasts, and look for coffee shops that serve café con leche.

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