Firefox New York Times Ad - why?

Firefox finally placed their advert in the New York Times, and it’s confused me a lot.

Firstly, why the New York Times? The web says it has a 1.1million circulation on a weekday (I couldn’t seem to find any readership figures, so we don’t know if 1 or 3 people read each copy, maybe US circulation co’s don’t collect this) So it has a lower readership in the US than both the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, quite apart from the readership size of papers in the rest of the world. Was it really worth $130,000 (or maybe only $50,000, I couldn’t find an answer to that) to talk to such a tiny part of the market?

One possible option would be the associated coverage such a stunt could generate would be worth it, you’d really be talking to lots of other people. However google news seems to be suggesting that there’s very little interest in it, currently there’s just zdnet, which are hardly likely to be people who’ve not heard of firefox.

Then there’s the oddness of the advert itself, I don’t get what it’s trying to say, very few non-tech web users I know even understand what a web-browser is, what they have on their computer is “the internet”. So the lead question is I think confusing, I asked some people, they’re not completely un-aware of what the internet is, and use it a lot - but they didn’t understand the question, of course these are all British, maybe New York Times readers are a different bunch, but I don’t see it.

Next there’s another huge firefox logo, another piece of branding completely un-understood by the target audience, what’s it doing there, sure you need to build a brand, but a cute logo doesn’t say, yeah, I’ll try that out, which is the aim of the ad. Where were the screenshots, the hook to interest the user? The “It’s not Microsoft” argument may well work in selling to geeks, I don’t see it as a strategy for the New York Times.

Then there’s the quotes, first is speed, now I don’t firefox faster than other browsers (other than mozilla) sure it is on some things, but it’s not on others, speed is also such a function of bandwidth, that I simply don’t think most people who will try it will agree with that experience, it’s not enough of a difference to be noticeable. So the lead quote, won’t be lived up to. My browser’s not crashed in as long as I can remember, (other than when using things like crash bug examples), users with lots of spyware and viruses installed sure do, but installing firefox doesn’t clean those out, so again, there’s a good chance the user will still see the same crashes. Spyware, there’s nothing about Mozilla which prevents a user spyware, so I simply don’t understand this claim.

Then there’s the link “”, so what do you get if you enter that in google (lots of users see the search engine as the web, they don’t use the location bar) Google comes back with a description saying “Skip to main content. … ” hardly the best sales pitch. If you forget the .com and just say “getfirefox” google directs you to a site which says “Ist Firefox Ihr Standard-Browser? Dann geben Sie ihm doch Ihre Stimme!”, now I may be doing the New York Times readers a disservice, but I don’t believe they’re fluent german speakers. This sort of unprofessionalism hurts, it would’ve been so easy to have have all the content, google would’ve loved it, and it would’ve worked for all these users, but the advert creators didn’t seem to think this through.

I’m sure the advert will pick up a few downloads, but how many and was it really worth the cost of achieving it? How many developer hours could’ve been bought with the money, how much hardware could’ve been donated to the dedicated folk. I was shocked to learn one of the developers I respect in Mozilla was using a machine that could take a maximum 128MB ram as his build machine, 1000$ on some hardware for 50 mozilla hackers, would I think have done more long term good than a pretty disappointing advert to well under 1% of the market.


  1. Anonymous Says:

    Try searching for firefox ad (instead of advert) if you want to see the American response. There’s currently 331 results, although they aren’t all about just this ad. Also, this story seems to be running on a lot of papers’ sites (I don’t know about in the actual paper).

  2. Jim Ley Says:

    Searching for ad, rather than advert produces a few more results yes, but if you limit the results down to just the days since the ad was shown, and exclude the human interest story you pointed out (which was freebie advertising and possibly more successful than the paid one by the looks of things) then you end up with about 15 results, none of which are from sites that are exactly mainstream, or read by people likely to be new to mozilla.

    As it seems the price was actually higher than 130,000, perhaps even the vast majority of the amount raised, it was even less value for money. I’d rather see developers helped to actually make the product better.

  3. Steve S. Says:

    Probably a strategy of “winning the hearts and minds” of the corporate sector. With choice and change slowly becomeing the norm (Linux retail PCs, etc) this may just be part of the bigger picture with a 50-50 chance of igniting interest in a product. It’s not really the quantity of users approached. In this case, it may be the quality, and by quality, I mean those with the decision-making power to lead in new directions. Those I know who have used Firefox, Windows and Linux alike, swear by it. In fact, one person wouldn’t engage in Gaming zone activity becuase it meant he would have to load IE 6, and hasn’t upgraded that since Firefox came along. Or maybe he just didn’t want to get his bu#* kicked in “Age of Empires II”.