Re: Can I switch them off as they mess up the front page layout....?
I think there is some confusion here.
I'm looking at the front page of ElReg on my 17" laptop.
When I open the page, there is a banner ad, and the Register title at the top.
Under it, practically all of the page is taken up by one enormous graphic.
.If you scroll down a bit, there is a column on the right which takes about 1/3 of the real-estate of historical articles, which I have usually already read.
To the left, we now have space for the News Bytes column which takes about 1/4 of the real-estate.
Squeezed in the middle, there is a small column of actual articles. This is actually what most people really want to read, and it gets almost no screen real-estate whatsoever.
I've seen this trend on a lot of websites, most notably the BBC News website. I'm not sure what the motivation is, but the net effect is to drastically reduce the actual usable content on the screen.