I feel while here I should make sure to check out the World of Coke in downtown Atlanta. Subliminal messaging?! Anyone wanna hook me up with a VIP tour!? I'll be posting a message in a few weeks asking for opinions on this entire campaign and posting my wrap up for the entire thing.
For those curious about the top bar / CokeŠ / "sounds of buzz" thing: A unique opportunity presented itself for us to be involved in the Coke "Sounds of Buzz" campaign and we took it. These are the kings of things I don't usually like to do (new UI stuff on our pages feels distracting); however, with a still woozy economy, and a chance to team up with one of our favorite sites (Stereogum) - it seemed worth the try. So that's why you'll see this stuff around the site for a little while. We're trying it out - seeing how it works - and all that. It also means we'll have more financing to do some cool stuff with the site. So, if you see some stuff around -- it'd be awesome if you click on it and check out some of the stuff. The plan is to only include really good content in this.
Anyway, comments/suggestions are always welcome. This is the first time we've ever been a part of something like this and feedback from our users is always extremely valuable and important. Helps me decide what works, what doesn't, and how to better engage ... you.
On a related note - I am working on AP.net related stuff all day, more bugs to fix and such. I'll probably be hanging out in this thread during the day as well if you wanna talk (make sure you quote me so I see it).
Hope everyone has a good day.
Update: AP.net is now available in black again (change your color options in your UserCP). The other skin colors will be coming along as well.
Well played All Time Low. Or someone at Hopeless Records. Great usage of a site skin to play into the website's themes and engage our users. Very smart. Oh, but everyone knows who I am! I am at least a d-list celebrity, right?!
Question for my blog readers ... how far is too far with advertising? What sorta thing do you hate, what could you put up with, and where do you draw the line? We're looking at how to give users the best experience on the website ... and feedback helps. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.
Does anyone else not really understand the premise behind the Skittles ads? I mean, I understand they're going for "weird" - but ... I'm lost. Their website is basically a bunch of links to Twitter, youtube, and other social sites. The candy is still good though. Seeing the ads makes me want moar candy (although I am on a strict sugar limit at the moment).
Clicking on ads helps me/AP.net. So next time you see one of those ads - click it and tell me if you understand what exactly they're going for. Gracious.
Ok, I promised this blog entry earlier -- so now that I finally have things all done I can sit down and write it. Basically I've posted about AP.net's change in the ad layout quite a few times (search for advertise or use the ads tag to find them) -- and on February 1st we made the change.
The big change of course is how I changed around/moved the modules on the main page. I'll be completely honest - the main reason is to highlight an ad above the fold for advertisers (big one - right side). It's our goal to continue bringing you the best website we possibly can ... and I will always do everything I can to keep our advertisements as unobtrusive as possible. However, at the end of the day - we also want to provide the best service available for advertisers as well. They're obviously the ones that are keep us in business and making money. While that's not our #1 priority, it is something we need to think about. So, we decided to move to standard ad sizes around the website (instead of the wacky ad unit sizes I made up years ago ... seriously, I just made them up) and therefore also decrease the number of ads on the main page ... but use the bigger/standard sizes. This will allow us to give ad buyers a better product, a standard size/product, and maybe attract some larger ad buys in the process. All the while maintaining our current design and feel. I am pretty adamant about not wanting to completely redesign the website -- especially only for ads. There aren't many websites I love the design of these days ... and I may be too close to really properly judge AP.net ... but I like how the website looks and works. It's very functional and easy to use IMO. It might not radiate "punk" or "web 2.0" -- but it's hard to say it doesn't do exactly what it's supposed to do.
In doing this I also decided to change up some of the modules. I promised the album reviewers I'd always be on the look out for how to move their module higher - and I took this opportunity to do that. It's now found on the right hand side of the page along with other "latest..." modules. I then created an "upcoming release date" module to take over the spot on the left hand side. In the future (as soon as we finalize our upcoming partnership with Amazon) I will be putting a special "Amazon Deal" module between the exclusives and required reading on the left hand side. Giving our deals more exposure throughout the weeks. The goal has always been to highlight our news stories ... and then allow access to other parts around the website via modules. Let people know what else is going on ... and the like.
This also means that the sub-page ad units have changed. Seeing as the unit has shrunk to a standard 160 width -- it also means all sub-pages gained 25 pixels of content space. Maybe not noticeable to the untrained eye ... but it is definitely there. Haha.
Unregistered users will see an additional ad in a few places around the website (a 300x250 square ad) always underneath content around the site. This will not be displayed to registered members (incentive to register - there's a link in the footer) -- but this is one of the most popular ad sizes around the internet and it would be foolish of us not to include it on our site. If we end up adding it to other pages - I will make sure it remains only for the unregistered ... I don't think it would be fair to long time users to all of a sudden stick that kinda thing in their face. Trust me -- I am a user of this website first ... and I always think about UI and you first. I'm all about the best of both worlds situations.
Last ... we're trying something new with a few promotions for reallllly big bands/acts/features ... and that's a video feature on the main page of the website (example). This will only be available after being approved by me -- and I'll never run more than one at a time. I want to keep this sort of thing special for video premieres or maybe release dates/exclusive messages/performances or something. The idea is to obviously showcase something ... and not just have it be an everyday "go to the replies for the video" kind of post. It's a more "in your face" kind of promotion. We're trying it out today to see how it works with the premiere of the new My Chemical Romance video.
Anyway - we're booking ads for 2009 now ... email: firstname.lastname@example.org to get something set up. We will do our best to work with any label/band and any budget, before I signed any deal with buzznet I made sure that we could accomodate small labels and bands and provide advertising for them. I believe in this website and the ability to reach our audience through ads -- I think it's a great value/buy and want to make sure we never forget the roots of this website and the labels and bands that continue to be our lifeblood. Seriously -- it's that important to me.
Welp, that ended up being longer than I anticipated.
PS: If you ever have any other ideas for a module that might be cool -- hit me up in the replies or something.
I've writtenbefore about the changes that are going to be taking place on the website in dealing with advertisements - but we finally have a date for the change: January 31st. Now is a great time to start talking with us about buying ads ... I bet we move through the new units very quickly, so locking in your buys is probably a good idea. I'll post the screen shots below.
They're just in-house ads that are running over the buzznet ad network to fill in some residual impressions at the end of the year. They were designed by a buzznet designer - and I thought they were hilarious so I approved them. Hahah. Promoting the forums of AP.net instead of the homepage itself should help drive some new traffic to the interactive parts of the website.
We're working on some other ad stuff for the next year ... I'll write more on that when I finalize the changes. Should be in the next week or so. So yeah, lolwut yourself Anton.
Not a whole lot will be changing with the main page of the website in the new version. Basically I like our current look - I like the use of modules - and it's actually pretty consistent with the trends (look at iTunes layout, or Apple.com for example). So the main thing I wanted to do was clean it up a little bit. So I fixed some spacing issues and increased the font to the new default for easier reading.
Here's a screen shot of the current "new" version. Note that this includes the admin module (left side) instead of the regular "My Control Panel" module that you usually will be seeing.
So this now leaves me with the next few stages -- this will be the archived news pages (I'm doing those next) as well as a few other pages (tagged news pages) that need to be cleaned up.
One thing that working on the main page allows me to do is re-think some of the current ad structure on the main page. As of right now our current ad set-up is like this:
1 Top Banner (468x60)
2 Right Side Banners (185x199)
1 Left Side Skyscraper Banner (140x390)
1 Left "trial" Skyscrapper banner (160x600)
3 Right Mini-Banners (146x146)
1 Bottom Banner (468x60)
1 Rotating Pop-Up Ad
(Note: These are the only buyable assets on the entire website - everything else is editorial.)
Now the thing about this set up is that it's pretty much just tossed together. I just made up ad sizes back in the day and have sort of been putting them wherever I can. I never put much thought into the entire thing. So, now that we are working with Buzznet on ads it makes sense to really re-think the main page and how to best monetize the website while giving our users the best experience. Yes, making sure the website makes money is important.
After thinking about this a whole lot - I think I have put together a plan that will work best for everyone (ad sales, me, our users, etc.). I am going to be migrating in "standard ad sizes" to the website instead of our creepy weird sizes. Because of this change in ad sizes, I also want to remove some of the ads we currently have on the website - so that the user experience is not impacted - but enhanced. Here's what I think the new set-up will entail:
On the right hand side of the page - we will remove the "Browse Profiles" box. It's not being used very often for such a prime screen real estate spot. It's clicked on by only about 3% of our users. That's pretty shitty - and it doesn't really add value to the site when the information can be found by clicking "profiles" at the top of the page. So, we're going to get rid of that module. This leaves us with a great spot above the fold to place an advertisement. This will easily be the most sought after ad on the entire website and with our reputation and traffic - one of the must buy ad units for music releases. I'm going to put the 160x600 unit right here. Seeing as this will move the ABSOLUTExclusive module down the page - I'm just not ok with that - so I am going to be moving that module to the left hand side under the "My Control Panel" module (for registered users). I will then be removing the two 185x199 ad-units on the right hand side of the page. Zap. I will be keeping the small 146 units because I want to make sure there are units any size label or band can purchase on the website (and I am going to be giving these 3 units special placement around the website for higher viability - those following my other screen shots may have seen them). I am then going to replace the skyscraper on the left side (140x390) with another new 160x600 unit and remove the "tester" unit at the bottom of the page. I may then also change out the footer ad unit as well.
The goal is to give advertisers standard sizes to buy into - while giving the user an experience that is not taken over by ads. I think this can do that. Sub-pages will only have one 160 and the three 146s on them (down from the current craziness) - and the homepage will be a better sell + easier to navigate.
Blah, seriously - talking about the ad stuff is easily the weirdest part of my job. It's that little elephant in the room that you have to deal with as a webmaster that you really don't want to. It's the part that's not as fun as everything else. I love talking about music - focusing on new features and promotions - I don't like dealing with the monetization. However, it's needed if we're going to keep the website profitable and therefore still on the interweb. When running a business you have to focus on everything, not just the stuff you want to do. So, after a lot of back and forth I think I have a good plan of compromise for the future of the website. Right now this is all just speculation and some ideas of what to do ... but I think it's going to be the best for us - guess we'll have to see.