Popping the Pop-Under Bubble

September 18, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

Lots of interesting input based on yesterday's column. Rather than responding to each of the more than 100+ e-mails, I thought a follow-up post was in order. So, issue-by-issue, here are some thoughts and responses.

RSS Feed: The consensus seems to be that I have been too generous regarding content provided via the RSS feed. Reader after reader confessed that they have fallen into a routine of checking the feed and not clicking through to the site. The original goal of implementing the RSS feed was to inform subscribers when the site had been updated. It was not intended as a means to replace the site. So, effectively, the feed has unintentionally sabotaged the site. Starting today, I am engaging in a little revamping. For reviews, gone from the feed are the star ratings and the first paragraph of the review. In their place is a one-sentence "teaser." To get more, it will now be necessary to click through to the review.

Advertisements: This, I'm sure, will cheer many readers. For the first time in a year, I have decided to decrease the number of ads on the site. Beginning Saturday (September 20), two of the biggest "sore thumbs" will disappear: the in-text contextual ads (the ones that are double-underlined) and the pop-unders. I am hoping that the goodwill generated by removing these will result in people coming to the site more often (no longer fearing the dreaded pop-unders) and clicking more on the Google ads. Increased revenue from the click-throughs will, I hope, compensate for lost revenue from removing the in-text ads and the pop-unders. So, beginning Saturday, the only links to be found in reviews and ReelThoughts posts will be links to other reviews. The future of ads on the site will likely enter a period of flux. I am planning to replace the box ad on some pages with a content box (one that will provide access to multi-media content, such as trailers, movie clips, and news updates). That will go up as a one-month "trial balloon" to see how it fares. I may also eliminate another advertising slot or two if the Google click-throughs allow me to do so. I have put a stake in the ground of the daily revenue I'm looking for. If I can attain that with fewer ads, then I will pare back as warranted. I have dreams of being able to move forward with only a couple of Google ads and a leaderboard, but I'm not sure that's realistic.

Forums: I'm again thinking about this as a possible near-future enhancement. Implementation probably isn't an issue, but moderating the forum may be a major time sink. There's also the embarrassing possibility of creating the forums only to have no one participate. (I don't necessarily subscribe to the theory that "if you build it, they will come.") At least initially, only ReelThoughts entries would allow comments. If that proved to be successful, I'd open up reviews for comments as well. That's getting ahead of myself. The forum would most likely be moderated to weed out undesirable posts. If I go this route, the forum would likely debut during the winter.

Tweaking the Look of the Site: A helpful reader has provided me with some templates and graphics to tweak the look of the site (it will, however, stay green). This will be implemented over the winter, probably when I find a free weekend. It's not so much a major job as it is a series of little, annoying jobs. I'd rather write reviews. Right now, there's plenty of that to be done, but things get slow in January, so that's when I turn my attention to site upgrades.