Things that Go Pop

January 30, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

If it's a Wednesday (my normal weekday blog entry day off), this ReelThoughts must have something to do with site processes or something of minimal general interest to movie-lovers. I don't like to "waste" my regular valuable columns for this less interesting stuff, so I occasionally provide "bonus" entries.

If you're reading this a few days late, you've probably already encountered the pop-under ads. For those who have been following the ongoing saga of my attempts to bridge the gap between the revenue generated by the site and what I need to make this a solo career, this is just another weapon I'm using. Most of you can guess that the last thing I want to do when I lose my day job is to give up ReelViews (or scale it down to a shadow of what it currently is), but reality bites hard. Home and family come first, movies second.

In choosing to try something new, I picked pop-unders over pop-ups. I find them less intrusive since they don't block what's being read (just create another browser window under the current one that has to be closed at some point), and those who truly find them offensive can block them. (It doesn't help my bottom line to provide that advice.) I have locked the frequency at 24 hours, which means that no matter how many times you visit the site and no matter how many pages you go to, you will only get one pop-under per day. You can check ReelViews three times a day and read 50 reviews and there will only be one pop-under.

I'm writing this column because the last time I added a new form of advertisements (the little double-blue underlined text), it caused an unexpected backlash. This time, I decided, better to explain than just implement something new. While pop-unders are relatively unobtrusive (especially compared to their more obvious siblings), they are hard to ignore. My original intention had been to wait for the actual loss of my day job to do this, but someone pointed out that it would be better to do it now and find out how much revenue it generates rather than be surprised that the "savior" wasn't as good as promised. That makes sense.

E-mailers have provided some interesting suggestions for making the site more financially lucrative. One suggested holding a "reader contest" for a re-design of the site's look – something that would be more "ad friendly." That one's under consideration. Another idea would be to convert ReelViews into a pay site and charge $5.00 (or so) for a monthly membership. I'm resistant to the idea though, because it goes against one of the founding principles of the site, which is to provide free reviews to everyone. Then there's the question of how many readers would actually become members. If it was to be 2000, I would be in good shape. If it was to be 200, I would be in trouble.

I'm aware that some readers are going to be offended by this new advertising tactic, but the intention is not to offend but to do something that will increase my revenue stream while not significantly impacting the readability of the site. When all is said and done, ReelViews is about movies and movie-related topics.

Tomorrow: Who remembers Charlotte Ross' butt? Apparently, the FCC does.