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Lots of good feedback, keep it comin’

There has been lots of good feedback in the comments under the “Musing upon a site redesign” entry. Please don’t be intimidated by the large number of posts. Go ahead and reply with a comment on that entry. And if you’ve got a cool idea for something I’m not doing, by all means add that.

I’m going to read all those comments, but I’m not going to respond to them individually in that thread. I’m going to compile (or pay to have compiled) a list of prioritized site requirements, and then build the site re-design around that.

For the record, I would love to be able to run a lighter website, less busy, and more devoted to the core function. Core function, as defined by my business model, is “tens of thousands of happy daily readers, advertising paying all the site’s bills, and several hundred books sold each month.”

Right now I feel that there is too much advertising on the site, and too much of it is ugly (I’ve been TRYING to hunt down all those diet ads with the horribly-compressed jpgs of bare, cottage-cheese bellies… they are pernicious, tenacious, and EVERYWHERE on EVERY AD NETWORK). Unfortunately, while fewer ads would be nice, money is tight.

The nice thing about advertising in the current economy is that it’s a way for me to pay the bills without directly impacting my readers’ pockets. Ads are paid for by a much broader base of consumers, rather than by the actual consumers of the free content, which means that (to use the horrible diet ad example) thousands of overweight-and-easily-duped dieters are subsidizing your free entertainment for today.

In short, when you see an ad, you’re not seeing your failure to buy enough books from me. You’re seeing my success at getting by without selling you a book this month.

BUT… I still want to run fewer ads with less (read: “no”) cottage cheese bellies in them. Just the good ads, just the high-paying ads, just the really relevant ads. That’s a difficult proposition because the ad market fluctuates a lot, and it poses site-design problems. Those pesky advertisers want (read: will pay more for) options for multiple ad formats - leaderboards, banners, skyscrapers, and boxes of various sizes.

Speaking of ad formats: I will never use inline text link ads no matter how much they pay. Those should be boycotted because they succeed by tricking you into clicking something you think is actually a relevant link. Here’s a prognostication for you, a prophecy of doom if you will: if inline text ads become prevalent we will learn to stop clicking on linked text, and then the Internet will be broken forever.

But I digress. You don’t need me to act as your personal industry pundit, prophet, or pantsless street-corner preacher. I’m your cartoonist, and I’m just trying to keep this business rolling along in the face of change, whether or not we want to believe in it. Keep your comments coming on site redesign, and don’t bother commenting about advertising unless you’re SURE you’ve got something new to say.