This weekend, msnbc.com launched a sweeping redesign of the most important part of their site: the story page. The result is something unlike anything any other major news site is offering and is a bold step in a direction no competitor has gone down (yet): the elimination of pageviews as a primary metric.
For many years, I’ve railed against tricks like pagination and “jump pages” as a means to goose pageviews. Honest people in the industry will tell you these are simply acceptable tricks to bump revenue a bit, while disingenuous or uninformed people will use “readability” as an excuse to make users click ten times to read ten parts of a single story. For this latest redesign, msnbc.com has decided to de-emphasize page views entirely and present stories in a manner that maximizes enjoyment and as a result, total time on site.
What do I mean by this?
Think of how a typical user session works on most news sites these days. A user loads an article (1 pageview), pops open a slideshow (1 pageview), flips through 30 slides of an HTML-based slideshow (30 pageviews). That’s 32 pageviews and a lot of extraneous downloading and page refreshing.
On new msnbc.com story pages, the above sequence would register one pageview: the initial one. The rest of the interactions occur within the page itself. Can msnbc.com serve ad impressions against in-page interactions? Sure, and that’s key to the strategy, but as a user, your experience is much smoother, and as an advertiser, the impressions you purchase are almost guaranteed to come across human eyes since your ads are only loaded upon user interaction.
This is the first time (to my knowledge) this sort of model has been deployed on a major media site with over a billion pageviews a month, and it has the potential to change the entire industry if it works. It’s also a big risk, as most advertisers are not used to thinking of inventory this way. We like big risks with big payoffs though and we feel that when you take care of the user and the advertiser at the same time, you’re probably onto something.
Ad model aside, there are also tons of other interesting things about the new msnbc.com story pages:
To be clear, the msnbc.com team is very proud of what’s been launched so far, but is under no illusions that things are perfect yet. Everyone involved in creating these new story pages is monitoring reaction closely and ready to modify anything that needs improvement. Since we have plenty of thoughtful design and development voices here on Mike Industries, I’d love to open this thread up for some reactions. What is working for you, and what, if anything, would you change? The team is listening.
In case you missed the comments on the last entry, What EXACTLY About This Ad is Offensive?, I suggest taking a look. In 240 blog posts over three years, it’s the most interesting comment thread I’ve ever hosted. Of particular interest:
Anyway, that’s about it. I normally don’t write posts about other posts, but this one just keeps getting more interesting with each comment.
Dolce & Gabbana recently decided to pull one of their magazine ads (pictured above) after “worldwide protests” by the National Organization for Women and other groups. There were even protests in Spain and Italy, two countries that some consider reasonably lenient when it comes to sexuality in advertising. The argument is that the ad portrays rape.
The ad shows a man and a woman, presumably about to have sex, with four other men at various levels of undress looking on. There’s no denying that the ad is extremely racy and people are well justified to be offended if strikes them negatively, but from a design perspective, I’m interested in *exactly* what elements of the ad push it over the line. For the purposes of this discussion, I’m going to throw out all people who find every ad involving the objectification of women offensive, because hey, then the entire industry is offensive. I’m also going to throw out all people who think everything is fair game and are offended by nothing. “The line” is basically when it’s offensive enough to the average person that it should be pulled.
So, let’s break down our cast of characters (left to right):
So the question is, what sorts of combinations of 1-6 would or would not be considered “over the line offensive”?
Removing everybody but Mr. Top and Ms. Bottom would seem to make it a “normal” fashion ad. Strangely, I think that the only person you could add back into the scene in addition to those two would be Withdrawn iPod Guy. He’s away from the action, he doesn’t seem overly interested and his presence doesn’t imply dominance or danger in any way. All three of the standing guys seem to be the worst culprits here, with Denim Cutoffs Guy and Purple Shirted Android Guy being 1 and 2.
Strangely, Mr. Top seems to be in the greatest “position of power” here but I don’t think removing him would really make the ad less offensive. I’m not even sure removing only Ms. Bottom would either. Imagine the ad with Ms. Bottom airbrushed out. It’s still basically an ad depicting a group of guys thinking about having sex with the same woman. The fact that the woman isn’t visible hardly changes things.
These are just my opinions and clearly others may disagree, but after working through the permutations, I think the uproar about this ad has nothing to do with “rape” at all. After all, there’s no evidence to prove that’s actually occurring. It has to do with multiple men having sex with the same woman in one setting, and that (perhaps rightfully so) is what causes this campaign to cross the tastefulness line.
You can read interviews with Stefano Gabbana (of D&G) and Kim Gandy (of NOW) over at this Newsweek article.
Disclaimer: I have never purchased any D&G products and I’m not a proponent of this campaign or anything it depicts. It’s just an interesting advertising issue to me.
There’s a new blog on the block, and if you’re interested in the advertising industry, it’s worth adding to your blogroll. AdFreak, a product of AdWeek Magazine, is a collaborative effort by AdWeek staffers to chronicle all the latest and greatest campaigns in the ad world. Unlike the straightforward style of AdWeek Magazine, AdFreak presents its contents in a comical, sarcastic manner mildly reminiscent of the great Defamer.
Since I only have one TV and one Mac, I can’t be expected to keep up on all the latest ad campaigns myself, and that is where AdFreak excels. Check out this piece on Virgin Atlantic’s new online campaign. Brilliant stuff. I already wanted to fly on Virgin, but now I REALLY want to. Try out the dream interpreter… it actually works pretty well for most of the basic dreams (viz. “I came to work naked”, “I was falling off a cliff”, etc).
Online ad campaigns like the Virgin Atlantic dream interpreter and the new CNN Under your Command video piece are a good indication that the dawn of internet advertising is finally upon us. We’ve always known that garish, cheaply produced banner ads never did a whole lot for branding or sales, but now that we have things like Flash video and smart interactivity in our arsenal, the internet may soon overtake TV as the most immersive and effective advertising medium.
Before I worked at Disney/ESPN, I worked for a pretty major ad agency here in Seattle, and the attitude towards internet advertising back then was that it was sort of a “necessary evil” in the business. Everyone knew that being a full-service agency they had to provide it, but no one was particularly interested in it. After all, who wants to design banner ads for a few thousand dollars when you can direct cinematic television spots for hundreds of thousands of dollars? I see all that beginning to change though now that we have stellar examples like the Virgin Atlantic and CNN pieces. As soon as agency creative directors see what we’re able to do online these days, I feel like a lot more attention will be paid to the space. And once that happens, look out… we’re in for some great campaigns.
Anybody have any other examples of great online campaigns they’ve seen recently?
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