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.
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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