One of the best parts about running my own website again is that I can work on improvements and changes and roll them out when they’re done instead of waiting for the never ending drudge of bureaucracy. Today I’m excited to bring you a collection of changes, improvements, additions, and new features that I am calling Chorus 2.0. Basically, I’ve spent the past year or so learning about what makes this website work, what doesn’t work, what needs to be improved, and how to better organize the information we push into it each day. And of course, how you, the reader, are using it. I’ve taken what I’ve learned and combined that with an optimization obsession to get this website to load as fast and reliably as possible on virtually any device you view it on. You may not see a lot of outward changes, but there were thousands of lines of code tweaked and changed along the way. I want to quickly go through some of the bigger changes, and introduce you to some of the more headlining features.
One of the main design goals for this website has been to build a place that makes it easy for a reader to find the information they’re looking for. If you’re a fan of a band, I want to give you a way to find exactly what you’re looking for about that topic, quickly and intuitively. Now, one way we do that is with a much improved search. The second is based around our tag pages. Every time we post about a band on the site we link the band name to their tag page. This page pulls in all of the posts about that specific tag. In the past, that was basically the extent of the functionality. But what if you wanted to see all the posts about Blink-182 that also had music in them? Or the posts about Paramore that included tour dates? Now it’s stupid easy to do just that. I’ve created a new feature that I call “Quick Sort” that allows you to easily filter news posts about specific topics into sub-categories. You’ll be able to sort out all the videos, music posts, tour dates, album reviews, and interviews, for any tag page that has posts within this subset. The idea is that I want each tag page for an artist to be a “hub” that contains easy access to all of the information we have about that artist in our database. The more we post, the more detailed and useful these pages become. This makes it easier than ever to make sure you don’t miss out on the news you’re most interested in from your favorite artists. Find tour dates easily, plow through their music videos, or just see what the latest songs an artist has released are. “Quick Sort” is available on desktop and mobile for all artist pages that have news that fits into each category.
Our supporters are the lifeblood of this website. They’re the reason we can keep publishing every single day, and it’s my goal to keep making the website even better for them. This update lays the foundation for a bunch of cool things we can do going forward, but the basics revolve around streamlining the entire process and giving all supporters some instant perks. It’s now easier than ever to decide between our patron package ($3 a month) for those that don’t want to have a forum account, and our community package ($5 a month) for those that do. You can easily purchase a monthly package in minutes and support this website for basically pennies a day. It’s very simple, and very fast. We also offer yearly packages if that is more your style.
Now, with this simplification of our system I’ve also added some perks! Community Package supporters already get the perk of not having advertisements in the forums. They also get Dark Mode, early access to Encore episodes, bonus podcast episodes, and a special forum with all kinds of cool shit. They now also have have the ability to turn off advertisements on the main website via their preference pane. This perk has also been made available for the $3 a month tier. So, if you’re not into the whole community/forum thing, that’s totally fine! But, if you can help us out and support this website, you’ll still be able to choose if you’d like to turn off the banner ads on the website with the simple click of a button. You’ll also get access to all of the bonus Encore episodes we record as well. Once you’ve become a member, you’ll see a new “Manage Your Account” module on the support page with options to remove ads, view bonus episodes, update your payment options, and things like that. And yes, for those curious, this means that in the not so distant future I’ll be able to bring Dark Mode to the main website as well. That foundation has been laid.
I look at it like this: If you really like this website and want us to keep being able to be a website … please consider signing up as a supporting member. If you use our community at all and have a forum account, grab the community package to really get all the advantages (the supporter forum is my favorite forum on the website). If you’re not into the whole forum thing, but want to help us keep publishing, please join the patron plan. It now comes with bonus Encore episodes, the ability to remove ads from the website, and I’ll be adding even more perks in the future. And, well, you’ll feel good because you’re literally helping make sure this website exists.
You can check that all out here, and please let me know if you have any questions at all.
Buy an Ad
It’s not a secret that one of the hardest parts for me when launching this new website last year was dealing with how to handle advertisements on the site. I knew I wasn’t going to allow the crap that overtook AbsolutePunk.net onto this site, but I’m also just not a salesman. Trying to sell advertisements myself was one of the more difficult things I encountered over the past year. Booking ads, invoicing, following up on invoices, pitching people on the value … it ended up taking way more time than I expected and definitely more time than I wanted. So, with Chorus 2.0 I am taking a new approach. I’m introducing self-service advertisement buying on the website. I’m borrowing the idea from Marco Arment, and his podcast app Overcast, and bringing it to our website.
Here’s how it works: Anyone can visit our buy an ad page and buy an ad. It is almost funny how easy it is. You can fill out a basic form with the information you’d like in the ad, choose when you want it to start, preview how the ad will look once live on the website, pay for it securely (including an Apple Pay option), and then it’ll be submitted to me for approval. If it fits our guidelines (no violent, sexist, or discriminatory content), I’ll approve it within 24 hours. On the date you selected, your ad will go live on the website and run for 30 days. How many impressions and clicks the ad will see will depend on how many ads are in our system, but the purchase page will update itself each day with estimates based upon how previous ad campaigns performed and take into account how many ads are currently running on the site or will go live during your campaign. Based on past performance: these ads are seen by a shit load of people, and they have a click-through rate above industry average. (All without having to be obnoxious.)
To go with this new ad system I’ve improved how ads are displayed on the website as well. On mobile and smaller screens there’s a new text banner ad at the top of every page on the main website. If you buy an ad on our website it’s automatically formatted to work great on desktop and mobile. As mobile views continue to dominate how readers are viewing websites, I think this is fantastic way to get a product or service in front of our audience. But, at the same time I think it respects our readers and is a classy way to display a sponsor. Again, all ads are pre-approved by me to fit our standards and guidelines, they’re clearly labeled, and we only track views and clicks.
So, to recap, buying an ad puts your banner in rotation on every single page on this website (including the forums). On desktop and tablet sites this is a single snazzy looking image banner that performs above almost every industry metric I’ve ever seen. On mobile, your ad will go into rotation in the top text spot, and your image version will appears within all our feeds roughly 10 posts down. So, on the homepage, tag pages, category pages, blog pages, article pages, and forum threads, you’ll be in the image and text spots with each banner purchase, automatically. I think this is a much better experience for readers, and a great, immersive, way for advertisers to reach our users. Plus, it helps me streamline emails with advertisers, collecting payments, and a lot of the work that was taking up more of my day than it should have.
With the launch of this new system, I’m running a sale on all advertisement purchases for a couple of weeks. And I’m cutting prices pretty dramatically. So, if you want to try it out — now’s the time! The number of pageviews we do, and our click-through rate, is a phenomenal value to get your product, music, tour, or service in front of a large group of people that actually look at and click on the ads being shown.
Feed sponsors and podcast ads can also be purchased via our new buy an ad page. Feed sponsors remain one of the best ways to get information to our audience, and now you can book weeks in advance to make sure you get the exact timing you want. Podcast ads have seen explosive growth for quite a few years now, and I’ve decided to package together four episode blocks for each ad buy. That means your podcast ad read is getting even more exposure and between 20k and 25k listens. I’ve discounted these ad buys for a few weeks as well. I want to test out the system and get these things sold out as soon as possible. Please, give it a look.
I think we have some of the more attractive advertising options in the music realm. Hell, the whole internet if I’m being honest. People actually like and click our ads. We have a dedicated group of discerning readers and the ads are being displayed millions of times a month. I’ve been told by almost everyone that advertises with us how they’ve seen an uptick in exposure, and I think it’s in part because our readers check out the sponsors because are ads aren’t dancing across the screen with some autoplay junk.
If you have any questions at all, please drop me an email and I’m sure I can help.
I’ve spent a very long time optimizing, tweaking, and making this website treat every device as a first class citizen. The entire website is built to be responsive to whatever size device you view it on. That means it’ll look great and load fast on a desktop, a tablet, and, of course, your phone. More and more people are doing most of their browsing on phones and tablets, so I wanted to make sure this site had an exceptional mobile experience. I’ve optimized to make sure every page loads as fast as possible and looks great. Tag pages on mobile have “Quick Sort,” you can become a supporter with a credit card or Apple Pay right from your phone, and you can even buy an advertisement using the device in your pocket. I also spent more time than I want to admit tweaking margins and font sizes to make sure they’re uniform and provide a consistent experience across the entire website.
Miscellaneous Changes and Uniformity
All-in-all I changed 605 files (with 56,959 additions and 14,765 deletions) in the 2.0 version of this website. While most of the visual tweaks are relatively minor, I’ve also made pages load, on average, about 40% faster. I’ve made search faster, tag pages better, made improvements to article pages, re-thought out our entire ad system to allow for self-serve purchases, and improved our supporter system to make it easier and clearer while also giving supporters even more perks. I’ve obsessed over making sure every page looks great on every device so that there’s a consistent uniformity across the website.
In hindsight, I probably should have rolled out these changes in smaller doses instead of saving them all for one big update. But, I really wanted to get the website to where my original vision felt fulfilled. A website that loads as fast as possible on every device, respects the reader, is a joy to read, and best organizes all the information we throw at it on a daily basis. I’m really happy with the outcome.
Thank you to everyone that has become a supporter over the past year or so and for making this dream of mine a reality. Thank you for reading this site on a daily basis, for hanging out and talking with me in the forums, and for listening to some bi-weekly rants on Encore. It’s because of you that I get to work each day on my passion. It’s because of you that this website exists. Thank you.1
Now it’s time to start a new branch for the next set of updates, and get to working on a few improvements in our forums. After a celebratory beer, of course.↩