As you might have noticed over the past couple of days, I've been fiddling with a few changes to the standard post format. I'd like to add a small advertisement to each post, because we now have almost 28,000 people signed up to get our full feed, and those people don't see any of the regular ads. So I figured I put a small image of an interesting book at the bottom of the "fine print."
I'm not sure how many people who subscribe to the feed actually qualify as "readers." Could be relatively few; I subscribe to feeds I seldom click on. It does make me think I should concentrate on more "grabby" post titles—you know, like "Amanda Bynes Topless!" (I'm kidding. I have no idea who Amanda Bynes is.)
I'm also going to try introducing the "Featured Comments" like this:
(To see all the comments, click on the post title and scroll down)
From Astutio: "Abundans cautela non nocet..."
The TypePad interface has been getting progressively more fiddley in terms of building the simple "Featured Comment by..." intro that I've been using since forever. With comment moderation and selection now taking up to six hours of my day, I think a little workflow streamlining might go a long way here.
You can see all the changes in the "Supercool Case" post.
Open question is whether the little book thumbnails are going to annoy anyone...and whether they'll work at all or not. At this point I suspect I'll use the same thumbnail for four days or a week, and then change it to something new. (It's called a "soak.") (You'll know I've fallen asleep at the wheel if you see the same thumbnail persisting for months. Could happen.)
Experimentation and fine-tuning will be ongoing....
Mike, TOP's All-Purpose Editorial Slave (APES)
Note: Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site. More...
Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
The following is an advertisement:
(To see all the comments, click on the post title and scroll down)
From bill: "Shiver me timbers, an ad. Actually I liked the choices so far, got the Walker Evans and the Jeff Schewe will find a spot when in the budget. All in all you have a 'quiet' blog and I appreciate that."
From MM: "I don't know what the RSS feeds look like, because I read websites the old-fashioned way—online, like my ancestors did...."
Mike replies: Heh.
From Elisabeth: "I don't mind the book thumbnail at all! The revenue-generating features on TOP are always extremely tasteful and never feel the slightest bit coercive to me.
"I echo the comments of others who have suggested a rotating set of five to 10 books. I wouldn't even mind seeing four or five different thumbnails at a time below the post—I get bored easily and always love a selection when browsing/shopping.
"Your book recommendations at TOP are one of my favorite parts of the site; in fact, I wish you had a permanent link to the thumbnails or links for all of the books you've ever recommended—preferably somewhere prominent like the very top of the page. I envision this link as the portal to one of the most interesting and discerning photography bookstores around, and I know I would be clicking on it quite often.
"By the way, I appreciate it when you give feedback on your affiliate sales, as you did with the Walker Evans book. It's a nice feeling to be part of a much larger group that helps to support this wonderful site. My nosy/curious side would even be interested to hear the monthly 'winner' for most expensive or unusual item purchased through your links. :-)"
Mike replies: I'll just address two of your thoughts if I may. The problem with a "master list" of book recommendations is twofold. First, lists of that sort by their very nature presume to completeness, and I'm unfortunately not in a market where a very large selection of the available titles are available for me to see—so I'd overlook a lot. Second, lots of photo books go in and out of print rapidly, and sometimes they go in and out and in and out and...a master list would actually be quite difficult to "groom" (as professional direct-mail marketers say of mailing lists), and it would take a lot of time.
Second thought: I've actually considered occasionally naming some of the things people buy through our links, and it's tempting—the range shows an incredibly diverse array of needs and interests. But I finally decided it would be a potential invasion—well, let's say "intrusion," as it would hardly rise to the level of Normandy or the Soviets in Hungary in 1956—on the buyer's privacy. Even though nobody'd ever be connected to an item by name (I never see who buys anything), they might feel exposed, which might make them uncomfortable. So I decided not to do that, at least not as a regular thing.
From Samuel Dilworth: "Although you've proven yourself capable of many surprising things over the years I've followed you, I believe the quality of your writing remains your unique strength and explains my enduring appreciation of TOP. I'd love to see you write longer pieces more frequently. Why can't you work eighty hours a week to please me?"
Mike replies: My fantasy, in which I indulge from time to time, involves just that. I fantasize raising five or six (or seven or eight) million dollars through arts grants, forming a non-profit corporation to support a completely independent TOP, paying myself an adequate but not excessive salary, and then engaging five or six (or however many we could afford) regular writers/reporters/reviewers (even if part-time) who I could assign to do the really fascinating stories that I never have adequate time to research. Then I'd hire a Managing Editor/assistant/webmaster to handle all the administrative details and the day-to-day chores...and the print sales...and I'd just write. I could then take the time to do "real" essays and articles along with my little toss-off stuff, instead of writing everything on the fly like some kind of photo-techy Hildy Johnson.
Possibly the most significant frustration of TOP is that I don't have time to do enough research. There are great stories that just go by. I know where they are, I know how to report them, I just don't have time to do the reporting and the research. (You know what they say: Oh well.)
And then—this is a small part of the plan but a significant part of the fantasy—we'd use whatever money's left over at the end of every year to subsidize the work of working photographers or the publication of books I think are crying out to be made.
It's all do-able...it's just that first bit that's a little bit of a sticking point. Next lifetime, I promise. :-D