I still haven’t reconciled myself to Bill Randall’s departure from this blog…so I’m going to pretend he’s still here by stealing his comment from an earlier thread and making it into a post against his will.
Especially since I occasionally hope that someone form tcj.com reads this site, and I wanted to put this where they’d see it, just in case.
So here’s Bill:
My quips aside, here’s an online marketer’s perspective, since I do that in real life. And I am snowbound & procrastinating, unlike Vancouver.
(My first draft turned into an online business plan. Split-testing, Crazy Egg, conversions. Madness! If you’re interested, drop me a line and I’ll have you selling acai berry in an hour.)
Short version: the design gaffes suck, mainly for framing the launch as TCJ/Fail. Yet they can be fixed… install the Disqus comments manager here, move the RSS feed to the top there. “Continuous muddling” becomes “continuous improvement,” as Toyota would have it.
The big problem?
The “interminable stream of content” favors clicks, while TCJ is (and should be) written for readers.
For clicks, sell ad space. Split articles up over multiple pages. Tell advertisers you get X unique visitors and X^2 pageviews. Put the ads in the hotspots for ads.
For readers, find out what they want, watch what they do. Give them free stuff (essays, TCJ-Date, Krypto-Revolution of the Age with tween trolling & RickRolling in the comments) and they give you time & attention, eventually as a reflex. Everyone reading this has sites you check 5 times a day, and TCJ’s main page is not one of them. HU might be.
Right now TCJ’s design favors clicks over readers. Johanna Draper has pointed out it needs just a few small fixes– the commenting thing is the main one, easily fixed with a plugin like Commentluv or Disqus. Read her post, though, for her accurate take on the mismatch in Gary Groth’s opening shot and the reality of the site’s execution.
One of the biggest things I’ve learned since Noah invited me to HU, since I left, and from hanging out, is the very real degree to which the internet is about conversation. Its whole damn architecture favors conversation. Whoever fosters that will thrive, whoever stomps it out or ignores it will fade. Noah’s very, very good at fostering it. TCJ was when people wrote letters. If it can translate the spirit of the old Blood & Thunder into curated blog comments, six months from now everyone will be reading it first thing in the morning for the spit & gristle.
And buying acai berry from their email list.
And here’s a question: what are some sites to model?
I left out the best thing.
Update: And while we’re on the subject: why the hell is Eric Reynolds writing this for the Comics Reporter rather than TCJ.com? (Link by Sean Collins.
Update 2: Just to be clear; there’s nothing against Eric. It’s a fascinating essay, and Tom’s to be congratulated for getting it and putting it up. But it just seems like gross negligence that tcj.com can’t even get important news features and scoops from Fantagraphics own publishers.