ChessBase news goes mainstream – with new commercial design

by ChessBase
4/1/2011 – Remember our info banners? The nicely styled box that appeared the first time you accessed our news site. It provided information on new ChessBase products, but also on special events and services available on any given day. Unfortunately a number of visitors objected vigorously to the "accursed pop-ups”, which we have now abandoned, and restyled our page to match other news sites.

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Info banners

The ChessBase news page is a comprehensive news service that we are providing free of charge. Initially we tried to finance it, at least in part, with Google ads or similar targeted advertising, displayed discretely on the side of the page. But we decided that they were spoiling the optics of our web design and not doing very much for us. Naturally we received many lucrative offers from gambling sites, with extremely clever, aggressive pop-under screens, but decided that this, too, was not really our style.

So we decided to try to finance (or justify) the news page entirely with our own products. That came mainly with three little links on the right of the page and an advert box at the top of each news story. Advertising agencies laughed at these pitiful attempts and urged us to enter the real world of sales and commerce.

Our latest attempt to do this was to use a single info window, which we inserted on our front page, to be displayed just once – in the first session of the day. It was carefully positioned below the top news blurb, so that our readers could simply click that news item without even having to click on the “Close” button of the info banner.

But even if you had to, e.g. because you wanted to read an older report first, one that happened to be behind the info box, it was just one click! One click the first time you went to and never again during the current session.

We used the info boxes mainly to inform our readers about new products or services that have recently become available – including the hottest DVDs that for some reason or other are topical and in the news.

In order to make the arrangement more appealing we made a substantial number of info boxes non-commercial. Usually they told you about lectures and Q&A sessions on Playchess.

A good number of info boxes informed our readers about live commentary that was being broadcast on Playchess. Sometimes there were special gifts, like premium commentary that was made free for all in the first or the final round of an event.

Our info banner was created by the professional company that does all our packaging and web design. It was sober and aesthetically pleasing, everyone thought – very much in tone with our normal web presence.

Going mainstream

However: our experiment with the info banners caused a certain amount of distress amongst some of our readers – many dozens of them, actually. They implored us to remove the banners, which spoilt their entire enjoyment, and swore to boycott our news page until they were gone. We found this slightly mystifying, since a large number of news portals you visit these day have massive and aggressive pop-ups. And pop-unders, which hide behind your current window. Sometimes it is difficult finding the part that is news. Even YouTube has introduced pop-ups and forced trailers which force you to watch a commercial message for up to a full minute before you get to the actual video.

In television even paid channels are constantly interrupted by advertising, and the free ones ride it to the hilt. News shows, like CNN, Larry King, ABC, NBC, FOX, etc. are interrupted every few minutes for some intensely intrusive advertising. In films and series they come right in the middle of the most poignant scene. But somehow people have got used to all that and accept it.

Be that as it may, we have decided to go mainstream and learn from other news portals how advertising works. Most importantly: we have eliminated the "accursed pop-ups” and instead redesigned our page in the style of other news sites we have visited.

Note that you may have to switch off your ad blocker to fully appreciate our new design. Or you can simply start a different browser where you are not blocking anything. Do so, it is worth it!

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