January 25, 2001
6:40 PM   Subscribe

Two of the biggest tech news sites seem to be coming up a little short in the creativity department. ZDNet and CNet News have both been redesigned recently, and their new similarities are astounding. Worse still, they both now feature huge, ugly ads (which we're supposed to "explore") that completely overwhelm the page.
posted by fraying (24 comments total)
Also interesting to note: CNet has abandoned their in-page comment system, while ZDNet has retained theirs (called "Talk Back"). I guess CNet felt that big ads were more important than reader responses.
posted by fraying at 6:43 PM on January 25, 2001

Same company no? Though it still seems odd they would use what is essentially the exact same layout.
posted by ericost at 6:45 PM on January 25, 2001

Whoops! You're right:

"ZDNet is a wholly-owned subsidiary of CNET Networks, Inc."

Still, you'd think they'd keep their designs a little more distinct.

And those ads are still a curse....
posted by fraying at 6:54 PM on January 25, 2001

ZDuh is to technology news as Readers Digest is to erotica.
posted by quonsar at 7:04 PM on January 25, 2001

Tuesday's version of this story.
posted by rodii at 7:10 PM on January 25, 2001


So. Um. Nice weather we're having, hmn?

Hey, look over there!
posted by fraying at 7:13 PM on January 25, 2001

I knew it all along. I was just playing around by posting to this ridiculous redundant thread. Ha ha ha. Joke's on all of you!
posted by ericost at 7:23 PM on January 25, 2001

Derek was just trying to get us to tell our stories about ZDNet and CNet. You've all misunderstood.

Hope, Criminal, Drugs, Work, Technology News Sites.
posted by anildash at 9:10 PM on January 25, 2001

>Hey, look over there!

What, that dog?

Yeah.. I guess it's pretty cool.
posted by holloway at 12:49 AM on January 26, 2001

[looks away]

...oh dear lord! Those dogs are humping!
posted by youhas at 1:31 AM on January 26, 2001

Lots of people seem to have forgotten the $1.6 billion purchase. It only completed in November, so this is actually a pretty snappy redesign.

Ziff-Davis is also getting several of its brand names back eventually, so there's an incentive to make a transition.
posted by dhartung at 7:02 AM on January 26, 2001

Those ads ARE incredibly annoying. They render the content pretty much unreadable. Oh well, I guess I'll have to get my "rewritten corporate press releases masquerading as news" elsewhere.
posted by Optamystic at 7:14 AM on January 26, 2001

Very annoying. But what are they to do? They won't exist for much longer if they have to depend on banner ads.
posted by cell divide at 10:02 AM on January 26, 2001

Wait a minute, what's the date? Late 1995? Why are we still complaining about ads on the Web? Companies need to pay for that content somehow, and banner ads are the simplest and most effective way to do that. A lot of MeFi participants publish stuff on the Web for free (which is great), but companies just can't do this. You can argue until you're blue in the face that companies should find other ways to subsidize their content (and some have), but the plain fact is that you can't get consumers to pay for anything (because we're a bunch of greedy freeloaders), so you need to get companies to pay for the content in the form of advertising.

I actually like the new news.com site...and the new banner ads. The content is clearer to see, the story starts further up on the page (no banners at the top), the clutter has been reduced (there's just one big banner on the page, not 50 little ones strewn everywhere about the page), and the banner doesn't interfere with your reading that much because the story flows unbroken around it (unlike the annoying interstitial ads that appear on Wired News and MSNBC articles). The site is actually amazingly clean for a news site, especially compared with the last incarnation.

As for the banners themselves, if they get too annoying (lots of motion, flashing, etc.), c|net will hear about it or see the effect in their stats and will tighten their submission guidelines. And if the clickthru rates are better on these banners (which, judging from past experience with Flash banner ads, they will be...by a factor of 2 or more), they can make the same amount of money with less banners...which sounds like a winning proposition for the readers.

So, if not banners, then what? How would you have c|net pay for the content they produce?
posted by jkottke at 10:41 AM on January 26, 2001

So, if not banners, then what? How would you have c|net pay for the content they produce?

I don't really care. That's their problem. My problem is that their site is annoying, and my solution is to go elsewhere for technology news.

The argument that we should all stop whining about the increasingly annoying parade of web advertisements because web companies have no other way to make money is a bit strange. If C|Net's business plan is really based on the collective altruism of a bunch of sympathetic web users, they're not long for this world.

Why are we still complaining about ads on the Web?

Because they're still annoying.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:00 AM on January 26, 2001

How come we complain about ads on the web, but seem content with television commercials?
posted by Mark at 11:58 AM on January 26, 2001

TV ads don't bog down your bandwidth, and they provide convenient interludes to visit the kitchen, restroom, etc.
posted by wiremommy at 12:06 PM on January 26, 2001

Also, TV ads usually don't <blink>flash</blink> at you while the show is going on.
posted by harmful at 12:12 PM on January 26, 2001

Also, some people have TiVo to bypass TV commercials (although that's something you have to pay for.)

No one will break the banner ad model until someone does successful micropayments for things like news stories, I believe, and this might not happen until things like newspapers are gone. That's scheduled for the day after the Cubs win the World Series. It's something I want to see, so long as the information is portable in some fashion.

It's not so much that I have against the banner ads, as mentioned in the earlier thread on this topic, but it's the size and annoyance factor. Most people are at the point at which they ignore banner ads. Right now, Flash ads are relatively new... but there will come a day when people ignore Flash ads, too, or simply turn them off (imagine that!) Then what?

The size of the large internal page Flash ads does detract from the main content. The text does flow around it, but the column becomes ridiculously narrow that I can't help but think, "Gee, Oracle must've spent tons on this." Also, while c|net claims download times will be the same if not shorter, Flash movies do need a player loaded, which takes more time. On the first day many of these ads were broken, which meant users got a huge block o'nothing - which could be worse.

I maintain that these things are wholly annoying and ridiculously oversized.

Say, here's a thought. What if there is no way to really sell advertising on the net? What if no one ever comes up with a better solution than banner ads, interstitials, and things of the sort? What if the commercial content went away?
posted by hijinx at 12:22 PM on January 26, 2001

I don't really have any problem with the size of the ads, or the fact that they're Flash. My major objection is that the ads make page-scrolling really jerky. I'm guessing this is something to do with either how the Flash plug-in/ActiveX is done, or how it's implemented in the browsers, but it's been true on every browser & platform I've tried.

If it scrolled as smoothly as a .gif I probably wouldn't even notice it....
posted by anildash at 12:59 PM on January 26, 2001

Yes, I also must agree with you Jason. It is not the idea of there being ads on web pages, it is this particular implementation that is so irritating. Even assuming that all implementations of ads on websites are annoying to some degree or another, this is the most intrusive and annoying scheme I have seen, except maybe for those that use DHTML to make an ad fly around in front of the text you are trying to read.

The unfortunate part is that it is important for there to be some feasible source of revenue for content sites besides pay-per-use. Right now I don't think a better system exists than banner ads, except that people have learned to tune them out pretty well. Hopefully web ads will not become mini-spectacles like TV ads, but how can this be avoided?
posted by donkeymon at 1:07 PM on January 26, 2001

>they're not long for this world.

Guess again. C|net is actually one of the few profitable net companies out there.
posted by jkottke at 1:41 PM on January 26, 2001

"They're not long for this world" is the "then" half of an "if/then" statement, the "if" half of which was roughly "if their financial plan hinges on ad clickthroughs."

So: does it? Where *are* all of those fat earnings coming from?

posted by jbushnell at 2:39 PM on January 26, 2001

If you assiduously mine memepool for the appropriate linkage (sorry too drunk to bother with searching it down for you all at the moment) you too can find a wee hosts file to pop into your /systemxx folder, assuming of course you're using Windows, which will then redirect all (or at least most) of those naughty ad banners to and make you smile.

Well, it made me smile at least. I pretty much assume that zdnet et al. are gonna be ugly, and if I do for some unknown reason need to go there, a gaping hole where the banner used to be with a neat little [x] at the top leftat least means I'll get in-and-out more quickly.

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:03 AM on January 27, 2001

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