Tuesday, September 18, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 18, 1998 -- 'Rush Hour' Leads Fall Movie Preview

September 18, 1998: We led with an Entertainment Web Center fall movie preview featuring Rush Hour, which starred Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, and was directed by accused sex offender Brett Ratner.

Other than that, second text promo ponders, "Will they release the Clinton videotape?" [Spoiler: Yes.]

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Monday, September 17, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 17, 1998 -- Airline Strike Over

September 17, 1998: The graphic promo headline references the 1998 Northwest Airlines pilots' strike, which grounded the airline for two weeks. Despite appearances, it's not a news story, but rather a promotion for some sort of Travel Web Center feature.

The Starr Report remains in the third spot.

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Sunday, September 16, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 16, 1998 -- Party of Five Returns

September 16, 1998: Back to fall TV premieres, highlighting Party of Five and Beverly Hills, 90210. The Starr Report remains as the third text promo and part of the house ad rotation:
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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Saturday, September 15, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 15, 1998 -- Save for a Rainy Day (and a New Safe Surfin' link)

September 15, 1998: A pretty generic Personal Finance promo, with a piece of stock art that's probably still in use now. The Starr Report is still in the third spot of the promo block:
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Way below the fold, in the America Online corporate links section, we added a new item for Online Safety, touting some Safe Surfin' program that I don't recall. It would have been a website, not an AOL-only service link. It may be related to this video. The timing around all the Starr report publishing is probably just a coincidence.

[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Friday, September 14, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 14, 1998 -- Back to Sports and Sosa's 62nd

September 14, 1998: We cut back to the Home Run Derby, moving the Starr Report in the third spot and leading off with Slammin' Sammy Sosa hitting his 62nd homer.

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Thursday, September 13, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 13, 1998 -- All-Starr Weekend (and an updated disclaimer)

September 13, 1998: We went all Starr Report for the weekend, with an otherwise standard text promo lineup.

However, below the fold, there's a change: the "100 HOURS Free*" asterisk, which previously pointed to a fine-print disclaimer in the footer, now points to a more visible disclaimer near the bottom of the column reading, "*For conditions and membership details, sign up now." Again, the change was probably given to us by Legal; and again, the only way to view the details was to actually go through the signup process.
  
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(There's also a new "Online Safety" item in the corporate links area, but that's just an artifact of the preview, which I did the following week when I took the screenshot, so I'll talk about it after it "goes live.")

[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.] 

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 12, 1998 -- Starr Report Saturday

September 12, 1998: Naturally, we continued with the Starr Report in the top spot, though we resumed the regular text promo lineup in the other spots. Also note that we put a Starr Report house ad in the rotation. It probably wasn't a good idea to use the exact same graphic for the house ad in the ad bloc as the editorial promotion, but then again, I think by this point, everyone assumed everything was an advertisement anyway:

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 11, 1998 -- We Publish Full Text of the Starr Report

September 11, 1998: This anniversary tends to be forgotten due to, you know, September 11, but the Starr Report was publicly released. It was in no way your typical Friday news dump. The Post article about preparing for the online release of the report includes this bit:
Several commercial Web sites, including America Online, Compuserve and Washingtonpost.com, are planning to post the summary as soon as they receive it. Tricia Primrose of America Online said that members can use AOL's parental-control technology to keep youngsters from accessing the document.
We dedicated the entire lead promo spot (including a nifty, AOL.com-branded graphic) to the report, which we published in its entirety on My News, thanks to the swift efforts of the My News team. I remember Bill Frischling, fingers flying as he used MS Word to strip formatting from the provided file (which was originally Wordperfect) to get it ready for posting.

I forget the precise chronology, but the time stamp on the live page screenshot is 3:17pm. AOL.com was one of the first (if not the first) to get the full text online.
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I used to have a printout of one of the wire service stories about the online release of the Starr report; it included a photo of a computer screen (possibly at a cybercafe) displaying the report -- it was, of course, the My News version.

The Starr Report package, and everything else that was My News, is long gone, though you can still find the full text of the Starr Report elsewhere.

[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Monday, September 10, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 10, 1998 -- Starr Report Coverage

September 10, 1998: Obviously, the story of the day was the release of the Starr Report. Looks like we stuck with the same photo of the Capitol Police hauling in the report that every other news outlet used.

In all the excitement, I guess I forgot to take a live screenshot, so here's another look at my copyfit mockup; the lead item says, "Starr Report Alleges Perjury: Text of report to be available on AOL.COM Friday."
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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Sunday, September 09, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 9, 1998 -- Mark McGwire Hits 62; Followed by the Starr Report Preview

September 9, 1998: Mark McGwire hit his 62nd home run the night before (we didn't publish a real-time update); so we led with the story in the top spot the next day:

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However, Mac was bumped from the top spot by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, who sent his report to Congress. I only have a screenshot of my offline copyfit mockup; you can see how the first promo runs to three lines, throwing off the alignment of the block and adding some space to the bottom of the right column; I'm not sure if that's the version we ultimately published.

Anyway, you'll see a lot more of this during the coming days.
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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Saturday, September 08, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 8, 1998 -- Personal Finance, and Read Your AOL Mail at Work with NetMail

September 8, 1998: Just another generic Personal Finance graphic in the top spot. We moved the home run record watch down to the second text promo spot.

What's marginally more interesting: In the Free Products column, we have a text promo that reads "Can't use AOL at work? Read your AOL e-mail with AOL NetMail.":


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Yeah, we're basically saying, "Bypass your boss and your corporate IT department so you can check your personal email at work"... just not as explicitly as this short-lived AOL TV commercial from around 1996 or so (I believe it was from the same batch as AOL commercials as the David Cross "monkey glove" ad).

The first version of AOL NetMail used an ActiveX plug-in, so if you couldn't install the AOL client software on your work machine, it's quite possible that you wouldn't have been allowed to run ActiveX plug-ins, and we quickly moved beyond it.

[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Friday, September 07, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 7, 1998 -- Mark McGwire Ties Home Run Record

September 7, 1998: Mark McGwire hit his 61st home run, tying Roger Maris' single-season record. It's hard to overstate what a huge deal the 1998 home run derby was, since the horse race aspect was something easy for non-baseball fans to get caught up in.

In retrospect, we all probably knew there was something mighty suspicious about all these dingers hit by men with basketball-sized heads and canned hams for forearms. But that would come much later.

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Thursday, September 06, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 6, 1998 -- NFL Regular Season Kickoff

September 6, 1998: A Sunday promo for Monday Night Football, featuring Patriot linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 5, 1998 -- Emmy Contenders and 100 Free Hours*

September 5, 1998: A generic Entertainment promo about that year's Emmy contenders, but at least I got to call our members couch potatoes.

One thing I overlooked from the Sept. 2 design tweaks: In the "Try AOL Now" promo in the right-side Free Products column, we added an asterisk after "get 100 FREE HOURS!*" This referenced a disclaimer at the bottom of the page, presumably added at the behest of Legal, that read, "*For conditions and membership details, see registration process."

So even the disclaimer itself was a promo to sign up for AOL.

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Sept. 4, 1998 -- Labor Day Weather Forecast

September 4, 1998: For the Friday before Labor Day, the lead promo spot was for the weekend weather forecasts from My News, while the second promo was about Mark McGwire nearing the single-season MLB home run record (the 1998 "Home Run Derby"). We'll see a lot more about this in the coming days; but next week is going to be even more notable for a report from a certain independent counsel...

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[Series note: In the late 1990s, I programmed the content for the AOL.com home page, which relaunched with a new design on July 14, 1998. I printed screencaps and saved them. 20 years later, I'm scanning them in and posting them with a little commentary under the tag #20YearsAgoOnAOLcom.]