Wednesday, August 15, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 15, 1998 -- More Preseason Football

August 15, 1998: Another preseason NFL promo for a Saturday. The game was 49ers at Seahawks. The photo credit is handwritten at the bottom of the page: "Eric Gay, AP." The screenshot scan is super-crooked. The Seahawks won, 24-21:
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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, August 14, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 14, 1998 -- Design Tweaks, One Month Post-Launch (and the 1998 Avengers)

August 14, 1998: The top graphic spot features Uma Thurman from The Avengers, the big-screen adaptation of the 1960s TV series that had minimal impact compared to the 2012 movie of the same name. (Also, the "Uma is Emma" line was my take on David Letterman's "Oprah, Uma" bit from the 1995 Oscars.)

More importantly, this is one month after the July 14 relaunch, and where we introduced some design tweaks (that I'd forgotten about until I was scrolling through the August photos and saw some differences):
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Here's an animated gif that makes the differences easy to spot:
  • First and foremost, the AOL Netfind search bar below the main promo block (and that previously spanned the top of the five columns) was moved to the AOL Netfind column, which also received a background color to make it stand out more. 
  • We added bolded "Explore [Product Name]" headers above the static list items below the fold, and also made them unordered lists with red bullets.
  • You can also see horizontal dividers between the different column sections. Apparently, we were concerned that people were ignoring the column content.
  • We made an odd font choice, where the column header and promo content was a serif font (probably Times Roman), whereas the list items remained sans serif. It might have just been an artifact of how we published the promos via the promo rotator tool. It looks ugly as hell.
Animated gif comparing the design tweaks to the AOL.com home page one-month postlaunch
[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, August 13, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 13, 1998 -- PGA Championship Tees Off Today (feat. Tiger Woods)

August 13, 1998: Another screenshot off the live site (taken 7:32pm, evidently), featuring Tiger Woods in the top graphic spot for the 1998 PGA Championship. While he led after the first round, Vijay Singh eventually won.


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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, August 12, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 12, 1998 -- Last Chance for $99 Fall Fares

August 12, 1998: A relatively rare Travel Web Centers promo that references a specific deal, $99 fall airfares. I don't remember how it performed.

The top text promo is about a preview for How Stella Got Her Groove Back.
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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, August 11, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 11, 1998 -- A Gap in the Record

August 11, 1998: As you can see from the header, this is a printout of the HTML mockup that I used for copyfitting the promo block text. (According to the footer, I printed it on August 22, apparently after I realized I had a gap in my printouts.)

The first text promo reads "Stock Market Plunges," whereas just the day before, the text was "Will the Rally Continue?" Apparently August 1998 showed a lot of stock market volatility.

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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.]

Friday, August 10, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 10, 1998 -- Sneak Peek at Paradise

August 10, 1998: Lead graphic promo was a preview for the movie, Return to Paradise. I don't remember it either.

One phrase as a headline writer that I'm always extra careful about is "sneak peek," because I've made the "sneak peak" mistake more than once.
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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, August 09, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 9, 1998 -- Already Into Repeats

August 9, 1998: Nothing special above or below the fold, except the generic weather promo graphic is the exact same one I used the previous Wednesday.

This wasn't even the first repeat: The baseball promo photo from August 4 (featuring Ken Griffey, Jr.) was the same one we launched with on July 14.

Repeating promo text—and even entire lineups—was just the nature of the beast. I would at least try to tweak wording, though the promo graphic text at this point was baked in; I wasn't allowed to touch (and didn't even have) the source files.
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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, August 08, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 8, 1998 -- Generic Football Promo

[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.]

August 8, 1998: Generic football promo for the Sports Web Center, featuring the Broncos' Terrell Davis and some really odd capitalization in the graphic headline.

(A bunch of the scans I've been doing are crooked. I was lazy and didn't fix them.)

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Tuesday, August 07, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 7, 1998 -- US Embassies in Africa Bombed

[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.]

August 7, 1998: The US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania happened on a Friday, and while we added it to the top text spot, it wasn't enough to knock the Nicholas Cage movie Snake Eyes out of the graphic spot.

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20 years later, no one is talking about Snake Eyes.

It wasn't because we had payola deal where we had to promo it. (August 7 was just not a strong movie weekend.) Nor did we have a huge stake in the outcome of the movie. (Good thing, too.)

The main reason we didn't bump it from the graphic spot was timing and attention: We got the news late enough on a Friday it would have been a big hassle to request and get a news photo for a distant—though tragic—story, especially since people didn't really come to the site for news.

Monday, August 06, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 6, 1998 -- Lara Croft and Lewinsky to Testify

[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.]

August 6, 1998: The lead promo features Lara Croft, in a Computing Web Center promo presumably previewing Tomb Raider III, which would come out in October.

The top text promo references a MyNews story about Monica Lewinsky, whose testimony to the federal grand jury began that day.
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Sunday, August 05, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 5, 1998 -- Weather Forecasts and Clinton vs. Starr

[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.]

August 5, 1998: The graphic promo for getting customized weather reports in MyNews is pretty blah. The first text promo is about independent counsel Kenneth Starr's investigation into Bill Clinton, though I can't for the life of me remember why the Computing Web Center would be featuring it.

Looking over in the ad block: Music Boulevard was bought by CDNow in 1999 (we'll see CDNow in later ads), which was later bought by Amazon.

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Saturday, August 04, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 4, 1998 -- See What's Up in Baseball

[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.]

August 4, 1998: Another Sports promo. See how the catcher and Ken Griffey, Jr. are looking up in the photo? Well, what most people miss is how the imagery thematically matches the headline text, "See what's up in baseball."

You see, the players in the photo are literally looking up to see what's happening in the baseball game, while we (the readers) are being exhorted to figuratively "see" what's up (that is, what's happening) in the general realm of baseball.

It's another keen insight into the late 1990s digital publishing process that makes this series such a valuable contribution to the historical record.

You're welcome.

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Friday, August 03, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 3, 1998 -- Melrose Mondays Are Back

[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.]

August 3, 1998: Starting the week with a photo of Heather Locklear for a Melrose Place promo. Its seventh and final season had premiered the week before:
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Jumping to the current day, 2018 hasn't been a great year for Heather.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 2, 1998 -- Summer Vacation: It's Not Too Late

[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.]

August 2, 1998: Another generic Travel Web Center promotion.

In the fourth text promo, I do still kinda like the couch potato callout:
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Wednesday, August 01, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: August 1, 1998 -- Name this 1998 NFL Quarterback

[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.]

August 1, 1998: Another Sports Web Center promo, this one for the NFL Preseason Kickoff.

I don't claim to know my late '90s NFL quarterbacks, especially from poorly scanned, 20-year-old photos; maybe someone can tell me who we featured:
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