Tuesday, October 23, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 23, 1998 -- 'Pleasantville' Opens

October 23, 1998: Another weekend movie promo, leading with Pleasantville. Unclear to me what movie (if any) the "pain" in the headline is referencing.

Dig the yellow and black Halloweeny color scheme for the top promo block.

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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, October 22, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 22, 1998 -- Yankees Sweep; Cuban Missile Crisis Anniversary

October 22, 1998: We led with the utterly unsurprising Yankees' sweep of the Padres. I'm not sure if we set up the update late Wednesday or waited until getting in on Thursday.

After a suitable interval, we switched the lead graphic and first text promo—a feature about the anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Why we were featuring the milestone 36th anniversary of the event is lost to me.

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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, October 21, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 21, 1998 -- On the Edge of a World Series Sweep

October 21, 1998: The Yankees went up 3-0 in the World Series on Tuesday; we led with the result, then did an early-evening update asking if the Padres could avoid the sweep. (They couldn't.)

Also notable: The first Hometown AOL promo to date in the second text promo. Hometown AOL was AOL's web page building product for members, like Geocities, except without all the sparkly bling.
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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, October 20, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 20, 1998 -- 'NYPD Blue' Season 6 Premieres

October 20, 1998: We led with a photo of Rick Schroder, though he wouldn't join the NYPD Blue onscreen cast five episodes later in January. Meanwhile, the Padres got their chance to lose at home, and the top block's shopping promo references an AC/DC lyric.

A text promo in the My News column references a chance to win a $500 gift certificate for registering for My News. Don't remember that promotion.

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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, October 19, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 19, 1998 -- Drew's Crew vs. Bill's Boys

October 19, 1998: More NFL action, name-checking the Patriots' QB Drew Bledsoe and Jets coach Bill Parcells in an admittedly asymmetrical headline that at least rhymed and alliterated. (The Jets won 24-14.)

The first text promo talks about satisfying your Dow "Jones," which my boss nixed the first time I tried it, on the grounds that it was too much of a drug reference. A few months later, I guess it didn't really matter.

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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, October 18, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 18, 1998 -- Make Like a Tree & Get Outta Here

October 18, 1998: Generic, stock art real estate lead promo, with another World Series promo, and a fall travel promo that of course makes use of the Back to the Future quote.

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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, October 17, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 17, 1998 -- 1998 World Series Kicks Off

October 17, 1998: The Padres faced the Yankees in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series. We led with a photo of David Wells.

The first text promo references Power Computer, which is like a second-order Mindvox inside joke that I wasn't really privy to.

Also, the second promo (which I belated realized has been dedicated to Shopping content for the past few weeks), uses a strikethrough font, in the service of targeting the coveted naked online grocery shopping demographic:

 
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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, October 16, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 16, 1998 -- Sandra Bullock in 'Practical Magic'

October 16, 1998: Like the headline says, the lead promo is for the Sandra Bullock movie, Practical Magic.

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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, October 15, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 15, 1998 -- Brett's Arm vs. Barry's Legs

October 15, 1998: NFL Thursday night action, with the Packers at Detroit. (Of course, Brett is Brett Favre and Barry is Barry Sanders.) Also note the Spinal Tap reference in the second text promo for "online music stores," which back then meant online ordering of CDs (as seen in the Music Boulevard promo in the top right ad 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, October 14, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 14, 1998 -- ST: Voyager and Web, White, and Blue

October 14, 1998: Star Trek: Voyager kicked off its fifth season. For some reason, I chose to use a Gilligan's Island reference in the headline. (Isn't that show due for a gritty reboot now? Or was that Lost?)

I neglected to notice an addition to the My News column: A standing promo to "Vote smart on Election Day with Web, White, & Blue." According to this contemporaneous Washington Post article, Web White and Blue (no commas) was an online clearinghouse for 1998 election information, to help educate the American voter. I gather that no Russians were involved.

Today, the WWB domain redirects to this Markle Foundation report on the 2000 elections.

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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, October 13, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 13, 1998 -- Home, Home in Your Range and Washington Capitals

October 13, 1998: A hacky song reference to promote Personal Finance in the lead promo.

The first text promo is NHL, featuring the Washington Capitals versus the Detroit Red Wings in a Stanley Cup rematch. Yes, there was life in DC hockey in the 1990s, even if the intervening years made people want to forget: The Capitals made the NHL finals (and got swept) in the 1997-1998 season.


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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, October 12, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 12, 1998 -- Generic Football Promo and Getting Risque With AOL 4.0

October 12, 1998: "Offense Scores the Points, but will defense win tonight's game?" a.k.a. the most-generic NFL promo ever. (For the record, it was Dolphins at Jaguars.)

The AOL 4.0 promo in the top text spot is a repeat from Sunday; apparently we were on a push to promote AOL 4.0 downloads and didn't care much about the repetition. The headline, "You Can't Be First... but you can be next" is about as risqué as I got on the home page.

The internet these days seems to think that the quote is a Ric Flair thing, but I'm pretty sure it's much, much older. (I want to saw that it was popularized by a Mae West, bad girl-type, but I can't find a cite.)

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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, October 11, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 11, 1998 -- Scream Savers

October 11, 1998: A promo for Halloween screen savers and other Halloween downloads. Remember when screen savers were a thing?

This one doesn't sound like something I would have wrote unprompted; I think I also asked the various Web Centers leads to provide promo copy (or at least ideas).

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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, October 10, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 10, 1998 -- NHL Action

October 10, 1998: Keeping in mind that Sports generally did pretty poorly for us, but even with those low expectations, regular season hockey was a dog. I guess we just wanted a change from NCAA football.

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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, October 09, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 9, 1998: Baseball, Spinal Tap, and Errors

October 9, 1998: More baseball. Threw in an obvious "Hello, Cleveland!" Spinal Tap reference, probably because I was getting bored with baseball playoff promos.

This is probably also a good time to admit to something that happened earlier in the playoffs: I forget which matchup it was, but I got one of the teams wrong. We only found out  that I'd put one of wrong teams into the playoffs after some members posted about it to the AOL.com redesign feedback message boards, which we checked pretty regularly after every design change.

We didn't really have a rigorous QA or editing process for content back then—I basically did it all myself.

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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, October 08, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 8, 1998 -- Two Baseball Playoff Features

October 8, 1998: We started off the day with a reference to the National League Championship Series between the Braves and Padres; game 1 was the previous night, with another game that night. (Also note the second text promo, which references the House's Clinton impeachment debate.)
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We then did a mid-morning update for the previous night's Yankees' loss to the Indians, mostly because there was a controversial play involving Chuck Knoblauch that I'm pretty sure I saw on TV (I don't watch much post-season baseball, but I seem to recall it made an impression), so I referenced it in the promo.
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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, October 07, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 7, 1998 -- 'Dawson's Creek' Returns

October 7, 1998: Season 2 of Dawson's Creek kicked off. The headline is "They Kissed: Now What?" though it more accurately should have been "They Kissed: So What?"

Now's also a time to mention that we added some new Web Centers, and kept messing around with their order in the column. There's an International one, as well as Pictures & Albums, which I think was the AOL.com home for our partnership with Kodak, You've Got Pictures (YGP).
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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, October 06, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 6, 1998 -- ALCS Showdown and Another Design Tweak

October 6, 1998: A baseball promo with a reference to a Jackie Chan movie. More notably, we tweaked the design of the top promo block, which finally aligned to the columns below. The lead promo was still a text block above a graphic, followed by two stacked text promos. The Daily Essentials remained in the third column.

One other thing -- it looks like we finally made the AOL NetFind box in the left column an actual working search box, with a working text entry form (instead of just a link).

A lot of the cleanup was also to try to reduce page file size and load times. Remember, this was still the dialup days. We did every thing we could to do simplify the tables, remove graphics, and even strip out unneeded breaks and spaces in the HTML to get the page to render faster.

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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, October 05, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 5, 1998 -- Monday Night Football and Another Design Tweak

October 5, 1998: Another NFL promo, on the Vikings-Packers matchup and Vikings QB Randall Cunningham, who was hot in his return after one year of retirement.

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Then, at some point during the day, we implemented a design tweak that really shrank the column headers, switching from a graphic logo with integrated tagline to a text hyperlink with a much-smaller logo and no tag line.

We did this because we wanted to get more content to show above the fold: Clickthrough rates were really low for content below the fold. The fact that it was mostly bulleted lists probably factored into that.

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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, October 04, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 4, 1998 -- Find a New Job on the Web

October 4, 1998: Using websites to find and post job listings was still a pretty new thing; we featured a job listings promo (with a really odd illustration):

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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, October 03, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 3, 1998 -- Penn State vs. Ohio State in College Football

October 3, 1998: More NCAA football content signifying another Saturday, featuring No. 7 Penn State at top-ranked Ohio State. Ohio State won 28-9.

Also note the wording of the promo, which carefully picks an ambiguous tense that works for pre-game and post-game, since we weren't doing weekend updates for regular college football games.
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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, October 02, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 2, 1998 -- 'Antz' Opens

October 2, 1998: For Friday, we featured the first of two animated insect movies that came out in the fall of 1998, and the only one that featured the voice of Woody Allen, Antz. It has not had a lasting cultural impact.
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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, October 01, 2018

20 Years Ago on AOL.com: Oct. 1, 1998 -- Dow Dips 210

October 1, 1998: Started out the day with a pretty tame Personal Finance promo with a tip on paying for college...
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...and then the Dow dropped. Fortunately, we had a piece of stock art ready from the last time:
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We ended the day with a simple wording change to ask, "What Happened?"
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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.]