Your Site Has 4 3 Seconds To Load Or I Am Leaving

Big hat tip to Thomas Cott for linking to an article about how quickly people will abandon a webpage if it is loading slowly.  The title tells pretty much everything you need to know about the problem – Slow pages hurt conversions, but marketers aren’t in a hurry to fix them.  (my emphasis below)

[Unbounce] then conducted two parallel surveys of consumers and marketers to understand their respective attitudes toward page speed. Nearly 75 percent of consumers surveyed said they’d wait four or more seconds for a mobile site to load. However, Google data show that most people abandon sites after three seconds if content hasn’t loaded.

The majority of survey respondents indicated that slow-loading sites would negatively affect their willingness to buy and even return to the particular site. Surprisingly, women were more impatient than men in this regard.

Interestingly a majority of consumers said they wanted faster-loading sites even it meant giving up animations, video and images. The good news for brands and publishers is that most consumers were more inclined to blame their ISP (50.5 percent) than the site itself (34.2 percent).

Even though people were willing to blame their ISP over the site, that is no reason to think you can get by. Over 1/3 of respondents blamed the site itself. People are experienced enough to have a good sense where the blame lay.

Among the top suggestions for solving this issue are optimizing image and video size; improving caching and hosting and running speed tests.

If you are at a loss for where to even start to learn how to do these things–ArtsHacker has a whole series devoted to this. The impetus for this was anticipated slow downs due to net neutrality rulings by the FCC so there are a number of strategies in that series that you can use. You will definitely find pieces on image compression, speed tests, database optimization and minimizing the impact of page requests.

Granted, some of these procedures should not be undertaken if you are inexperienced working under the hood of your website. By the same token, if you don’t know much about how website traffic works, the articles can give you new information and a better sense of what things contribute to slow downs on your website.

 

Something I am curious about that is tangentially related is how quickly people will abandon a video if an ad they can’t quickly skip starts playing. This doesn’t usually impact videos embedded as performance samples in website that I have seen, but there have been a number of times I decided I wasn’t interested enough in a news piece to wait for an ad to finish.  I suspect I am more patient with those ads than most so it makes me wonder about the long term viability of those ads. Especially as YouTube seems to be getting increasingly insistent in their offers to sign up for their paid service.

California Symphony–They Speak Your Language

I was excited to see Aubrey Bergauer posted a follow up to her original 2016 Orchestra X post regarding how the California Symphony was acting on the feedback it has received about the concert planning and attending experience. I have written about some of Aubrey’s work since then, but I was eager to see a cumulative reflection.

Unfortunately, her post came in the middle of the holiday production crunch so I only got around to reading it this week.

A couple of really interesting things that caught my attention in this latest post. First was the counter-intuitive value in leaving past events posted on the website. I always want to get the clutter of old information off my website so it is easy for potential attendees to find the information they want. While this is probably an important practice generally, for the California Symphony, leaving that information available helped bolster their credibility. She writes,

1) As the season progressed, this list got awkwardly short, especially for an orchestra like the California Symphony that doesn’t perform as frequently as our bigger-budget peers. Participants told us they couldn’t believe we didn’t perform more often, and it looked even worse when only a few concerts were on that list. 2) As they were trying to “get a sense of what we’re about,” as they said, they couldn’t really tell based on only a handful of upcoming shows

Another thing is that they started running digital ads in both English and Spanish. The Spanish ads have a link to a Spanish language landing page.

That pilot test did lead to a measurable increase in Latinx households, and so we decided to put some money behind developing the new site in both languages. Now, when we run ads in Spanish, we can link to landing pages in the same language, another step in making this important segment in our community feel invited and welcome here, as well as give them the information they need to join us.

This was not new information to me because Aubrey has been reporting her success attracting a broader audience segment on Twitter for a few weeks now.

While she didn’t report on the outcomes of the changes, her discussion of how they adjusted some of the website sections to be outwardly focused rather than inwardly focused gave me something to think about. For example, instead of “Education” as a navigation header they are using “Off Stage” with subheaders focused on kids, adults and artists. They also changed “Support Us” to the more outwardly oriented “Your Support.”

A lot of the work they did was in the area of providing background information both in their program book and website. Their program notes are more about the background of the artists and music than the technical details of the music. They have song clips and information drawn from Wikipedia available online for those who want to know more. They changed their writing style to short bullet points rather than paragraphs.

Aubrey provides the rationale behind these changes based both in research and user feedback so it is definitely worth while to read this recent post.

You Couldn’t Tie People To Railroad Tracks Because It Was Copyrighted

Copyright may seem like a pretty dry subject, but the court cases that lead to the development of the law and theory surrounding copyright law can be pretty interesting. HowlRound posted the transcript of  Michael Lueger’s podcast discussion with Dr. Derek Miller about some of the early copyright cases that applied to theater and music performance.

One of the interesting cases they discuss is competing expressions of the iconic melodrama train track scene where someone escapes just as the train arrives. Apparently playwright Augustin Daly was the first to write such a scene and playwright Dion Boucicault copied the idea. The courts ruled in favor of Daly saying that even though every other element of Boucicault’s play was different, the common action was key to the drama and thus was protected.

(By the way, according to Atlas Obscura, contrary to the trope, Daly’s play, and even many silent films, had a man on the tracks and the leading lady rescuing him.)

Interestingly, when the guy producing Boucicault’s play tried to reach an early settlement by licensing the train effect from Daly’s show, “The court actually says, no, no, no. The effect is not something you can copyright, … You can’t own the effect, but you can own the action.”

This general concept holds to today where you can copyright the expression of the idea, but not the name or the idea itself. You can, of course, trademark names and patent effects, but those are different types of protections than copyright.

Another fascinating situation happened when Thomas Hamblin’s Bowery Theatre was doing poorly but Charles Thorne’s Chatham Theatre around the corner was doing great. Thorne was getting ready to do a play by Joseph S. Jones so Hamblin goes to Jones and makes a deal to open Jones’ play on the same night in an attempt to put Thorne out of business. They were planning to have Jones sue Thorne “for violating your [Jones’] rights to produce the play.”

However, the courts say since Jones was working for a Mr. Pelby when he wrote the play, Pelby had the right to sell the performance rights to Thorne.

But what came next is really interesting:

I’ve got a lot of evidence here from the New York Herald, which goes all in for Thorne, and they argue that by trying to shut down Thorne’s production, Jones and Hamblin of the Bowery Theatre are limiting the audience’s ability to compare the artistic products at the Chatham and the Bowery. It’s sort of a free trade argument that they’re making.

In other words, according to Thorne and to the Herald … Thorne actually writes an editorial that appears in the Herald … if the productions are allowed to compete with each other, both theatres are going to do even better artistic work than they would otherwise. They say Hamblin is trying to shut down artistic competition and to give you a bad product, but we’re in favor of a good product and letting Thorne do the play. Legally, actually, the case is sort of a weird, unimportant footnote, in terms of the legal precedent it establishes, but it helped in studying this case to teach me how theatrical copyright battles get both parties thinking about the relationship between a work’s artistic value and its monetary value.

It is interesting to me that they get into this argument that having competing versions of the same production going on around the corner from each other is providing people with a choice and opportunity to decide which is the better production.

Nowadays, when you try to license performance rights you can run into all sorts of restrictions because a 2000 seat venue 200 miles from you planning to do the same production 12 months after you mount your production in a 200 seat theater.

While that is kind of extreme, I think the basic idea that people are willing to pay a lower price for a discount version of the same product and cannibalize your potential audience is a real concern.

Even in 1841 when Thorne and Hamblin were butting heads, if people wanted to see a show a significant number would probably accept lower production quality for 25 cents at the Bowery versus paying $1 at the Chatham.

The Fine Line Between High Quality Data Collection And Stalking

The marketing director at my new job was discussing the potential of using geofencing with me today and then lo and behold, the first article on my social media feed when I got home contained a link to an article on that very subject.

Geofencing can be used to track someone’s movement by where they carry their cellphone and send messages to them based on their behavior. As the article on Tao of Sports explains,

Geofencing also follows customers around for up to thirty days, which means beyond the initial purchasing period, it can also showcase whether the fan receiving the message then went to the stadium or not. With addressable geofencing, conversion zones can be setup as well. So if a fan crosses into a conversion zone, say a specific venue which advertised to them within the last thirty days, it will show on the report.

[…]

For secondary brokers, geofencing technology also adds an additional way to catch fans as they are entering the stadium parking lot, by hitting their phone with a last minute advertisement for concert or sports tickets. Image getting them right before they hit the window with a credible advertisement that beats the venue price.

Like any technology tool, geofencing is something of a double edged sword. It can provide you with much more accurate data about the way people are behaving than asking them about their habits or trying to observe it in other ways. But there is also that creepy Big Brother is Watching element.

The tweet by Roger Tomlinson that brought the article to my attention notes that geofencing is not legal in Europe without permission.

Last month when I was suggesting conference session topics for the Non Profit Technology Conference, I alluded to the issues surrounding geofencing in one of my topic ideas:

Ethics of Using Geofencing For Marketing  – i.e. I can geofence a local theater and target people based on the idea that they enjoy attending performances or with the intent of stealing the audience.

I don’t doubt that the use of geofencing or something like it will become increasingly prevalent. I suspect that a number of bad actors will cause people to become very protective of how their movements are tracked to the point that even if a law isn’t passed requiring you to ask for permission, in practice that is what you will have to do in order to gain the data you want.

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