auto-racing-583032_1280The old WordPress theme was such a resources-hog that we’ve junked it ahead of time to help TeleRead load faster.

Notice the speed-up from the much-customized replacement?

I started in on the changes last night, intended to give myself a break, but ended up working well into prime traffic hours for TeleRead. Sorry about the dust and bumps! More speed improvements are on the way.

Meanwhile special thanks to my friend Nate Hoffelder, who generously shared his own theme-related experiences, among other information.

I’m still not done. If all goes as planned, we’ll be doing a poor man’s Amazon act with algorithms to help us arrive at a good compromise between site usability and optimal ad placement (yes, we like to be able to pay our staffers). So get set for yet more TeleRead looks—plural.

Granted, the Amazon site is damned ugly. But it is also highly usable compared to those of most of its rivals.

Stay tuned for more details.

And meanwhile please give us feedback on the current New Look—the cons as well as the pros. Unadulterated vanity will take us only so far.

*     *     *

Update, 4 p.m.: The people helping us do the algorithm act actually would prefer that the TeleRead site not undergo further changes for now. But stay tuned for plenty more experimentation in the next week or so once we have The System in place.


  1. Looks great to me. I like the new format.

    This serves as a reminder that some day I should have my websites redesigned. On the other hand, I think about the days when some of the top Internet marketers such as John Reese and Tom Antion talked about how many $100 ugly websites would outsell the $10,000 or $50,000 professional looking websites every day of the year. In fact, just a few months ago marketing guru Seth Godin stated that this still applies in many cases today.

    “Pretty websites
    …are rarely websites that convert as well as unpretty ones.”
    — Seth Godin

    So, perhaps I should leave my ugly websites the way they are because they do make me money whereas a lot of more professional websites that friends of mine paid big dollars for are not making them any money.

  2. The one thing that puzzles me is, why did the story I just posted have the third picture in it show up on the front page instead of the first one? Not that I’m complaining, as it’s probably a better picture anyway, but it would be nice to know for the future.

  3. @ Chris

    I can’t speak as to the specific technical details about this theme, but I would bet that the third image showed up on the front page because that was the one you marked as the “featured image”.

    Like most modern WP themes, Telered’s front page is probably built automatically by core WP functions which grab an excerpt of text and the featured image for each post. That text plus image is then posted automatically.

    Or at least that is my guess based on nearly six years of working with WordPress. I don’t have access to the code so i can’t say with absolute certainty.

  4. @Ernie, @Nate and @Chris: Thanks for the valuable feedback!

    Ernie: You’re absolutely right. “Newer” doesn’t necessarily mean better, at least in terms of revenue (and maybe in terms of aesthetics). But as I’ve explained, the TeleRead site was just crawling along. It was a technical emergency, so to speak, given all the resources the old theme was squandering.

    Nate: I share your dislike of ad-stuffed sites. Please tell me exactly where you’re seeing the ads, and what kinds they are—text or image. I did experiment with a banner at the top but took it down because it bothered me. I’ll provide feedback to the ad-and-site-optimization company that will be working toward a good blend of usability and revenue potential. I need to know what you’re seeing since the site right now is carrying only an ad or so as seen by me. Not all viewers of the site will see the same thing. Has the layout changed on you yet? It may or may not. That’s one of the points of the software—to experiment with what works. More on this tomorrow. I’m tired. I’ve been at this since yesterday evening without that much sleep.

    @Chris: I’m using a plugin called something like Set Featured Imagne. At times it will have a mind of its own. But I want to see if it will settle for the first image, and I’ve tried an adjustment. As for the missing comments, I’m curious if that’s a caching issues. I see all six comments on both my iPad and my desktop. I’m aware of the Catch-22 here, but if someone else is reading all the comments on one machine but can’t on another, I want to know the details.


  5. Thanks, Nate. I’ll pass these screenshots on to the service serving up the ads.

    As for the caching issue, which also may have caused the server to crash late yesterday, I’ve gotten rid of the modifications to the .htaccess file. Let’s see if that does the trick.

    I hope that both you and Chris will keep me posted on this.


  6. I liked the old look and I like the new look even more. I care more about the articles since they’re why I come here, but it looks just fine this way. It’s a little cleaner and brighter. Nice job!


  7. I like this look. The brown’s going to take some getting used to after having grown so accustomed to the green, but that’s issue and not yours. I do think there needs to be better differentiation in the comments. It’s difficult to figure out where one comment ends and another begins.

  8. @Barry and @Rob: Thanks so much for the feedback.

    Rob, I’m curious what you see as brown. TeleRead is still green to me in locations such as the top. I’d be curious what color other TeleRead community members are seeing.

    You’re absolutely right about the need for more differentiation in the comments. Yet another issue to discuss at some point with the template maker and/or Ezoic! Just like the need for bylines on the home page (unless I’m overlooking a feature).

    Meanwhile I’m curious what you both think about the ad issue. Are you getting too many ads? Or an acceptable number?

    I went into the Ezoic dashboard and restricted the max ad count to four per page. Also I’ve asked Ezoic to go right now for max site usability as opposed to a balance between that and revenue. This may change as Ezoic learns more about our site and can go for the compromise in a gentler way.

    Finally, I’ve asked Ezoic not to serve up obnoxious ads such as the “Get Rich Quick” variety. Politics is about the only touchy area I haven’t banned. We’ve got all types on TeleRead–progressives, libertarians, conservatives–and we’ll go the freedom of speech route in that respect. This blog is mainly about books and tech. But as long as people are civil and don’t let politics distract from other topics, it’s ok. So many issues such as copyright are politically related in the end. I’m a life-long liberal Democrat but I am thoroughly ashamed of the party’s stand on some important intellectual property issues.


  9. Ugh. Font is too small and I’ve had to enlarge the viewing aspect. That made all the ads bigger. For this article alone, there is the “ad choices” links (how about no ads? haha), there are two for audible — and they are right in a row, then one for password management at the end of the article, and one for a flat stomach just below the comments. If I turn on adblocker for this site – it barely functions. The right hand column with your search box, share this buttons, and links to additional comments does not show up at all. Plus all the headers and site links are messed up if ads don’t run. That tells me the coding is all blended together to force a reader to view the ads or move on. I’m truly not a fan so far.

  10. @MrsMac: I really really appreciate your candor. After reading your comment, I immediately bumped up the size of the type by a point. What’s more, I’ve limited the number of ads to three right now. That was the maximum pre-Ezoic. Due to issues such as caching and propagation over the Web, the changes may not go into effect immediately. But they are on the way. Keep me posted. As for the links-related issue, I want to see if the adjustments – the greater focus on usability – will address them. Again give this time to kick in, and let me know if the changes don’t. Thanks! David

  11. I use Adblock and I wasn’t seeing any ads. I just turned it off and now I see an Audible ad near the top and just below that a fat tummy reduction ad. That’s it. Since they’re close together the first impression is of a lot of ads but scrolling back down the page I didn’t see another till I got near the bottom, where I found another flat stomach ad.

    I don’t like ads but what I see here isn’t something that would bother me. I started using Adblock about a year ago but if this was as bad as things got I probably never would have started using it.

    I’ll look into disabling it for your site. I think I did that once for some other site so I guess I can do it here.


  12. Really awful. I see two giant ads in the middle of your post. Audible and a public records search. Between them they take up just as much real estate as the entire text of your column. Each ad is more than half the width of the column space. Each ad is bigger than the racing photo. The format is essentially a two column post in which the entire top half of one column, and the entire bottom half of the other column, are ads. There is no border around either ad which makes it bleed into the text and be even more intrusive.

    Directly below the Post Comment button is a giant flat stomach ad which fills the entire width of the column area.

    The ads are so big and so in your face that it was hard to stay with the text of your post.

  13. @Barry and @Vicki: Continued thanks for the feedback. Yes, while I’d prefer that people see ads on TeleRead, they are free to use AdBlock. Not a full solution, but a definite help.

    Meanwhile be patient. My request to optimize TeleRead for usability, not revenue, will take time to carry out. Meanwhile I’m told that for the experiment to get the most scientific results, the max ad count must be five. So I’ll oblige.

    Based on results from late yesterday and early today—let’s hope they’re representative—the experiment is already a statistic success. Bounce rates are down by 25 percent or so, suggesting that even now, before usability optimization really kicks in, people can live with TeleRead as served by Ezoic.

    Revenue for today looks as if it will be substantially above average even though the pickings are a lot less than they should be.

    My goal is an ad-supported site—no subscription fees!—that pays its writers more than they are getting now. It’s one thing to write at leisure for free, especially out of pure passion. It’s another to expect pros to pound out copy day after day and not get compensation to some extent.

    That is why I am paying the regulars even while taking a loss, and Ezoic offers a way to keep the site going at its present level and maybe even expand from there. As I said, be patient.


    P.S. Send me the URLs of any obnoxious ads (you can let the cursor rest on the image without clicking). I can then turn off the ads through the Ezoic dashboard. Already, as noted, I’ve turned off the ads for sex-related sites and the like (even if it might take some time for Ezoic’s system to reflect this). My e-mail is

    P.S. One other possibility I am investigating is a sponsor whose values would be in line with those of the TeleRead community. That would reduce the pressure for TeleRead to make money off ads.

  14. Rob, I’m curious what you see as brown.

    Must’ve been a caching issue showing default theme settings. The background when I was here this morning was brown. In any case, I thought it was nice. 🙂

    As for ads… I think there are too many, they’re too large and located in weird spots (causing you some design/aesthetics problems).

    I think the size you’re using for the ads inline with content work better for your sidebar (where the Share and Additional Info/Recent Comments boxes are).

  15. @Rob: Let’s see what things are like after a month. I have nothing to do with the shape, size and positioning of the ads. That’s up to Ezoic’s robots, and if they’re smart bots, they’ll fix things since I’ve said that usability is my big priority for site design–not revenue maximization. Meanwhile I’ll pass your comments and screenshots on to Ezonic. So nice of you to go to the trouble to share them with me.


  16. Revenue is going to be down anyway if readers start moving to other blog sites because Teleread is looking like my Facebook mobile app. I’ve given up on stories I’m interested in because I find the advertising so intrusive. So if the revenue is based on Eyes on Screens, that may trend downward if it becomes difficult to pick out the articles around the ads. I’m having issues with the article headlines getting squeezed off to the side by the ads, until the words line up in a vertical column. And the background color I see is a reddish brown color.

  17. No, Katie—on the contrary, both revenue and the visitor count are up, dramatically, if the figures from today are representative.

    Keep this trend going, and the site will be self-sustaining. The bounce rate in fact is perhaps a quarter lower. For better or worse, lots and lots of Web surfers have been conditioned to accept ads.

    But there is something more important to me than ad revenue (merely a means to ends such as e-book and library advocacy). And that’s community. Many of the TeleRead community members I care about the most are the very ones most offended by the ads.

    At the same time, we need the money. So here’s my plan. I’ve directed Ezoic for now to send people back to the old site (with our spiffy new WordPress template in place). Meanwhile the company and I can keep talking about ways to tone down the ads and better target them. What’s more, with enough enough time, I truly believe the company could give us a more usable site. I’ll also investigate other advertising alternatives over which we’ll enjoy more control. Believe me, as a fellow usability advocate I dislike intrusive ads just as much as you do.


  18. @ DavidR: Thanks for bumping up the font, that definitely helps. I’ve visited here with 2 different browsers and enjoyed 2 totally different experiences—both pleasant. The ads are better today. In fact, I’m *stunned* at how much Ezoic has been tracking me! Makes me think it’s time to go back to Ghostery or something. 😉 Today I see lovely ads for places to shop for drapes (yes, I’ve been looking), and an ad for JCPenney (yes, I was shopping there online); but really, David, you must absolutely tell this company to STOP. STOP. STOP. with the ads for one of my favorite places to buy quilting fabrics ( Seeing the photo of their beautiful Batik fabrics is driving me bats. I’m working so hard to NOT buy any more fabric. Really, this is just … well, horrid. I’m going to wind up broke if this keeps up. HAHAHA Now if all of you will excuse me, I need to go shop for fabric. NO! I need to go read. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do.

  19. @Ryan: I emphatically agree. For now, we need to focus on other matters, such as a sick server and the ad issue; but front-page bylines are a must “to-do.” I recognized this when I was exploring the options immediately apparent in the WordPress template (maybe the byline one is tucked away). And several other people have offered similar sentiments. More suggestions appreciated from you and other community members.


  20. An update. TeleRead community members will continue not seeing Ezoic on desktop devices through the end of the day August 15. After that, just use AdBlock or similar software if need be. But we hope you won’t since we support our writers and pay our server costs through advertising.

    My wife of 24 years has been in frequent pain from possibly inoperable pancreatic cancer and the related chemotherapy (yes, I’m a caregiver, not just a Web publisher). As much as I’d love to be able to run a constantly updated TeleRead as a hobby, I can’t keep subsidizing it forever, and Carly’s chemo and other medical needs will always come first. We’re hardly about to go bankrupt, far from it. But we want to keep it that way, and Ezoic offers hope of a self-sustaining TeleRead, still free to all, so I need not think about a major ongoing burden vs. more urgent uses of the money. Both the visitor count and daily revenue shot up dramatically when Ezoic was in place. Ezoic not only was serving up ads; it was also optimizing our site for Google, of which the company is an official partner.

    Carly’s personal needs and mine, furthermore, aren’t the only ones. On TeleRead, it’s the words that count. Our regular writers are all professionals with years of e-booking behind them, and like you, they must pay the grocer and the doctor, whether or not the latter is a cancer specialist. Chris Meadows, our editor, recently was knocked unconscious in a bike accident. He’s back at full strength now, but if he is in another accident or is sick, he could very possibly use the money for treatment.

    Subscription plans just won’t work in the e-book area. And we’ve already experimented with other ideas such as The TeleRead Store, to which response was disappointing even though people weren’t paying more for merchandise. Also, I am 99 percent certain a donation plan would flop. Despite our several thousand visitors a day, the Store earned just a few dollars.

    A patron who shared TeleRead’s values and opinions, especially our hatred of Draconian DRM and love of books and libraries, would be nice, and we’re investigating that. But meanwhile costs keep piling up. And even then we may need ads.

    What’s more, even sites such as can be ad-heavy.

    Beyond that, the Ezoic-created layout you complain about may (1) vanish because it’s just part of a bot-drive experiment trying out all kinds of alternatives or (2) be unique only to you or a small set of other visitors.

    In regard to Ezoic for cell phones and for tablets, we’ll switch those versions on again tonight at 9 o’clock Eastern. Please give the bots time to do their job. I wish they could fast-forward to the perfect layout and stay that way regardless of the ever-changing Web. It isn’t possible. But the look a few weeks from now will most likely be noticeably nicer. Then, with the system having proven itself as much as it can in that short time, we can go on to Ezoic for desktop viewing.

    Even then we’ll avoid generic Ezoic. Just as we’re doing for tablets and cell phones, we’ll switch off ads in a number of categories ranging from dating services to get-rich-quick schemes. Only politics and video games will remain. In content, I’m guessing, our ad standards will be higher than those of 95 percent of other news-and-views sites, and if you see an exception just email me at, with the Web addresses of the offender. Don’t click on the advertisement. Just let the cursor rest on the ad and look at the Web address in your browser. Share the address with me, and then ZAP…I’ll delete the sucker!

    OK, now let’s move on to other topics. Here’s one example. Tomorrow I’ll have a few more tidbits about the fate of Live Writer, and among things I’ll ask for your suggestions for the program—which I’ll pass on to a fellow LW booster, a Microsoft guy. Here at TeleRead, a big beef is that Live Writer creates duplicate images in WordPress. We’d like that ended. What are you own suggestions for improvement of an already-amazing program? You can discuss that in the comments area of the forthcoming post.

    Thanks, and happy TeleReading!

    P.S. The ad-category exclusions may not happen immediately. But they are an important priority of ours.

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail