This Old House (TOH) is America’s number-one home enthusiast brand, entertaining more than 15 million loyal fans every month with its award-winning series This Old House and Ask This Old House, its widely read This Old House Magazine, and a wide range of other information-driven properties across many digital channels – including its website, ThisOldHouse.com.
But when a new management team purchased the TOH brand from Time, Inc., the brand’s existing server and website were scheduled for shutdown, and TOH needed a brand-new site in just four months. As if that tight deadline wasn’t enough, the brand’s existing site was also built on an outdated content management system (CMS) called Vignette.
The site needed a comprehensive update to a new platform, along with a fresh design, taxonomy and ad system, and a more powerful and user-friendly backend.
We moved the client’s content onto a better CMS: Drupal, an enterprise-level system designed to handle the complex publishing workflows of TOH’s digital teams. Along the way, we upgraded, built and/or replaced nearly all third-party analytics and plugins, delivering measurable boosts in site speed and engagement.
Our custom platform is built on Drupal, which focuses on widgets – modules that empower editors to design custom pages via a simple drag-and-drop panel interface. The widgets can be customized through a range of backend workflow tools, enabling editors to organize incoming content, approve or reject it, and schedule it to be pushed to the site at specific dates and times.
By integrating the Google Analytics Premium API, our platform’s widgets can also be configured according to tags, dates and trends that have been synced in real time from the analytics system. And editors can easily configure the widgets by rows, columns and styles, allowing to deliver a flexible array of exciting presentation styles with very little manual management.
To enable the site to generate more advertising revenue, we upgraded its ad platform to DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP). We also replaced its outdated video player with an integrated JW Player plugin, which delivers higher speed and quality, and added an email system integration with CheetahMail, as well as social integration with AddThis.
Because 93 percent of website traffic comes from natural search results, we rebuilt the site’s entire URL structure, working directly with Google to map more than 75,000 pieces of content, and consolidate multi-page articles into single-page content optimized for search algorithms. We also used Google snippets to pull out content for many searches.
New Movers Network
With the new platform in place TOH began licensing their content to third-party real estate sites in exchange for advertising revenue, we built a custom feed management tool that enables marketers at each partner site to customize their own content, track hits, and report revenue.
We developed a standalone wrapper for the TOH Real Estate Ad Network, providing the capability to push direct ads onto third-party sites. These include programmatic ads from AdX, and header bidding ads from partners like Rubicon, Appnexus, IndexExchange and AOL, as well as ads directly from TOH, created using the Drupal Feed system.
Both video and display ads can be served via the ad wrapper, and these include built-in responsive capabilities. For example, when the wrapper detects an ad unit with dimensions of 728x90, it automatically converts that ad to 320x50. These responsive capabilities can be turned on and off at the click of a button.
The ad wrapper also provides a range of tracking and analytics capabilities, via a dashboard designed specifically for TOH. This dashboard enables advertising specialists to generate overview reports, including charts and tables that provide snapshots of ad performance over each day, week and month.
In addition, the dashboard enables publishers and admins to customize ad code, add custom key/value pairs, and selecting additional ad sizes. For example, a leaderboard ad with default dimensions of 728x90 can be customized to display at 970x90 and 970x250 in the same leaderboard slot.
Through the dashboard, publishers can inject ads at any location in the site, without the hassle of editing or embedding additional code. The publisher simply selects a page on which to display the ad, specifies a div container, then selects the ad unit to display in that location. All such ad placements can be tested before live publication.
By working with Google on SEO, we not only maintained the brand’s status as an authority in the search rankings, but actually improved its position in search results. And with the help of our custom ad bidding system, TOH increased their advertising revenue by 200 percent in less than six months.
A key part of the new management team's business plan was an Insider service for their most dedicated fans. This paid membership program grants users access to the entire 40-year archive of TOH’s TV shows, as well as a magazine archive and live Q&A events with the shows’ talent.
We use the JW Player live streaming service for the video feed, but all chat tools we looked at were simply a long list of user comments, viewable to all, making it difficult to curate or find relevant questions in the haystack of content.
Sourcetop built a custom chat program that has improved audience engagement, has a Producer view for comment curation, and provides a cue card-style view for hosts. It proved so successful in managing these type of events we rebuilt it as a standalone product and license our spin-off chat program to other JW Player clients.
We continue to enjoy a productive relationship with TOH, managing their Acquia server infrastructure, advertising network, and providing regular updates to the site’s platform, along with rollouts of many other new initiatives.