When we started Curbly in 2006, saying that your job was 'blogging' was a recipe for confusion. Lots of people didn't even know what a blog was. Fast forward a decade or so, and blogging as a profession is so well-accepted that you probably have a blogger or two living in your own neighborhood. That why we were excited, but not entirely surprised, when we discovered that prolific food bloggers Bjork and Lindsay Ostrom, from PinchofYum, lived about a mile from us.
Today, we're excited to share a tour of Bjork and Lindsay's bedroom, which they recently finished remodeling. When we met up with these two to talk about their space, they were well on their way to designing it. They'd chosen paint colors, laid flooring, and picked out the major pieces, so styling was the main thing they were looking for help with, and we were more than happy to oblige.
Here's a look at how we styled the space, along with some of Lindsay's take-aways from the whole remodeling process:
The other day I bumped into someone who told me she was working on a novel about a lifestyle blogger, and it occurred to me that 'blogger' has now become a real, legitimate job title. You can even write a novel about it! But it wasn't always that way; for years I had to explain what blogging was before I could get to talking about my job as a blogger. Still, it's not a profession most people know a lot about, or understand well, so I decided...
The 2017 Curbly House is done! It went on the market last weekend, and (to my surprise and delight), we've already had several showings. After two-and-a-half months of intense renovation work, it feels a little weird this week, knowing there's nothing left to do except blog about it. I keep checking my 'To-Do' list, and it's all crossed off, which is my JAM!
It's been twenty days since my last progress update, and although that might seem like a long time to you, for me it has absolutely flown by with non-stop action at the house. We're really hitting the home stretch (is that pun? a bad joke? just bad writing?) now, and the whole team has gone into overdrive trying to get everything done. We're hoping to list the house for sale within the next two weeks, and I'm pretty confident we can do it ... if everything goes right. Here's what we've been up to:
We're making headway on the Curbly House and the next two weeks will bring about a big leap in the transformation we've been dreaming about. We spent much of the last week trying to finalize our choices for kitchen cabinetry, countertops, appliances, and fixtures. While the room reveal won't be ready until later, I wanted to share a peek at what inspired the design.
Check out the progress at the Curbly House! Demolition is done, and framing is mostly complete. I've been working on a project in the basement, and painting is well under way in the rooms that aren't in need of any structural work. Here's a quick visual progress tour:
I'm not sleeping all that well. I wake up in the night – the sound of thunder, my kids coughing, a truck going by – and when I try to go back to sleep, my thoughts run wild. Will the kitchen cabinets ship in time? How are we going to pay to move that ventilation duct we unexpectedly found? Why isn't that house down the block selling?
These are the sleepless thoughts of someone in the middle of a house flip. The obvious question is: why...
This is a guest post from Curbly House partner and real estate investor, Jon Peterson.
If you’re following along with our Curbly House project, you know we’ve just embarked on a pretty ambitious home rehab project. We spent months searching for the right property, and now it’s time for the fun stuff to begin (demo, construction, staging).
Have you ever considered taking on a similar project? It can be a very rewarding experience; you...
Well, folks, it's official! Jon* and I signed the closing papers last week, and we are now the proud owners of the new Curbly House! Now all we have to do is put in a new kitchen, renovate the bathrooms, add a new back door, replace the HVAC, finish the basement, improve the landscaping, and figure out how to get a parking space into the back yard! No biggie.
*Reminder: Jon's my partner on this project; he's a real estate investor with...
Earlier this week we told you all about our new Curbly House makeover. A house we're so excited to take on, get to know, make beautiful, and then put on the market again (furnished and polished and perfect).
Y'know, it's weird. For the better part of a decade, Alicia and I have made a living by (I hope) making spaces beautiful. But we've never really embraced that as our job. We've always viewed as "we run a blog, and we get to do room makeovers sometimes, too." This year, we're embarking on a totally different project: a complete home remodel of a property that we don't plan on living in.
See, earlier this year I got to thinking, there are...
April's my favorite month. Always has been. And yes, part of that is because it's my birthday* month. But it's also because April is just such a profoundly transitional time. Where I live (Minnesota), April can contain winter, spring, summer, snow, rain, sun, grass, tulips, ice skates and Rollerblades. It's a little bit crazy, a little bit hectic, and a lot going on. To me April has the feel of a car engine starting up, or a runner taking off...
Coordinating all the content on a blog like Curbly is no small feat. We have four full-time employees, plus a cast of incredible freelance contributors from all over the country (and the world!). We want our content to be relevant, focused, and thoughtful - so how do we do it? Today I want to share all the behind-the-scenes stuff that happens here at Curbly, every month, in order to get more than 30 blog posts pitched, written, edited, and published. Read on for the grisly details!
If you've been following along our #behindthescenes blog posts, you've probably heard me talk about Alt Summit (Altitude Design Summit). So, what is Alt Summit anyway? Is it enough to say it's a conference for bloggers? A lot of the people reading this might not really know what a blogger does, or why they would need a conference to talk about it.
If you're a blogger doing sponsored content, it's important to remember that what you provide to brands is not a product, but a service. That's what they're paying you for, and unless you go into each project with a very clear understanding of what they expect in return, you could have some problems.
This can be a little scary if you're new to doing it. Most people aren't used...
Next week I'm speaking at Altitude Summit, a conference for design, DIY and lifestyle bloggers. I'm really excited to be sharing the stage with Jordan Ferney, boss-lady at Oh Happy Day; I've admired her blog/business for years, and can't wait to learn a lot from her.
Our session is titled "Monetizing Facts & Figures - All the Numbers You've Been Dying To Hear", and we'll be speaking about our experiences with making money as bloggers. I'll be focusing on sponsored posts and display advertising, Jordan will be talking mostly about how to monetize an engaged social media following.
There's this billboard near the off-ramp I take almost every day on my way home from work, and it always makes me chuckle. See, the highway, at that point, has a pretty high sound barrier along the east side, which makes it impossible for anyone driving north to see more than about half of that billboard.
I drive by it, day after day, wondering what it might be trying to advertise to me. Sometimes, if I'm lucky, the company's logo will be on the half that I can actually see, so I know, for example, that McDonald's wants to sell me something, but I'm not sure exactly what, or at what price. Is it chicken nuggets? A Big Mac? A Big Nugget? A Chicken Mac?
What are you trying to say to me, billboard?!!!
When I realize my windows are down and other drivers can probably hear me, I try to calm down and move on to other concerns, but the question remains: who would spend money to advertise on that billboard? No one can even see it!
Well, interestingly, this question has become especially relevant to me recently. See, Curbly makes a big chunk of its revenue from billboards. Not on highways (I wish ... with the cherry pickers and the giant letters and the ...), but on Web pages. And although we don't have sound barriers on the internet (again, I wish), there is a question about who actually sees your advertisement when you pay to have it shown on Curbly (or anywhere else).
It's called viewability. A stupid term, I know. But online advertising seems to have been created primarily to support stupid jargon and acronyms, and only secondarily as a way to make money.
Why viewability matters so much to publishers and advertisers alike
Viewability means the same thing online as it does on the side of the highway: how many people can actually see my advertisement? For billboards, it's not that easy to measure. You'd have to drive around to every one, check it from a bunch of angles, count how many cars are going by.
But for digital advertising, it's not that hard. Your browser can measure which parts of the screen are viewable, and for how long. If Curbly shows an ad at the bottom of this page, but you never scroll past the first paragraph (What?! Why? You don't like me? Why aren't you reading my beautiful blog post!?), then you'll never see that ad. And that advertiser, rightly, isn't going to want to pay for it.
McDonald's shouldn't be paying for that half-a-billboard near my house, and they certainly are justified in not wanting to pay for a banner ad that was never even in the viewable area of the browser.
So why, as the publisher-slash-billboard-owner, should I care about this? After all, it's better to get paid for those unviewed ads, isn't it?
Well, yeah, kinda. At least, it used to be. For a long time, no one (including the publishers) was really measuring that statistic. But in the last few years, viewability has become a must-have metric for online advertisers and publishers alike.
But there's more to it. In fact, un-viewed ads never helped publishers that much. Sure, maybe we got paid for them before, but because they were never viewed the CTRs (click-through-rates) were always terrible, which meant the CPMs (cost-per-mille, or amount earned per thousand times that ad is served) were terrible. And those ads, viewable or not, added to our page latency (load time), which annoyed visitors and lowered our TOS (time-on-site).
(Remember about the stupid jargon and acronyms? I wasn't kidding about that.)
So ads with very poor viewability hurt publishers too, both in terms of the revenue they generate, and in the user experience. Plus, as a publisher, you want advertisers to view your space (your 'billboards', if you will) as premium quality. Those low quality placements were dragging down the perception of quality for all our ad spaces.
Fortunately, there's something we can do.
Lazy loading - an approach to improving ad viewability
It's called lazy-loading. Lazy-loading means, simply, not loading something on the page until you absolutely, positively have to. Kind of like how I do laundry, or bathroom cleaning, or taxes.
We already do this for images, by the way, and have for a few years. Images are an important part of our site (it's possible, though it hurts my pride to admit it, that some of you are just skimming the text of this article, and mostly looking at the pictures), but they have a big impact on that page latency number. Basically, they're big (file-size wise), and take a long time to load. That costs us in latency and money (we pay for the bandwidth), so why load images that no one ever scrolls down to see?
Aside: yes, those little fairy dust sprinkles do actually serve a different ad for every visitor, depending on their location, device, time of day, and a million other factors. And yes, that's why if you go looking for new shoes on Zappos, you will then see ads for those exact shoes on every Web site you look at for the next few weeks, or until you clear your browser cookies.
Normally, when you implement those DFP tags, they tell the browser to go ahead and load all the ads right away. All we have to do is include one line of code that tells it not to do that:
We listen for the custom event that Lazysizes emits whenever an element with the 'lazyload' classname is about to come into the viewport. If that element has a 'data-ad-slot' attribute, then it's an ad snippet, so we tell DFP to refresh (or, since it was never loaded, fetch) that ad slot.
Boom! Simple as that; now our ad slot isn't loaded until it's about to be viewable in the browser window, meaning our viewability metrics go up, which means advertisers will want to pay more for those ad impressions.
True, it also means our overall number of ad impressions goes down. But as I said above, that not really a bad thing, since we're just losing the ad impressions that were never getting seen (or making much money) anyway, and cutting down our page load time in the process.
Does it work?
I just implemented this change last month, so I don't have great numbers to back this up, but I'm pretty confident this is going to be a good thing for us (I'll check back later this quarter when we've had a chance to see how things have played out).
Here's a comparison of our viewability percentage and impressions for one ad slot, before and after the change:
Clearly, viewability went way up, impressions are down. Are we making less money? Nope. Here's the CPM before and after:
That ad slot CPM went way up! Meaning, we're making more money per thousand impressions. So the higher CPM makes up for the lower impressions. In fact, it more than makes up for it. We're actually making more money on that ad slot, per day, than we were before.
Ok, it's a little more complicated than that; we're still trying to work out some details about how to make lazy loading ads work with our header bidding adapter (Prebid.js). And there are so many factors involved in our advertising performance that it's tricky to isolate and analyze the effects of a change like this.
More importantly, this seems to me like technology that should be built in to the ad server (in our case, Google's DFP), not tacked on by the publisher. I think we'll probably see the big players in the programmatic ad-serving space start to address this soon, giving publishers an even easier way to ensure they're not showing chicken nugget ads to people who can't even see them.
Tired of watching your ad revenues fluctuate randomly? Maybe you need to focus more energy on sponsored content revenue. Lucky for you, I've got a free, seven-day sponsored content crash course, and you can sign up today.
Woah! I can't believe it's already been six months since we moved into the new Curbly studio space! I wanted to check in and give you an update on how things are going so far. Moving into this space was one of the biggest changes that has happened at Curbly in the last five years, it was the first time we've had a real, legitimate office space for the business.
Taking on this added expense was a little anxiety-provoking, to be sure. Not to mention all the little responsibilities that come along with having a 1,500 square foot office to furnish and maintain. Guess who mops the floors, takes out the trash, and waters the plants?
Don't worry, this post is rated G (sorry if you were hoping otherwise). But although there's nothing racy that follows, there is a pretty inspiring story. As I mentioned last week, one of my big goals for the coming year is to push myself to do things that feel completely, totally crazy and out of my comfort zone.
This is not my natural tendency, at all. I always like to say I'm a small thinker, and maintainer, a meticulous tender. Big...