With former Digitas CEO Laura Lang now at the helm of Time Inc., it’s no surprise that the company’s home enthusiast brand This Old House is building a stronger digital presence. The brand has relaunched its website with a new emphasis on expanded video content, as well as a reimagined navigation system.
“The relaunch, frankly, was a long time coming,” says This Old House editor-in-chief Scott Omelianuk. “The last time we did a complete relaunch was in 2006 and in Internet years that might as well be forever. We made updates, but updates don’t provide a well thought out user experience. We decided it was time to reset, strip everything down entirely and rework it.”
This Old House was launched in 1996 as a magazine but the brand itself has existed as a local television program since 1979, and went national in 1980 on PBS. Since the brand’s foundation lies with the moving image, Omelianuk says the magazine had an easy avenue to integrate more video content with its site, which is now the corner stone of the relaunch.
“This Old House has always had a lot of video assets, but the last time the site was done most people were still on dial-up so video wasn’t a priority for the consumer, and certainly not for the advertiser,” he says. “A lot changes in six years. Our audience shifted to broadband and video became more attractive to consumers because it was easier to watch—it was sort of a no brainer for us to do it.”
Before this relaunch, This Old House’s website would normally produce short, how-to videos, or clips from the longer version of the This Old House television show. The brand is now undertaking a Hulu-like experience, says Omelianuk, adding that the complete television show will now be available free and on-demand on the magazine’s website.
“We think this is an opportunity for us,” he says. “We’ve created an archive and have started with 10 years. We have the potential for about 34 years of This Old House—hundreds and hundreds of hours of video programming we can put up. Users can browse by season to go back and revisit an episode or they can search for something and find specific episodes. There a lot of different ways we think consumers will ultimately watch what we’re offering.”
The complete episodes of the television program hosted on the site do have advertising sponsorships associated with the broadcast in the form of banner ads—advertisers will be able to purchase a 15-second pre-roll ad, a 15-second mid-roll ad as well as banners on the video player page.
"It’s a win for both consumers and advertisers—through the video integration, the website redesign creates a more impactful consumer experience, which will ultimately result in increased metrics for our advertisers,” says publisher Charlie Kammerer. "We are thrilled to have State Farm as the exclusive long-form video sponsor during this launch period, and look forward to offering this integrated package to our marketing partners."
The flagship This Old House program, which has 16 Emmy Awards and 79 nominations, undertakes one or two projects per season and completely renovates a home. Its companion series, Ask This Old House, which is also available on the site and has received five Emmy Award nominations, focuses on house-call content that showcases everyday home fixes—from hanging drapes to fixing a leaky faucet.
When it comes to the technical features and functionalities of the site, Omelianuk says the group implemented changes based on what it had learned from consumer content consumption habits.
“In the beginning, we felt that people were going to come to us purely for how-to information so we had a navigation that was broken down into planning and ideas, how-to and repair, and give and get advice, which was our community and entry to the Ask This Old House television show,” says Omelianuk. “We realized that our users online were more diverse than we thought—they were more interested in inspirational photography, for example. We still get an enormous amount of traffic from how-to and repair content, but we also get people looking for ideas to redo their kitchen. We broke down the navigation into the most-viewed types of content.”
The navigation bar has tabs that are segmented by parts of a home—a section for kitchens, bathrooms and landscaping, for example, live side-by-side next to the topics of remodeling, upgrades and how-to tips. These drop down tabs provide portals to photo-slide shows, news items and instructional information based on a specific topic. Additionally, the new site will feature more editor-created video content for each room in addition to its free on-demand television content.
“The consumer gets to decide what media is now, they call the shots and it’s our responsibility to provide them content in the ways they’d like to view it,” adds Omelianuk. “That means making use of all of our platforms—they’re watching the television show for entertainment, coming to the magazine for ideas and while reading, they’re finding out that there are three videos on the same topic our site. For us, it’s all an interconnected process.”