As of today, November 17, 2004, you'll notice a change on both the showcase and individual audio review pages. Anneke Auer, a website design specialist in Holland introduced to us by Marja & Henk, wrote the java script to allow automatic banner rotation on the showcase page and install a single new rotating banner above each new audio review from this date forward. Muchas gracias, Anneke!

It will be clear to all but the most naive of readers that a venture such as ours is possible only because certain retailers and manufacturers think enough of us to support this site financially with banner advertising. Put differently, if you enjoy 6moons, know that your enjoyment is subsidized directly and wholly by others whom you've likely never met and who owe you no allegiance. That deserves a round of applause, don't you think?

As any ad executive will tell you, advertising is a number's game, pure and simple. When 6moons
first launched in June of 2002, we were a non-entity that had to prove itself over time. Still, certain manufacturers knew us from when our publisher was still a National Sales Manager for certain audio firms. They believed that we'd probably manage to do what we set out to do if he was in charge. Since we couldn't shoulder that task on elbow grease and enthusiasm alone, they vouched their support from the very beginning when it was questionable how much there'd be in it for them in terms of direct hits to their websites.

That deserves another round of applause. To belabor the obvious, we wouldn't be here today had it not been for those early manufacturers and retailers who stood by us from the word go. Today's changes are in direct response to their initial support. We've always attempted to structure our site such that the commercial and creative aspects remained separated as much as possible and deliberately stayed away from animation to make reading the content undistracted by flashing banners. But just as church and state aren't as isolated as some like to believe, so pure audio content and ad support can't be stuck into their respective high-torr vacuums so the twain never shall meet. And why should they not meet indeed? Ads pay for content. No ads, no content, hence no need to hide.

Naturally, the same is true for the traditional print magazine model, albeit with one persnickety difference - there is no software-driven feedback loop in print that proves unambiguously what the ads are actually doing beside taking up space. For all the exorbitant costs associated with print ads, the advertisers at best have rather soft assumptions that their ads work. How often do you think they hear from a reader, magazine in one hand, telephone in the other? Alas, web-based advertising can be tracked directly and unequivocally. All an advertiser needs on his own site is something like Urchin Web Statistics to show complete site-traffic data like hits, unique visitors and referral sites.

Web ads either work or they don't. Unlike print magazines, our kind must prove itself with hard numbers beyond sell-through figures on the news stand. Our kind must prove how many readers actively respond to an ad by clicking on it to visit the manufacturer's site. Advertisers would like to do the same for print ads but there simply is no mechanism installed that would allow for that. You can count phone calls (remembering to ask whether the caller was prompted by an ad and if so, which one). I've been there while still in manufacturing. Trust me, if that was standard MO to justify print ads, nobody would advertise in print. After all, you may not get a single call you can reliably trace back to a print ad.

Should I belabor the far higher rates print ads demand over on-line? No. We've chosen the web and with that has to come acceptance that in this regard, we must play by different rules, fairness be damned. Our rules say that advertisers want to see site hits generated from our site to theirs. That means, their ads need to be visible. Hence the new rotating showcase ads to insure fair and random placement for everyone. Hence the new audio reviews banner ads which will remain active even in the archives (but the code-driven tie-in guarantees that only active ads will circulate).

As you can see, this is a number's game. The more reviews, the more simultaneous rotating banner ads far beyond what print could ever offer. With that, the chances increase that you'll visit one of our sponsors' sites to educate yourself about what they have to offer. In exchange for enjoying our content for free, that's not asking very much of you in turn, is it? When you think about it, looking at product images and specs on a website and generating actual sales still aren't the same thing by a long shot. True, that's the nature of advertising and simply the way that particular beast is striped. But honestly, if manufacturers made their support contingent on proof of actual products sold, things would get dicey for print and on-line magazines in a hurry.

The fact is, manufacturers and retailers support us primarily because they believe we're benefitting the industry at large in some way, shape or form they're far better equipped to explain than we. Since they're part of this industry, they elect to support us. Naturally, there has to be something concrete in it for them, too (well, at least more concrete than the soft branding of print ads). But make no mistake - at least half of that equation is support purely for the good sport of it. I know it, they know it and you should, too.

What else can I say except thank you, thank you, thank you? I believe you'll agree that the marginal intrusion of commerce into the audio review pages is not only in good taste but something overdue which we owed all our sponsors. Let me warn you then that as part of the rotating banner code above the audio reviews, there'll be instances in which the manufacturer of the review item and the manufacturer of the ad will coincide and be one and the same. Big deal, right? I thought so. Only those truly living in outer space -- or those who consider Consumer Report a viable audio publication -- would see anything other in that than the reality of publishing. I'm convinced that despite our tongue-in-cheek moon madness, our readers have their feet firmly planted on this earth.
They will understand that we're merely being realistic and fair to our supporters while continuously striving to walk that fine line between giving Caesar and our Muse their respective dues in a balanced, honest and attractive fashion.