Awesome results from AddThis Smart Layers (aka "What are those pop-up things in the bottom right part of the page?")

Updated Oct 12 2015
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Howdy! I was just wondering if you put some 'addthis' sharing tool on the blogs? I have been getting these highly annoying popups on the bottom right corner of the screen about every 5 minutes or so. I really hate it.

Is it safe? I freaked out when I first saw it thinking my computer is infected (it might be if you guys didn't put addthis there), so I would suggest making an announcement about it and what it does. It there a way to disable it? Or to just get rid of the dumb little popup window?

Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback and yep, late last week we totally added a new function from AddThis, called Smart Layers. We've used the AddThis share bar across all the blogs for several years, and it's a solid tool and not at all shady.

As a publisher, I'm *super* excited about the Smart Layers. This kind of module is pretty common across the web, used on sites like NYTimes and HuffPo. I added the functions because it's a great way for readers (especially drive-by and first-time readers) to easily find additional posts on the sites… and it's crazy awesome to see how much it's getting used:

SmartLayers results

That said, if the new Smart Layers don't feel like a fit with how you use the websites, you're welcome to use an ad blocker to prevent the Smart Layers from displaying in your browser. If you use Chrome, this ad-blocking extension is hugely popular.

smartlayerhideAlso, I heard some concerns from a reader with a disability who zooms her browser in super big to make the text easier to read. She reported that the floating buttons on the left side of the page were overlapping with the way-zoomed in text. There's a quick although hard to see solution to this issue: when you hover over the [+] at the bottom of the left buttons, you'll see a little grey triangle. Click that to hide the buttons. (Or again, just fire up your ad blocker.)

I know change can be alarming and if you ever find that extra "stuff" on the Offbeat Empire (or any other website) bugs you, it may well be worth installing AdBlocker. As a publisher, I'm super stoked the Smart Layers because it's great for getting folks to explore more posts on the blogs. As a reader, you can make your own choices!

  1. If we enable an Adblocker, though, does that lower your ad revenue? I disabled my adblocker on the empire sites specifically because I wanted to make sure my views of the ads counted towards your ad revenue.

    Or maybe that's not how it works. Or maybe all of yours are pay per click!

    Personally, the buttons on the left don't bother me, but the pop-up on the right does. For me it's the movement of it, though. If it was static and just floated there as I scrolled down, it wouldn't bother me at all.

    • I agree with this. At first it bothered me in general, but I agree that it is the movement that is really bothersome. I don't like these moving boxes on any of the sites they appear on.

      Also, I think that what they are recommending doesn't always relate to the content of the post I'm reading. I don't have lots of specific examples, but I'd be interested in knowing how AddThis decides what post is "recommended for you." On this post it is recommending:

      However, if it is helping new readers that is great!

    • @AmandaC It potentially lowers my ad revenue, but the number of readers who use AdBlockers is relatively low, and my monetization strategies are such that it's not a deal-breaker. It's a trade-off: I may lose a few ad eyeballs from readers using blockers, but I gain thousands of pageviews from readers who click the Smart Layer links. I built my business model to compensate for trade-offs like this.

      @kahlanamnell The posts aren't being recommended based on taxonomic relation ("This post is about X, and this other post is also about X"), they're being recommended based on sharing/browsing algorithms ("Readers who read X also frequently read Y"). That said, the recommendations shouldn't be showing static pages like Staff or Lovesick — that's a bug I'm working on with my dev.

      For me as a data junkie, it's fascinating to see how the data is processed and the recommendations are served. The floating share buttons on the left are personalized — they dynamically show you the sharing options that YOU have most frequently used. Some folks will see Twitter and Facebook, others will see Pinterest and Gmail. More about that:

      • Interesting. It seems to be suggesting mostly posts that I've read recently. It would be more useful if it was reminding long time readers of posts from years ago that they may have missed or forgotten about, rather than reminding them of the post they read yesterday or last week. I think this tool might be much more useful to new readers than longtime readers, but if it is helping them that is a good thing.

        I have not used any of the sharing options on this site and I'm seeing e-mail and gmail. Is that the default if it doesn't know what to show?

        • I have not used any of the sharing options on this site and I'm seeing e-mail and gmail. Is that the default if it doesn't know what to show?

          Nope, it's way smarter than that. From that post I linked in my comment:

          When a user lands on your page, we know which services they've shared to before, even if they're visiting your page for the first time. In turn, by default, the Share Layer shows visitors the services they're most familiar with.


          • I rarely use share buttons on any website though. It would have to be looking at my usage of school library websites to find a place where I used an "e-mail this" button.

          • I wonder why it's suggesting I twitter something? I've never used Twitter in my life and the twitter homepage has never been accessed from my computer. On the other hand, I use gmail and pinterest on the daily and it's not suggesting those! I don't mind, just giving you data!

            Also, I have used the popups in the right corner to read some stuff I've missed!

          • I'm noticing the same thing as Angela. It's suggesting e-mail and Hyves (Dutch networking site that used to be popular but is now mostly used by preteens) for me, neither of which I use much. I do use a lot of Facebook and Twitter, and I do get those buttons first on Offbeat Home&Life, but it's e-mail and Hyves on the other sites.

        • Okay, this is a late follow-up — I don't know if it is post-server-meltdown or if it is an addthis bug, because it did it a few times before the big outage — but on all four sites, addthis now really likes to suggest that I share things to facebook. As I said, I don't *have* a facebook, and it has stopped recommending twitter and google plus, which I have and use daily.

          • Yeah, that algorithm is far from perfect, certainly. I think it defaults to Facebook, unless it sees you share with something else.

            I'm actually prodding the AddThis folks to make it so that I can control the "What's next…" module to ONLY show content recommendations. With so many share option on the page, it feels a bit odd to visually pop up another one… where as visually popping up a content recommendation is very much inline with what the NYTimes, Slate, and Huffpo do.

            As a publisher, I feel GREAT about somewhat aggressively suggesting content for readers to view… but a bit chagrined about popping up (yet another) prompt to share the content. One feels helpful to the reader ("oh hey, this reminds me: you might love this post, too!") one feels selfish ("SHARE MY SHIT. RIGHT NOW.").

    • Yeah, I'm unclear how the "Share" pop-up gets people to other posts? I like the sidebar suggestions, but anything pop-up drives me nuts. Reminds me too much of the 90's in a bad way, haha.

      • Oh I see- when I refreshed it gave me a "recommended for me" pop-up. Still don't love it, especially since it overlaps the content on my little laptop (I'm not particularly zoomed-in, but it's a 13" so there's not a ton of screen space.)

  2. I think those buttons also pop up on the left side of the page on the mobile version. (I shrink my page at work quite often and they're still there.) They're especially disruptive when the page width is small. They're only annoying in the brown background, though.

    I actually like the "Recommended for you," but I can't stand the pop-ups on the left side of the page. But it's not my site; I can just take my ball and go home if they end up too much of a pain.

      • Actually, on a mobile device the Share buttons automatically switch to a mobile friendly bar at the bottom of the page with touch friendly icons/buttons. The tools are optimized to not cover up content. Thanks again for using AddThis.

        • Sol, that's what I'm seeing on my mobile browser. I want to make sure that Christy isn't getting some sort of unexpected behavior on her mobile browser.

    • I don't use a mobile view. (I'm probably not being very clear, am I?)

      I use a regular, Chrome browser on a 13" laptop. But I often shrink the page horizontally, mimicking a mobile browser. (I thought the mobile browser was that integrated shrinking. Oof, my lack of HTML/etc knowledge.) I like to tile my windows so I have multiple things open at once, and OBE lends itself well to that. But when I make my window, say, 5" wide, the icons are on top of half of the text.

      Does that make sense?

      **Edited to add: I just installed an ad blocker. I had to specifically remove the ads on each of OBE's four sites. (For anyone else curious.)

      • Hi Christy,

        That functionality just came out this morning, so you should see it soon. Now when you re-size the browser window, the mobile tools will show instead of the desktop sharing icons.

        Hope that looks better for you!

  3. I was startled by them the first time they popped up, then a little annoyed, then discovered that I really don't mind them, and they usually recommend good, related posts! If it's making you money, I think they're great, at least in my browser, the way I use the site!

    • If it's making you money, I think they're great, at least in my browser, the way I use the site!

      Aww, thanks. I do want to clarify that Smart Layers aren't monetized — it's not like I get paid per click. That said, the Offbeat Empire lives or dies by its pageviews, so a tool that encourages readers to view more pages (and share posts with folks who will hopefully ALSO view more pages) is great for my business.

      Thanks for being so supportive and understanding. I really appreciate it more than I can say! I know change can be jarring, especially for longtime readers who are the most invested and my most beloved. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I REALLY appreciate you posting this. As that reader who blows up the text on the screen, having a way to hide that bar on the left is really helpful. I loaded a page here today and suddenly those buttons were gone! There was a little triangle and I was like huh, I wonder… so I clicked it! And poof social networking buttons! And then I was like wait, crap, how do I hide those again?! And then suddenly, a little triangle popped up to hide it, like magic, it was a little creepy and I thought my computer gnomes were listening again. *I* am still having issues, but now they seem more related complications with Apple only having trackpads with built-in buttons and their multi-touch system. Totally not related to your site.

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE that pop-it-in button and totally accept having the the buttons default to "out" and then actively clicking to pop them in.

    Feedback for your dev team/Add This: If there is a way to set a default cookie so that if I constantly pop them in they stay that way until I want them, that would be fabulous. But really, just having the option is awesome. [Social commentary: I feel like this is a pretty low-level accommodation feature, and the fact that I am this excited about it is pretty sad commentary about how often simple, low-level accommodations aren't even attempted.]

    Thank you so much for concerning yourself with the needs of ALL your readers. As always, you're awesome ๐Ÿ˜€

    • So glad you like Smart Layers, Heather! And we really appreciate you taking a moment to let us know your thoughts. I just passed your suggestion along to the team!

  5. Thanks for the explanatory article! The popups have been driving me crazy as well. I use Firefox, and use the add-on "NoScript." I have always had it set to "allow ALL this page" on the empire sites for the sake of ad revenue, and earlier just set it to "forbid addthis" only – problem solved ๐Ÿ˜€

    Just minutes after changing my settings, I saw this article. While I am very glad I'm able to hide it for my own use, I think it's great that it's working out so well from a publishing perspective!

  6. The only issue I have with it is that it seems to be recommending me articles based on things I've searched for in Google in other tabs, which is something I always find creepy!

    Damn you, Google algorithms! On a vaguely related note I'm also increasingly finding that my Google search results are informed by other Google searches I've done, which is actually super annoying. If I search for something supplied by a wedding vendor, and then try to search without the term wedding to compare services or prices, it's still overwhelmingly giving me wedding related results!

    • I'm pretty sure AddThis does NOT have access to your Google cookies. They're separate services. While AddThis can see how you've used AddThis on other sites, it's not tied into the all-knowing eye of Google. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I like it! Already a couple old posts popped up that I remembered really enjoying at the time, but have since forgotten about.

  8. I have ad blocker enabled (the one you recommended) but they are still popping up, also I keep getting adverts for the article that I am actually on! Somehow it is the movement that bugs me more than anything else, it kind of *lurks*. I guess that is eye catching if nothing else and makes more people click on it.

    • Same, AdBlocker does NOT automatically block AddThis. You can force it to though:
      (1) In your toolbar, you should see the AdBlocker icon (red stop sign with the white palm). (2) Click on the icon and select "Block an ad on this page" (3) Follow AdBlocker's steps until the box is gone.

      Edited to say: It looks like this method will only block that particular box, and it doesn't generalize to other articles across the Empire. Frustrating.

        • Since AddThis modules are not advertising, they are not automatically blocked by AdBlock Plus.

          You have to use AdBlock's "Block an ad on this page" function to manually block the modules.

          • Yep, tried that with AdBlock (see comment above). It blocks only that one module on that one page, the rest of them continue to pop up around the site.

            Personally, I also find it superfluous given the recommended articles bar at the top, the "today's hot posts" on the right side, the "you might also like" bar at the bottom of the article AND the "Recommended for you" at the very bottom of the page. It feels spammy to me.

          • Interesting! I've actually got a conference call with the AddThis folks tomorrow, and I'll share this feedback.

  9. To quote your article, Open Letter to Photographers, "And do NOT have your gallery or site pop-up! EVER!"

    The all caps and exclamation points are warranted.

    and Ariel, you replied "Becca speaks the truth." What changed?

    It's the extreme rudeness inherent in pop-ups and movement. They are infuriatingly visually distracting. Jumping up and interrupting to shout, "spam this on FACEBOOK!" is really pretty obnoxious. I really love this site, and I have never ad-blocked any website before. I don't want to cut revenue. If there is a way to stop only the "site pop-up[s]! EVER!" aspect, I'd love to hear it.

    • Becca's article is referring to pop-up links that propagate a new browser window. Smart Layers are an on-page module. They do not open a new window in your browser.

      As I said before, I love the modules (and I extra love how responsive to reader feedback the AddThis folks are being in this thread). If you don't love them, then that's fine! Just take control of your browsing experience and block them. It won't cut my revenue.

  10. I have ad-block so I was unaware of this, and I'm not sure I gathered what exactly it is from your post. Is it a "If you like this, then you may also like ____" area?

    Also, you mentioned the hovering buttons on the left, but what's in the pop-up?

  11. The only qualms I have with the links is on my mobile browser (Chrome for iPhone). On a landscape view, the button takes up about a 3rd of the screen. On portrait, it's alright, but also seems a little large, especially when hidden. (the ghost of the arrow haunts me a little. Any chance you can hone that experience for the mobile site a wee bit more?

  12. Fantastic post, add this is simply awesome and this popup feature is new to me and I have learn how it impact on visitors. I would like to say thank and appreciate your blog and happen to be a daily visitor to your blog.I am looking forward for more to come!

  13. Hi Ariel, I'm curious about your AddThis daily activity screen shot. Are you saying your page views went up because of the social share tool bar in the left column or because of the content pop-over from the bottom right corner? Thanks for sharing your results here.


    • Hi, Dan. My internal clicks (ie, people reading one article, clicking to read a different article) went up because of the bottom right "What's next" module. That bottom-right module of SmartLayers has been extremely powerful, ESPECIALLY now that AddThis changed it to only show related posts (instead of sharing options).

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