Gawker Media’s redesign: What’s it mean for the future of news sites? Pt. 1

Posted on February 24, 2011

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I read Gawker pretty much on a daily basis, for a spot of procrastination and gossip from around the web.  Someday, I’d like to emulate their snarky wit in my own blogging; for now, I snicker at their tongue-in-cheek coverage of things like Gorillas going on diets (no, really).

But a few weeks ago, I came to Gawker to find their page had been crazily redesigned.  It looks like something the Jetsons would read—a bit too futuristic, what a webpage might’ve looked like in the 70s. It’s strangely sleek and a bit bulky to maneuver, at least for a loyal reader like me, who enjoyed the quick, snappy scroll-down of the previous blog layout (for an example of what it used to look like, check out the Awl).

But Nick Denton, owner of the Gawker blogging universe, has been a pioneer of profiting from blogs, and he’s done a lot of innovative things over the past five years that has made his company lotsa money. He used to spur his writers to compete for pageviews through a leaderboard, increasing the advertising value of his website.  And the Gawker Media line of blogs has been one of the primary leaders in cultivating an online commenting community.

So I figured Denton might have something up his sleeve with this redesign.  In checking out his explanatory post on Lifehacker, I found some interesting justifications for the changes  (there are seven specific points, which I’ve boiled down to three):

1. “Aggressive news-mongering trumps satirical blogging.” Denton explained that the blog network’s readership spiked after each of its scoops, ultimately returning a higher number of frequent viewers than before the scoop. The traditional reverse-chronological blog format doesn’t do this scoop-based reader push justice, as the site editors had to choose between burying scoops under new posts or holding off on posts for hours to give the scoop enough publicity at the top of the page.  The new dual-pane layout allows for the editors to pick the top stories of the day and give them considerable breathing room, to garner the highest number of views possible.

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Posted in: Journalism