The internet, television and magazines are merging; and the optimal strategy will assemble the best from each medium.
Overall, I love the beta. I love its simplicity, which increases “consumability” of the information. It is easier to read the content you see right away, easy to get to the next piece, and easy to browse their full offering. In many ways, this feels like the right move, if an extreme one.
Major changes in the site
1. The post stream is now subordinate to a central, singular piece of content, which gets the focus. Navigation is very similar to an e-mail client or feed reader.
The vastly clarifies the UI. It is a rather extreme departure, however, and I think we will see a shift more toward the “middle of the road” in coming months. There are other ways of bringing this kind of focus without radically burying everything else.
2. The feature pieces will be built around a magazine-like “compelling” image or video
(for Gawker, read “compelling” as “T&A” :-/ …)
The goal is to bring appropriate focus to the most important content. They are realizing that “compelling” original content is king, (duh…) but at the same time, the reposted quotes and links from other sources drives a substantial amount of traffic. How can you have your cake and eat it too?
The answer, realizing a content strategy.
Each site needs a gigantic breakout every few months; a few more modest hits every week; but the daily news diet can be satisfied quite happily with short posts, blockquotes (linked to the original, of course) and republished material.
Realizing these tiers of content will help them become an even more efficient business and also enables them to design a UI which reflects which tier that piece of content belongs to.
3. Surfacing more content to allow one-time visitors (from aggregated stories) to see a breadth of the content.
Perhaps the strongest realization here. Whether coming in from google searches, or Facebook shares and likes, (and waaaay father down the referrer pole, Tweets), people need to be able to, at a glance, see what other relevant content is available and decide, in a moment, that this is something they are interested in, and on a whim, be able to subscribe to this content. I wonder if the headline stream on the side are too subtle for this task, but it is a move in the right direction.
4. Move from simple plain text to audio-visual.
In the days of ubiquitous broad-band. Video is driving more traffic on sites, making it worth the effort of compiling and posting. This used to be operationally inefficient. Too much effort per post without the return. That is changing in the new media landscape.