December 15, 2005

Salon’s Reinvention

Posted in Politics, Technology at 7:29 pm by antonello

Some time ago Salon implemented redesigned their site. I didn’t care much for the first iteration of it. There was an issue with readibility as the main section meandered to the right side of the page, leading the user to nowhere in particular. This also showed the user the white space on the right side. The article summaries were squished when Salon borrowed a highlight section idea from Slate and added images to article summaries.

It was time for an update, no doubt, and the new design did a much better job of highlighting RSS feeds and the Salon wire. The site always suffered from too much separation in its different sections. The different section of “the magazine” never quite worked in the old design – I imagine most of their users read the most recent pieces rather than to see specifically what was happening in News and Politics for example. Now the section headers bring you to an index of pieces in that genre in order with important metadata, reinforcing the front page as the main way for finding new articles.
Salon’s editorial team saw the light and have since adjusted their look again, making it much easier to read. The new design ends before the right scroll bar, which clearly delineates what was available to read. The highlight section a good way of getting their blogs attention, much how Slate is able to highlight Timothy Noah’s latest column or Mickey Kaus’ blog above the fold.
Salon’s new focus on blogs seems like a new editorial decision. In the last couple of weeks, Salon has also introduced several new blogs, Broadsheet, Video Dog and How the World Works. These join (relatively) veterans War Room, Daou Report, and Audiofile. Salon seems to be adopting the blog format as a primary offering. Building on the other day’s entry, most of these blogs are built as filters, entry-points to other commentators on politics (War Room), women (Broadsheet) or music (Audiofile).

From Broadsheet’s introduction:

Broadsheet will be taking the ladies seriously, whether that means tracking news about how our rights are holding up, how well we’re representing ourselves politically, or how the advertising world has decided to address us, what kinds of health advances are ahead of us — all the news of our (usually) two-steps-forward, one-step-back march to equality.

There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this approach – I like the new blogs better than some of the columns I’ve been reading in Salon recently – but I think it’s a mistake to concentrate Salon’s firepower on meta-analysis. Original reporting is what brought Salon the spotlight initially.

My guess is at this is shooting for some of Gawker Media’s audience.  Well not exactly, the blogs less snarky and usually concerned with analysis. But like Gawkerians they rely on outside events and publish frequently.  Salon publishes its features all around the same time in the morning, so blogs will encourage return visits, something which Salon undoubtedly could benefit from.

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