On Designing a Big News Site

Thoughtful piece by Joshua Benton, responding to Andy Rutledge’s proposed New York Times website redesign:

The challenge of a news organization that pumps out that much content is how to present it all in a way that maximizes its value, both journalistically and financially. There are many, many beautiful websites around the Internet that, as lovely as they are, would be awful as an entry point of a news site. (Similarly, stripping stories down to just headlines — no intro text, which Rutledge dislikes for some reason, no thumbnails — may maximize typographic beauty, but it doesn’t do much for enticing a click.)

The core problem facing The Times — and all other big news sites — is CPM advertising. They need to “entice clicks”, so they wind up with overly dense designs and gimmicks. Just look at how uncluttered the print edition of The Times is, and how it’s designed to emphasize what is important.

With print, newspapers chase circulation — readers. With the web, they’re not chasing readers but instead page views. It’s a corrupting revenue model.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011