Tag Archives: website relaunch

Guardian wins the Blair coverage battle

Blair resignationThe Guardian’s new site has gotten off to a great start, with impressive coverage of the Blair resignation. Alongside the main story is lengthy promotion of audio, galleries, video, interactive and analysis. The depth of treatment backs up Mark Porter’s point that the new design “allows us to respond dynamically to events, by varying the layout as the news agenda develops.”
Blair resignationThe Telegraph’s treatment is much smaller, giving the impression of less depth…
Blair resignation…and The Times is pretty similar. The tabloids’ treatment is even smaller, although their editorial agenda is obviously different.
Blair resignationSky is worth a look, though- their new design gives the capability to add a story to the main navigation – so ‘The Blair Years’ becomes an option alongside ‘Sport’. This is a screengrab of the Blair Years page, not the homepage.

Finally. (Guardian homepage gets a makeover)

Guardian May 10 2007Today sees the Guardian Unlimited finally getting the makeover it’s been desperately needing since the print product made ‘Berliner’ a polite topic of conversation. For the moment it’s only the front page – as creative editor Mark Porter explains, it “will be a facade concealing a busy building site, as work proceeds on an 18-month programme to redesign and rebuild every part of GU.”

And GU editor-in-chief Emily Bell adds: “an iterative approach is the best. The days when one design or set of functionality on a website lasted for several years is gone, and our aim, with the help of our users, is to constantly improve and update the network, from the story pages to the section and network fronts.”

The design itself is what you’d expect from contemporary newspaper website design – cleaner and clearer (I’d have put money on the Georgia font), with bigger images and more width. It’s not a major change from the old design in terms of content – although the biggest weakness in usability terms is a ridiculously long page you have to scroll down five times to see in its entirety (and that’s on a decent resolution monitor). Yes, multimedia content is more prominent with a box of its own, but still not on the first ‘page’ of content (it’s below the fold, in old parlance).

And was it a coincidence they relaunched on the day Tony Blair is expected to resign? A clever move, if not.

Clearly both Emily and Mark have had a long night – their posts are time-stamped at 1.05 and 1.06am – so hopefully they’ll be enjoying a hard-earned rest this weekend.

ABCNews.com relaunches with citizen journalism

ABC News May 1 07Another day, another relaunch. Micro Persuasion reports on the ABCNews.com relaunch:

According to Michael Clemente, Senior Executive Producer, the new site, which it launched last night, is designed to harness the power of what they call “citizen reporters.” Viewers and readers can now help ABC help report the news by feeding in news and leaving comments. The new site also supports video uploads from cell phones and video cameras, some of which will make it on to air.”

It’s pretty snazzy looking, if a little overloaded with navigation. The option to click on a story or photos or video or even ‘full coverage’ is a nice touch, but it’s a missed opportunity for the most part when compared to other relaunches.

More relaunch raving

Meanwhile, Jemima Kiss is raving about the Newsvine relaunch:

“The most common request (they designed the site around what users wanted – how wacky!) was for a more customisable home page. “My homepage” custom options on other news sites aren’t really the answer, they argue, because most users still prefer the home page overview. The answer, they say, is a modular homepage that echoes something like Netvibes. The main blocks like top story and most popular seed remain, but after that things start getting draggable and you can close modules you don’t use.”They have added more localised content, which is very interesting – the last thing local newspapers need is a site as good as Newsvine muscling in. The site identifies the user’s location by their IP address, and then serves up local weather and news headlines from a few hundred local news feeds it has gathered.

“Other adds include a news in pictures features (which is great, because they aren’t afraid to use ’em big), a visualisation tool and an option to bring in any external RSS feed, and not just choose form the ones they list. That means I can add the RSS feed of my Gmail then. Must go home and play with this…”

Telegraph joins the ‘My’ trend

My TelegraphShane Richmond can’t wait any longer to shout about the upcoming My Telegraph feature, and who can blame him? The screenshot (left, and more on the Telegraph’s Flickr page) suggests this will far surpass MySun and MyExpress (although they are more ‘social networking’ services a la MySpace), demonstrating a deeper understanding of blogging technology than those services with use of tagging and a folksonomy, a personal ‘blogger network’ and an ‘agreement index’. Richmond elaborates:

“My Telegraph allows any reader to create their own blog, store all the comments they make on other readers’ blogs and save articles to read later. Version one of the site, which you can see below, will be ready to go live soon.

“There are even more features to come in later versions but we’re keeping quiet about those for now.”

Interestingly, Richmond mentions at the end that “My Telegraph is just a piece of a larger site”. Another relaunch?

FT.com redesign to follow newspaper

FT.com 24 April 2007Editor Lionel Barber reveals that this week’s redesigned Financial Times is to be followed by a redesigned website later in the year:

“”There will be further important changes later this year. We have guys working flat out, looking at the design.” He is particularly exercised by the inadequate navigation and poor presentation, though he thinks the search engine “is now of sufficient quality”.”He points out that Alphaville, the blog that targets private equity and hedge fund players, has secured a growing audience with its lighter touch, and cites the success of the “view from the top” video interviews pioneered by the US managing editor, Chrystia Freeland. “Video really is the coming medium”, he says.”

Sky News website crashes on relaunch day

Sky website April 19 2007 1.05pmIt had to happen. Relaunching on the day news organisations around the world reported on the Virginia Tech gunman’s video statements, Sky News’ video-heavy website couldn’t cope when workers hit their site in huge numbers at lunchtime.

The site was inaccessible for at least an hour before a stripped-down version of the homepage went live around 1pm. Even then, response times were snail-like.

Of course, crashes like this are not new: on September 11 news websites around the world crashed under the demand, and a number of blogs sprang up to distribute the information around the net, but Sky seems to be the only site to have struggled today.

Sky News’ serendipitous website relaunch

Sky News has relaunched its website on what may prove the biggest day for online video this year.

It’s no surprise to see the Virginia Tech gunman’s self-filmed video dominating the homepage, which has a strong focus on video generally, as well as adopting what are becoming conventional features in news websites: the ‘most read’ stories list; podcasts; and blogs.

The most interesting feature – and it’s not clear whether this will be repeated for other major stories – is that ‘Campus Shooting’ is actually one of the main navigation options, alongside more conventional categories ‘world news’, ‘UK news’, ‘business’ etc.

Journalism.co.uk has more on the relaunch, including some notable organisational changes:

“”In the past few months alone, a number of senior journalists have joined Sky News Online from Sky News,” a statement read. “Phil Wardman, Sky News’ head of home news, has been seconded for nine months to sky.com/news to head up online intake, and executive producer Julian March and news editor John Gripton are also bringing their experience to Sky News Online.

“Simon Bucks has been appointed associated editor to put Sky News Online at the forefront of audience participation, encouraging online users to collaborate further in areas such as voting, commenting charing views and contributing to stories. He will continue to solidify the integration of Sky News’ TV and online news services.

“BSkyB is currently trialling a user-generated content portal, SkyCast, with the aim of taking videos from viewers of Sky News and other channels for use on air.”

You can see what Sky News’ website looked like in 2005 at the Web Archive.

UPDATE: as of 12.35 the Sky News website is down, presumably from too many visitors during the UK lunchtime surge. If your glass is half empty, perhaps it wasn’t the best day to relaunch; if it’s half full, well, they got the best day to test the site they could have asked for.

Piltdown Man joins the new media fold

I’m currently in the middle of a 3-week break from computers – in the meantime, here’s an article I wrote for Press Gazette the week before last, about the past year’s raft of newspaper website relaunches:

The last Luddite has left the building. With almost every national newspaper having revamped its website in the past twelve months, Richard Desmond has finally joined the club and relaunched Express.co.uk – and the Daily Star site is set to follow later in the year.

In an industry of technophobes, Desmond was the Piltdown Man of news. Before last week Express Newspapers’ only attempt to tackle the threat of the internet was to offer an ‘e-Edition’ of the Express and Star which amounted to little more than a PDF with animated pages.

But as his competitors launched MySpace-inspired sections and video-heavy offerings – and even resorted to lime green in their attempts to appear up-to-date – something had to give.

Still, it’s something of a watershed moment that sees Express journalists moving to a 24-hour reporting cycle, plans being made for online video and podcasts, and even web 2.0 elements such as blogging and social networking.

In reality, the new site looks like it was created by someone who has had a website described to him, but never actually seen one. The ‘blogs’ are actually opinion columns with nary a link to be seen, video is being outsourced, and online journalists will work separately from print hacks.

But it’s the move into social networking with ‘MYExpress’ that represents a quantum leap for this most reluctant of online newspapers. The service, which allows readers to create a personalised homepage, blog, and communicate with other users, has the potential to create a community of Disgusteds from Tunbridge Wells that may well represent the group’s cash cow.

So how did Richard Desmond – the man who sold the Express websites for £1 in November 2000 – come to join the rush online? And why the recent rush by national newspapers generally to give their sites a makeover?

Desmond can blame his rival Rupert Murdoch. It was he who, in 2005, warned the American Society of Newspaper Editors that unless his industry woke up to the changes brought about by new media they would be “relegated to the status of also-rans.”

Murdoch had sneezed, and the whole news industry began to catch a web fever.

The Times and Telegraph websites, which weren’t even in the top ten online news destinations, have since been overhauled and are making significant ground on leader The Guardian. Tabloids began to see that there was more to the web than monetising page 3 girls. And the middle market just worried about internet chatrooms.

Murdoch wasted no time in buying up promising web properties including, most spectacularly, MySpace, a property which was then cloned on The Sun’s ‘MYSun’ feature.

The Sun’s transformation has been most surprising of all – the reactionary paper has proved technologically progressive as the paper embraced video and virals, slideshows and podcasts, created blogs that actually understood the medium, and built a ‘Lite’ version of the paper for time-starved visitors. Perhaps most tellingly, the paper realised the web presented a window into the regional classifieds market. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the legendary video version of Dear Deirdre.

The Mirror, once again, has been left playing catch up. Its February redesign was ripped apart by many observers for a range of misjudged decisions ranging from buying in video content from the US (coverage of American Idol, anyone?) to the use of capital letters on the home page. The site has five sections – news, sport, showbiz, blogs, and… ‘more’ – a vagueness which perhaps gives some indication of a lack of direction behind the scenes.

Video has been a recurring theme throughout all newspaper website relaunches as ad sales departments realised they could tap into the television advertising market. The Mail has been no exception with its ‘showbiz video’ section, while a number of newspapers have bought in content from the likes of ITN and Reuters. And the ability to encroach on broadcasters’ territory without that pesky Ofcom to worry about has proved particularly useful for tabloid exclusives such as The Sun’s ‘friendly fire’ video and a range of NOTW stings.

The three major broadsheet websites have led the way in the use of blogs and podcasts, video and galleries. The Telegraph’s relaunch focused on the systems behind the site, building a multimedia ‘hub’ and training journalists to work across print and online, video and audio. But The Times’ makeover resulted in an all-singing site that belied its staid reputation and currently looks the most modern of national newspaper sites. The Independent plans a low-key revamp this year but for the most part has sat and watched from the sidelines like a kid waiting to be asked to join in the football game.

So where do the sites go from here? Last year The Guardian’s commentisfree raised the bar for newspaper blogs, while its Flash interactives remain a unique demonstration of the possibilities of new media. But a wholesale revamp is likely to be part of editor Alan Rusbridger’s planned £15m investment, while the move into television production with Guardian Films demonstrates that the group have ambitions beyond getting reporters to read out the day’s headlines: it has already brought dividends with a series of slots on prime time ITV News.

The Sun continues to innovate in the tabloid market, and the launch of a mobile edition suggests they understand the next big challenge for newspapers: if Desmond thought his work was done with new media, he’d better think again: the battleground is moving on.

Express relaunches online, Star to follow

Express website 19 April 07Journalism.co.uk reports on the relaunch of the Express, with the Daily Star to follow, including:

  • “unique content and an archive which allows readers to search past stories and the community areas of the site.
  • “a string of blogs from its Sunday and Daily journalists.
  • “MYExpress facility that enables users to have their own space on the site. This area can be to personalised by filtering some content, such as weather and horoscopes, and uploading pictures. It will also be possible for users to browse through other users’ profiles.”
  • And “a deal had been done with a video supplier and that video and podcasts would be added to the mix in the coming weeks once the initial launch was completed.”

Sounds pretty good for a Desmond-owned publication (not difficult, admittedly), although in reality it’s a website that looks like it was created by someone who was once told what this web 2.0 thing is all about, but wasn’t really listening. Or, in other words, new media through an old media hack’s eyes.

The blogs are basically opinion columns (no links), I can’t find the “community areas”, and of course there’s no video yet. MYExpress is the most impressive – I can imagine Express readers too dazzled by MySpace social networking away with other Disgusteds, although there’s not much to it apart from a blogging service, personalised homepage and ability to search other profiles. Oh, and the online journalists are ghettoised in a separate team.

Anyway, welcome to the 21st century, Express.