The next big thing
'.$comments.' '.$comment_label.'

The digital publisher: How print publications are redesigning their sites for the social reader

Who says out of home advertising is becoming less useful as people spend more time on mobile devices? Sure, I have a Kindle which I read on my daily commute, but you can’t read while walking (or I can’t.) In fact, I look forward to the advertisements inside the trains and in the subway stations to keep me updated on the latest clothing by Uniqlo or the new TV shows this fall. This is precisely how I found out that USA Today was redesigning its website and conducting a large marketing campaign around the election promoting the daily newspaper as a forum for conversation and debate. Even the busiest New York City commuter would have a difficult time ignoring its ubiquitous ads.

“We’re trying to reinvent news here”, Larry Kramer, president and publisher of USA Today, said in the LA Times. “We were getting better at doing alerts when big stories would break — but our effort was all directed to putting out a great newspaper for the next day. We needed to be that good on every platform”.

And the redesign doesn’t stop with a face lift for the website and a logo change. USA Today is undergoing a fundamental shift from being a newspaper to being a platform-agnostic content provider. In an industry that is experiencing decreased circulation, every print publication is worried about how to still be relevant in an increasingly mobile and digital world. Newspapers and magazines have already seized on the opportunity to integrate their print content and their online audio/visual/social content to produce deeper, more engaging stories. USA Today has gone a step further by incorporating elements of mobile apps to create a story-telling platform that mimics the functionality and experiences of digital properties that users are already familiar with (such as Flipboard).

Julie Moss at Poynter praises the newspaper for not “containerizing content” and easing the problem of information overload. “This makes information easier to absorb and to browse. Instead of a seemingly-infinite scroll that overwhelms my eyes and mind with too much to process, there’s a restraint that enables a more relaxed, open reading experience. Instead of feeling limited, confined, cramped by the design, I feel free to read. The news seems manageable”.

However, users are not just looking for enhanced content with social elements; they also want substance. Print publishers struggle with how to create an undisruptive reading experience that allows for substance and deeper analysis while keeping in mind that the experience resides on fundamentally disruptive platforms. The new USA Today site tackles this dilemma by overlaying the article on top of the section it is in. Readers can close out of the article when they are done or access related content without having to back or be distracted by peripheral content.

But where does the advertiser fit into this? After all, decreasing ad revenues and the reallocation of ad dollars from print to digital are also responsible for the overall decline of print. “I think the full-page digital ad will be the primary one of the future”, said Kramer in an interview with Ad Age. The article reveals that the motivation for the redesign was “largely a desire to give advertisers a new type of digital canvas with which to work”.

What do you think of the redesign? Will it give USA Today a much needed revenue boost? Is this a model other newspapers should be following?