I recently browsed to the Sunday Times website and noticed that it has been revamped. It now no longer looks like a newspaper trying to replicate itself online and more like an online news site. I am not the only person who noticed this one. Matthew Buckland picked up on the revamp at the beginning of this month. I agree with much of what he has to say:
Following the latest trend in creating wide-format sites, their website really hits the spot for me and raises the bar for local online publishers from a design point of view. The old site was in bad need of a redesign, but this makes it all worth it. I like the use of multimedia, the big square ads which I think are the most effective of all the ads spots and formats. I also like their bold rotating graphic featurette although I hope for such a big feature it updates very frequently¦ie more than once a day as is the expectation on news sites. I get the feeling there is alot more multimedia to come on this site¦ which is very exciting¦
What strikes me is how unlike a newspaper this site is now and that is a really good thing for online content because it means that mainstream media and content companies (like mainstream media) are beginning to think outside the offline box and are creating content and styling it for the Web.
This is a challenge that faces a number of what are coming to be regarded as “old media” companies such as a number of record labels and other media businesses, namely thinking in news ways about how their businesses could operate in this new medium and distribution channel that is the Web. Just because a model worked before the Web became what it is today doesn’t mean that the model will continue working as the Web continues to evolve. New playing fields often mean new rules and in some cases, these new rules require new formats to suits new ways of accessing that content. The Sunday Times revamp is a good example of that. The new design looks pretty good on a computer screen. Adding podcasts and other media are also in line with this new paradigm – you content is on the Web and this means that multimedia can easily be added to static text to make the whole experience far more dynamic.
Another criticism I share with Buckland is the absence of feeds on the Sunday Times site. Feeds are essential in a world where there is such a wealth of content and information floating around. I had a conversation with Mike Stopforth a while ago and he mentioned the need for aggregators. Any business that puts content on the Web should have feeds to allow their visitors to subscribe to their content in a way that really fits with the way they prefer to manage their content. Much of this new media evolution is presenting content to users in ways that really suits them. One of the reasons given by the Mail & Guardian for the launch of a podcast that was made in the first episode of the Mail & Guardian’s podcast is the desire to make content available to consumers of that content using a variety of platforms, whether they be paper, the Web or podcasts. It is all about making that content available in different forms and not getting too caught up on precisely how consumers of that content, well, consume it.