Last year, Time.com and Time magazine leapfrogged redesigns. Today, the two are finally in sync with the relaunch of a site that didn’t reflect the magazine’s complete revamp and had a look that Time execs admit aged fast. The new Time.com and the current Time are unmistakably connected in more than just name now and yet, at the same time, the white-with-red site clearly has a distinct personality with an emphasis on its own content.
Josh Tyrangiel, editor of Time.com and AME for the magazine, explained the goals for the site’s redesign: flexibility, lots of different content types presented with serendipity, a more current feel to the style and “some sort of psychic connection, some sort of reach out to the branding of the magazine.” The last Time.com redesign preceded the magazine’s switch by a couple of months so coordinating wasn’t really possible. “This time, I wanted to make sure that if you know the magazine or if you only know the website, that you understand this is one brand. Not identical but one brand.”
More on the look, video and advertising after the jump…
— The look: The result is a cleaner, lighter site with bigger headlines, more boxes instead of pure columns, lots of white space and, as is the case with the new WSJ.com, a switch from using the print sections as a navigation glossary. Magazine content can be reached through a tab on the top navigation bar and through some skyboxes but the box showcasing that week’s print table of contents has been swapped for one featuring the current cover and a changing cluster of archive covers. Navigation is at the top of the page with four visual skyboxes below keying off the magazine cover; the skyboxes are supposed to show that the site is more than hard news. (Current picks cover sumo wrestling, wine, cancer survival and Metallica.) The latest headlines box has been moved from the center to the right; the middle column is a news column but is supposed to show the depth of content. The far left leads with “must-reads” — allowing for a mix of content instead of the blog-only box that was there before. “You want viewers to travel down your page and see as much of it as possible.” The “briefing” is a newsreel that lets the user roll though a variety of features on the site — Q&A, quotes of the day, top 10 list of the day. Interactive elements include a daily Time.com poll off the news, share buttons. One reason for doing away with the “table of contents” box, says Tyrangiel: it left a static space on the page for a week at a time instead of a space that changes enough to convince users they should come back multiple times a day or, at least, multiple times a week. Across the bottom: a much shorter list of headline links by section than the current one. In fact, the entire page is more compact.
— Video: While other news sites are emphasizing video, it plays below the virtual fold on Time.com. The tabbed multimedia box includes video, podcasts and photos with a short playlist that changes with the tabs. Tyrangiel sees the multimedia window as a “bar to entry” now — “you’ve got to have one. It’s been frustrating to all of us that we haven’t had one on our current site for a while.” So it’s there but not ready to be at the top of the screen. They’re counting on Craig Duff, the new multimedia director, to change that; he’s already credited with increasing volume and quality over the past couple of months. “Everything on this page is modular, so if we get to a point where the volume is such that I feel you can come to this page three times a day and see two-three new leading videos, then that goes above the fold. No question. For now, our growth is large from where it’s been, we’re not yet at the place where you can entertain people with new stuff all the time. That said, the fact that we increased 50 percent in August when people didn’t have a way of looking at the home page, I’m optimistic that this will increase our streams even more.”
— Leveraging the past: In the past, Time.com has not made great use of its deep archive of covers and stories — Tyrangiel calls it “underleveraged.’ They want to change that. For instance, the cover box mentioned above changes every time the page is refreshed, pulling from 50 or so modules programmed around various topics like women in politics (to go with Sarah Palin), books, China. In addition to the search box at the top, there’s an archive module below the cover package again featuring a search box — this one emphasizes that the archives are free. (It may be a mirage but from a personal standpoint, the search seems better — it pulled up articles that I’d forgotten I worked on for Time when I was a stringer.)
— Advertising: Not much has changed, according to Time.com GM John Cantarella. Time.com doesn’t have a leaderboard running on the home page usually although it has made exceptions like the recent Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) campaign. But Cantarella says “Inside Time.com” — the skyboxes below the top — can be turned into an ad unit. As for targeting, “We can behavioral target. We section target. We can content target.The long-term goal here is to have pages that dynamically target. For instance, people who come in from Google (NSDQ: GOOG) react to the site and interact with the site differently then people who come in through the home page. The beauty of that is once you have that in place, you can do the same thing for targeting ads.” They’re held back now by content management system limitations. Time.com reports average monthly uniques of 5.56 million for 2008 (Nielsen), up 34 percent over 2007.
— Pitching Time: For all of the talk about identities, Time.com is still a promo vehicle for the magazine. The site is peppered with reminders to subscribe to Time for $1.99 or to try four issues free. Overall, Time.com tries to feature at least one house ad or promo per page.