As the Washington Post Co. (NYSE: WPO) tries to find a buyer for its struggling Newsweek, the magazine has revamped its website with a somewhat lighter look. In a note to users, Mark Miller, Newsweek Digital’s editor, highlighted a few changes in response to what he said were reader comments, which was a desire for “simplicity and clarity.” Still, compared to the magazine’s well-received Newsweek Tumblr page, it can’t help but look a little weighted down.
A quick glance at the homepage shows some open gray spaces on the sides — instead of a clutter of listings and images — while the top has three small rectangular boxes for two top news stories and a reader quiz. Right next to that, there are spaces for users to click a “subscribe” button and a link to partner MSNBC.com. Alongside a large image connected to a story on the BP oil spill, an ad for FedEx is on the right, under the Newsweek logo, which includes a few more tabs for stories, authors and topics.
Midway down the page, in between some analysis and entertainment stories, there’s also a video feature called The Daily Obsession, as well as a narrow column offering “smart takes” on the news called The Spectrum.
While the look is deceptively cleaner than what Newsweek.com presented before, there is a good deal of repetition in directing readers to the wider story lists. But of all the various ways to find, say, Fareed Zakaria’s work, the one thing that is hard to find on the main site is a link to that Newsweek Tumblr page.
Updated: In a conversation with paidContent, Newsweek digital head Geoff Reiss “apologized” for sounding so giddy about the redesign given that the magazine is supposed to be at death’s door. Reiss’ “What? Me Me Worry” tone aside, he said that it’s just business as usual at the website and that there are more plans for additional improvement. (In particular, he did say that they planned to work the Tumblr site into the website’s flow).
One of the behind the scenes aspects Reiss is most impressed with was the use of the CQ5 publishing system from Day Software, which makes for two important changes that go beyond the cosmetic look of the site. The use of the software means that the site’s hosting is now cloud-based — “Not something you see from a lot of stodgy publications” — and it also is helping with re-indexing the 15 years of online news stories from Newsweek.com. “Before, we’ve had these stories floating around like space junk, with 90 percent of our content not indexed by Google,” Reiss said. “This change is one way we expect to drive more traffic to the site.”
In addition to that, Newsweek.com has also added new commenting and sharing features, including Facebook Connect.
Lastly, the magazine is readying an iPad app, which is likely to be released next week. While this app will be paid — Reiss said he couldn’t discuss the price, since it hasn’t been approved by Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) yet — it will likely be the same as the mag’s $1.99 iPhone app.