Here at TM, we’re big fans of Gawker Media, the blog network that’s home to such sites as Gizmodo and Lifehacker.
The company and its founder, Nick Denton, often announce head-scratching news or company-wide efforts that, at the time, seem to be blunders. However, the company has a knack for being ahead of the curve, routinely making moves before the rest of the industry catches on. For example, Denton famously foretold the oncoming advertising collapse and was dead on. Among his other predictions: the death of “micropublishing” and the return of original reporting.
So when the company announced a network-wide redesign we immediately sat up and listened. After spending a few hours poking around the new sites here are four features we think are worth coping for your next editorial property.
Gawker users can use their arrow keys to “thumb” between all of the day’s stories. Now, keyboard browsing is nothing new, online web apps like Gmail have encouraged keyboard shortcuts for years now.
However, thanks to the onset of tablets the practice of quickly moving between headlines (previously only enjoyed by RSS readers) is becoming more mainstream than ever. The layouts even use the same shortcuts as Google Reader to page between stories, demonstrating that the folks at Gawker were clearly paying attention to their tech-savvy audience.
As any content strategist will tell you: not all content is created equal.
On news blogs, the roundup with five links is not as important as the 500-word well-reported feature story. On Technically Philly, we struggle with this all the time finding our interviews with prominent politicians quickly buried when we’d like to show it off for a bit.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen asides and increasing taxonomy controls in WordPress for this reason, publishers want to be able to better control which stories receive more visual weight. With this development, the browsing experience is being taken out of the readers control, something that made blogs so popular when they first gained traction.
The primary method of emphasizing those featured stories, is through big photos and art. Blogs have long been trapped in layouts that are nothing more than different ways of dressing up a list of headlines. However, over the past few years we’ve seen the rise of “magazine” layouts for blogs that emphasize images and allow authors to control what receives visual weight.
The downside of Gawker’s focus on images is that it is the hardest tactic to “borrow” for your own site. Gawker has made a commitment to throw a bit of its new-found weight around to fund illustrators. But the takeaway is clear: after a certain point adding an illustrator to your staff will have a greater impact than another writer.
Ajax loading to prevent server loads and bandwidth issues:
Blogs such have Mashable have been doing this for months. By only loading the images currently visible on the screen, high traffic blogs can save a bit of bandwidth and cash. WordPress has a plugin for that.