Gawker is no longer a blog. And Nick Denton no longer runs a blog network.
Gawker Media – which, for better or worse, defined and largely influenced the modern blogosphere as we all know it — is undergoing a massive redesign that will render its collection of eight or so blogs as retooled destination sites not unlike those that, once upon a time at least, its bloggers took joy in mocking. (Disclosure: I cover tennis for Deadspin, Gawker Media’s Brett Favre-taunting sports blog.)
Gone is the front-and-center stream of reverse chronological posts. In its place, a big feature story, reserved in beta versions for its most popular post, and the blog stream moves to the far right.
Interior pages feature bigger images, which render better on iPads and oversized monitors than the current, relatively small ones do. “Web media needs to move to TV metaphor — with full-screen imagery and other content interrupted with full-screen ads,” Denton told Media Memo recently. “Everything right now is so, um, bitty.”
The logic, according to a couple of people with knowledge of the company’s plans, is that they’ve largely outgrown the blog format, with new visitors entering and exiting its sites without seeing “the big story” of the day, like, say, Gizmodo’s next-generation iPhone coup – stories that can attract and retain new readers. (Even regular visitors have complained that the sites are “overwhelming” for those just looking to pop in.)
The idea is to showcase the most appealing stories, not merely the latest, for the 17 million people (on average) visiting its network in the U.S. each month.
It’s an extension of a strategy proffered by Denton and co. earlier this year, when Gawker Media switched its metric for success from page views and uniques to how many new readers it attracts.
“While distributing content across the web is essential for attracting the interest of Internet passersby,” a memo on Gawker’s public advertising site reads, “courting these wanderers, massaging them into occasional visitors, and finally gaining their affection as daily readers is far more important.”
The redesigns — currently in beta and publicly available to view — are being tweaked for a fall roll-out, though no specific dates have been set.
For Gawker copycats, that’s a rare gift of a head start.