Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Advance Publications launches redesigned websites for Nola.com and the Cleveland.com

Back in May Advance Publications announced that it would cut back the print schedule of the New Orleans Times-Picayune (a similar announcement cut the print schedule for their Alabama newspapers). The excuse, at least the publicly voiced excuse, was a move towards a digital strategy. While readers complained about the cut pack in the schedule, my complaint was that Advance did not announce any digital initiatives – and still haven't.
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But today new website designs were unveiled for both the Nola.com (the website of the Times-Picayune), as well as for Cleveland.com, the site run by the Plain Dealer.

"You'll notice changes to the home page of NOLA.com today. We've heard your requests and concerns about the website. This is part of a continuing effort to respond. More changes are coming soon as the site continues to evolve," writes Jim Amoss, editor of the Times-Picayune.

The blog post by Amoss then spells out the changes to the website design. I found the proposition that the paper was responding to reader input a bit disingenuous seeing as the same design is being used at another property.

The design, though, is an improvement – especially if the redesign makes it to the Advance properties in Alabama (al.com).

My own biggest gripe with the redesign is the amount of space dedicated to the top flag and navigation – approximately 333 pixels. The NYT, in comparison, uses only 160 pixels at the top. This means the news starts higher up on the screen.
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On the other hand, a look at the site on the iPad reveals a slight, but not insignificant difference. On the tablet, the top banner is different, and the leaderboard ad is missing. As a former publisher, I lament the loss of the ad, but must admit that the site looks better.

The change in print schedule at the Advance newspapers are have a ripple effect in their communities. Three weeks ago the Times-Picayune lost the contract for the legal notices for the Civil District Court. Recently the law had been changed that stated that the notices had to be published in a daily newspaper, probably giving hope to the Times-Picayune that they might retain the contract even after cutting their print schedule. But instead Gambit, a weekly paper, got the contract, worth around $7 million.

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