There’s a bit of a media kerfuffle this morning about whether Gawker Media has killed blogging. The story, which you can read here, http://www.thewrap.com/media/column-post/gawker-media-redesign-20233 focuses on the way that the network’s new designs for their websites look much more like old school destination sites than they do traditional blogs.
It kind of begs the question what actually is a blog anyway? Much of blogging’s distinctive design features went a long time ago when classy WordPress themes like Revolution Theme became popular.
Personally I think the distinction between blog and website is not around design. Rather it is around money. Media companies, both new-ish ones like Gawker and old-ish ones like AOL are producing websites that have a heritage that stems from the great blog explosion of 2003/4, but have long since left notions of traditional blogging behind. By that I mean they are written by multiple users, are commercially driven and increasingly focus on producing long tail content.
At Shiny we stopped using the words blog to describe what the websites we are producing over a year ago. Our current designs still have a blog like element, but they too have many features that are culled from more established websites.
So what has prompted the Gawker (and indeed Shiny) move?
1 More page impressions (and therefore more ad money) – traditional blogs gave too much content away and had a low yield of page impressions per user. Interestingly Nick Denton says its metric for success is about users rather than page views, but with a wobbly economy publishers are still very much focussed on page views for now.
2 Changing ideas about design – Websites are increasingly using big, powerful images on their sites, the old blog format didn’t cater for these very well.
3 The need to showcase big stories – To underline to new readers that the website has has lots of great posts – again the old blogging templates didn’t do this especially well
4 The need to highlight evergreen/commercial content – Websites need somewhere that longer stories can be housed. Also brands are looking more closely at integration within websites. The option of having branded content that looks attractive and is in a prominent position within a website is something that appeals to both brands and publishers.
Finally the class of 2003-2005 (Gawker, Weblogs, Mashable, TechCrunch etc) are becoming the new mainstream media. Unlike others within the publishing industry they have developed business plans that actually work, while older media brands wither and die, they will continue to go from strength to strength.