Atlantic Bloggers Blowback On New Site Design, Editors Say The Site Is User-Friendly, Needs To Make Money

Andrew Sullivan

Some bloggers aren’t happy with the site’s redesign, which launched last week. And they are writing about it.

The new design, which debuted on Feb. 25th, featured a new commenting system, from Disqus, along with revamped search and social media functions.

But some Atlantic writers and readers have been complaining about the new content organisation system, which is based on verticals: “Politics, Business, Food, Culture, International, National, and Science/Tech.”

The site’s previous design highlighted bloggers, with their own curated verticals, in sections. They also organised content based on what was best for advertisers–not readers, some said.

Some critics say the site muffles bloggers original voices, by putting posts in a headline-indexed format, which forced them to click on a page to find the article in its vertical.

Andrew Sullivan of The DailyDish: “[T]reating blogs as a series of headlines, designed to maximise pageviews, is a deep misunderstanding of blogs, their reader communities and their integrity.”

James Fallows, National Correspondent: “[I]t is no secret within our organisation that I think the new design creates problems for the magazine’s “personal” sites, like the one I have been running here these past few years. In particular, the new layout scheme — in which you see only a few-line intro to each post but no pictures, block quotes, or other amplifying material — unavoidably changes the sensibility and tone of personal blogs. It drains them of variety and individuality, not to mention making them much less convenient to read.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Senior Editor: I think this critique, offered by reader Ethan Lutske, is basically true:… I think the biggest problem is that this simply doesn’t feel like a blog, with the 1 line summaries. It feels like looking at an archive, and that’s not what blogs are all about.

Has there ever been so much public blowback from a magazine’s own writers about a site redesign?

Daniel Gross, a Newsweek and Slate business columnist, wrote on Twitter: “maybe i’m old school, but I find the spectacle of the Atlantic’s bloggers crapping all over the site’s redesign to be very bad form.”

According to editorial director Bob Cohn, the editors have changed the format of the blogger’s entries into their older format. As of about 4 p.m. today, they got rid of the “indexed” look and readers will get a larger view of writers’ posts.

“We truncated the posts that staff bloggers wrote into the pages it was a bad idea,” Cohn said in a phone interview. “We miscalculated. But as we heard user reaction from our bloggers and we fixed it today and we restored the old design.”

“It is not the case that we created the channel strategy for advertising reasons, we created it for editorial reasons,” he added. “We want to make it easy for users they can navigate by bloggers or they can navigate by channel.”

“It seemed silly that our political coverage wasn’t all together and our business coverage wasn’t all together,” he said.

The new design, he said, will help new users to find the stories they want to read.

Cohn wrote more details about the redesign here and responded to criticisms on the site here.

However, a site chopped up by subject does help The Atlantic’s advertisers, who are more interested in buying space in categorized sections like food or tech, rather than on a page that covers many different topics under a blogger’s name.

Megan McArdle, Business and Economics Editor responded:

“This blog may never be exactly what you want.  Let’s be honest:  I work for a commercial organisation, and in order for them to continue to pay my paycheck, this site needs to be profitable.  So we’re going to have ads and other features that may well annoy you from time to time.

But you guys are also the lifeblood of the site.  It is overwhelmingly important to me that this page continue to work for you.”

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