Publishers are overhauling the way they present content on the web based on the changing needs and behaviors of consumers. The resulting sites are fresh, visually-engaging, and updated for their current tech-savvy readership.
Most of all, publishers are increasingly focused on having content take center-stage. With this shift, publishers are rethinking what immersive content and advertising experiences could look like.
Here are a few trends that we're seeing from forward-thinking publishers.
1. Focus on individual articles instead of homepages.
Five or ten years ago, publisher websites were all about the homepage. A user would have Yahoo! set as their default browser homepage and see text news, a carousel of photos with headlines, and consume content in a fairly canned way.
Now the spotlight is on the content pieces themselves.
This reflects the way that users discover, consume, and share news. Many users find articles from their Facebook newsfeeds, Twitter streams, or at the bottom of an article they were reading. Restructuring the site layout to focus on content caters to the way people use the web now, and offers a seamless browsing experience.
2. Clean layouts and visually engaging formats.
Newsweek.com website, after redesign.
Yahoo! website, an example of a traditional news site.
The content takes center-stage with a clean layout. Larger photos and tile icons entice users to click. The look and feel is more similar to certain Tumblr blogs than to traditional news sites.
Instead of forcing content into a small icon tile, with a set amount of space for a headline and excerpt, the new approach of many sites is to tailor the layout to fit the content.
The result is a site that is simple, easy to read, and inviting. Users engage because they aren't overwhelmed by competing ads or information.
3. Fewer traditional ads.
Photo credit: Say Media, Ad Age
The new approach builds a foundation not only for editorial content, but for advertising content. With pared down site design, typical banner ads would look garish and out of place.
Say Media, for example, redesigned ReadWrite to include ad formats that "run within an article, conform to any screen size and deliver brand content like videos, photo galleries or product selectors."
With mobile becoming an increasingly common way for people to browse content, part of ensuring a positive user experience is to offer content and advertising that works across platforms. Another key is to balance the content and advertising. So if an article is very short, ReadWrite's policy is that there might not be an ad at all.
This approach is ground-breaking compared to how most publishers offer ads along the edges of a browser page, and have those ads refreshed with every piece of content a user sees.
In summary, the big lesson is this: change is constant and you must adapt.
When the first display ad appeared in 1994, it had a double-digit click-through rate because consumers had never seen anything like a banner ad before. But the landscape has changed since then, and so have consumer expectations about how they want to view content and advertising. It's crucial to keep listening, asking questions, and figuring out ways to improve your product or site to suit the needs of your most important constituency: your customer.