Monday, March 1, 2010

Atlantic Turns out to be Better than Other Publications

I criticized Atlantic  the other day for some of the decisions they made in the redesign of their website,  including their decision to force blog readers to access blogs via a summary list of blog post.  Today I find that they have restored their Voices section to its previous accessibility (and fixed their RSS feed so that we get more than headlines).  Now I get James Fallows on my Google Reader exactly as I did before.  And if I click his picture on the site I go straight to his blog, exactly as I do with Andrew Sullivan.

Good work Atlantic.   James Fallows is saved from my delete button (I’m sure he’s relieved).

Of course their main page still has the same problem of boring summaries of articles.   But I seldom read their main page, so the fact that it doesn’t lure me doesn’t really change much.  You would think that would have been the point of the redesign, to get people to read more than they did before.  But I guess not.  This method of setting up publications appears to be all the rage so they must have a reason.  I suspect that they are going for the long tail, accumulating hits from people doing searches in later months.   They have given up trying to attract daily readers who just browse.

I find the summaries really annoying only if I look at the main pages.  If I already know what I want to read it isn’t as much of an issue.  For instance, I subscribe to certain columns in The Guardian and I’ve trained myself not to read the first line that shows up in my Google Reader.  For a while I was reading the first line, finding it boring and moving on.  I almost deleted many of those from my reader because I was regularly skipping them.  Finally I realized the first line was the summary from the main page – the hook by which they were trying to draw readers in and get them to click to read the whole article.  A blunt, rusty, unattractive hook instead of a luscious minnow that any fish would want to eat, swimming around  in front of me.  But, I digress. 

I found that if I skipped over that first line and consciously made a decision not to read it, that I was reading more of the articles.

But of course it’s easy for me to ignore the boring part,  because I get full text articles in my Google Reader.  If, on the other hand, I simply put the main page in my “favorites” and looked at the page on a daily or weekly basis, I’d probably seldom click on the stories.  I wouldn’t take the next step because I would be too bored by the first step.

Clearly the designers for Atlantic  think that setting up their main page this way is a Good Idea.  In my opinion, they are wrong.    Or rather, in my opinion it may be a good idea IF they would pay someone to create luscious minnows rather than rusty hooks.