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NPR’s New Homepage Offers Ease, Options and Primo Real Estate for Sponsors

NPR updated its homepage yesterday and at first glance, it looks pretty traditional—like a simple blog layout with posts lined down a central column. There’s more too it than that, the design is “responsive” which means it shifts itself around automatically depending on the size of the display on your device (incidentally, NPR‘s native app still remains the best way to get its content on a mobile device, but it’s nice to have the browser option, too).

They’ve also added infinite scrolling, with a twist. Unlike say, Pinterest, new content doesn’t automatically pop up when you reach the bottom. Instead, you’re presented with a couple buttons asking you what type of stories you’d like to load. News or Arts & Life or Books, for example. You don’t have to click through to another page like on most sites, but you still have to click.

What really caught our eye, though, was a bold choice about how to highlight NPR‘s sponsors…

It’s called Center Stage and it’s a “new custom sponsorship offering” with a video, right in the middle of the main story column. They mention this in the press release about the update, but honestly it stuck out so much we noticed it before we even read about it. In fact, it was so bold and so separated from the actual NPR-generated content on the page it stopped us dead in our tracks as we scrolled down.

That’s great for the sponsor, surely. But it seems like a delicate line to walk for a news organization. If the name Center Stage hasn’t tipped you off, this is prime real estate on NPR‘s site designed in a way that it not only grabs you by the throat, but upstages everything else around it—even the news. The page launched yesterday with Squarespace, a blogging platform, as the inaugural Center Stage Sponsor, today there doesn’t seem to be one. The few commenters on the NPR blog post announcing Center Stage are universally not in favor of it (they also seem to dislike the new design in general, but that goes with the territory of new design—some can’t handle change).

Another curious element is that with some stories, you can listen to them right from the home page, but others you can’t. For those you still have to click through to get the audio, and it’s not immediately discernible why some stories have this option and others don’t. Seems like that’s almost a no-brainer for an organization whose primary format is still radio.

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