WashingtonPost.com Executive Editor Jim Brady informed Posties recently that he’s launching “a new story page that we hope will provide an improved reading experience by expanding the width of the reading column, reducing the clutter surrounding articles and by making it easier for our producers to highlight content that is directly related to articles and multimedia items.”
The major changes, according to Brady:
– The left column has been removed, which greatly expands the column width of the article itself. Currently, because of this left column and our frequent use of related link boxes inset in the article, the story width is sometimes reduced to only 5 or 6 words a line. This will no longer the case once we launch the new page.
– We’ve relocated most related links to the bottom of the article, and limited the number of those links. While moving links to the bottom of the page to drive more clicks may sound counterintuitive, we’ve actually found that links at the bottom of our articles have performed far better than those higher up. The reason: Once a reader has read a full page of an article, he or she has already scrolled past the related links higher on the page, and is rarely willing to scroll back up. Links at the bottom of the story, however, are in the perfect place to convince readers to click again once they’re done reading. Also, reducing the number of related links will also help readers, as research generally shows that long lists of links are turnoffs to readers, who prefer fewer and more impactful related links.
– The new story page, conceptually, also allows us to lead with our best content. If the best part of a “story” — defined as a collection of assets around a particular subject — is video, we can lead with video and place an article in a supporting position; if the best item is the article, we can lead with that. This gives us a lot more flexibility from a storytelling standpoint.
– To help readers more easily find each of the pieces of a “story,” we’ve added what we’re calling a “story bar” at the top and bottom of each page. This bar classifies its links under a potential reader action: Read, Watch, Listen and Talk. We hope the consistent presence of the story bar on all articles will make it easier for readers to find the depth of content we feel separates us from our competitors.
– The area where we formerly placed related content — embedded in the right side of the article — will now be reserved for the use of tools. The regular toolbox (print, save, etc.) has moved there, as has the prompt for readers to write a comment. We also plan on using this space for tools such as search boxes (recipe database, jobs search, stock quotes, etc.)