It finally happened. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a bit of a Gawker groupie and I’ve been waiting for the rollout of Kinja on all of their sites. Not because I am an avid commenter (that requires more dedication than I can give), but because I wanted to see how it was going to work from the sidelines. I have mixed feelings.
1) Mobile Layouts
I know that everyone keeps saying that mobile is the future, and it is, of course. Fine. But I still don’t know how I’m supposed to work on a tablet. The old Gawker layout was optimized for a desktop experience, with the main blog post and a scroll down menu of new and trending posts. You could pick and choose, hop around the site before getting back to whatever you were avoiding before you came to Gawker in the first place.
The new Kinja layout is clean, sleek and modern. Everything you want a digital experience to be — except that you have to scroll around too much. I find myself reading many of the blurbs without actually clicking on a story. And when you do click into a story, that’s it. You have to work to browse.
On a tablet, the Kinja reading experience makes more sense. Video and ads and posts all come together in one, non-annoying, continuous roll. My reaction to reading the new Gawker on my laptop is the first time I ever felt old. And why can’t you Tweet single posts? What’s the deal, Denton?
2) Commenting and Community
Of course, Kinja and Nick Denton don’t want you to just read. Goodness, no. Not only do they want ‘users’ (alas, not ‘readers’) to comment, they want them to blog and curate and do lots of other things with their Kinja account. The dedication to ‘blogging’ in the purest form — where readers and writers are on the same level, according to Denton — has created a first class community on Gawker Media sites. That’s great for monetization opportunities, and the idea is that staff writers link to just regular old people’s posts and profiles.
Everyone can contribute, much like on Buzzfeed, where you can create your own, hopefully viral, listicle. They even help you write a good headline:
Thankfully, you don’t have to contribute. You can just passively read the content, but I find myself very confused by the Kinja bylines. Who’s writing what, here?!
I’m not sure how to think about the trend of everyone having a voice. Most of the time, left unedited, not everyone has something useful to say. Think about over on Reddit, which boasts a very dedicated and thriving community, but totally made a mess last week during the hunt for the Boston bombers. The annnotations on the new Gawker photos are even more distracting and useless.
Another sign that I’m getting old and cranky, maybe. It seems too utopian to actually work. And it’s not really about gathering everyone around the fire for a group post-a-long — it’s about being able to use content for free and be able to post advertisements and sponsored links on them. It’s like The Huffington Post model, but worse, because Gawker already has a dedicated reader base that thinks they have a voice. They don’t. It’s a little exploitative.
Or maybe that’s just me. What do you think about platforms that ask users to contribute? Or monetizing the comment section? How much do you contribute to your daily gossip rag?