Newsweek, under a cloud, is going to the cloud. The site is outsourcing its Web site hosting duties to Amazon, joining a small but growing number of companies experimenting with cloud computing.
Until now, Newsweek.com had been hosted by its parent company, The Washington Post Co. The media company has been trying to cut losses at its magazine division, which recorded $29.3 million in operating losses in 2009. By joining the cloud, Newsweek expects to save close to $500,000 annually.
“It saves Newsweek money,” said Geoff Reiss, vp, general manager, Newsweek Digital. “Lots of people out there built their own infrastructure and are going to be tortured by this idea of sunk costs.”
That’s not the only revamp Newsweek.com is making. This week it’s expected to unveil a redesign that eschews the big branding statements and oversized ad units that are standard on many media sites. On the new site, the Newsweek name will shrink and a significant banner ad position goes away.
In its place, the title is adopting a stripped-down design that Facebook users will find familiar. It’s anchored by a newsfeed that gives equal weight to postings—regardless of whether they’re blogs, columns or news. Newsweekopedia, a branded search feature introduced last year, will be replaced with the brand-neutral Topic Finder. And in another sign it’s not business as usual, Newsweek.com hired ex-Gawker editor Gabe Snyder as executive editor.
Reiss acknowledged that the redesign, by Hard Candy Shell, goes against the grain. But he said it gives users what they want when they come to the Web: the ability to find information quickly. The Newsweek site made a similarly contrarian move last year when it started linking to news from elsewhere, a move meant to better serve readers even if it risked sending them off the site. “This is not a knockoff of Facebook,” Reiss said. “A clean, vertical orientation on the page was one of the goals. What we’ve seen come out of social media and blogs [is] an organization that makes sense for how people are consuming media now…brand doesn’t trump user experience.”
Newsweek hopes the gamble pays off as it tries to broaden its audience online. The Web site remains a laggard in terms of traffic among news sites and archrival Time.com.
For now, Newsweek.com won’t enact a paywall, but it’s tested ideas for premium content like early looks at stories and e-newsletters with plans to roll out paid content later this year.
An edition of the magazine for the iPad also is on the way in May. Its price was undetermined at deadline.