Entertainment site E! Online goes live with a new look and new content on Wednesday. The Los Angeles-based hub will abandon its cluttered tabloid appearance in favor of strong graphics and plenty of black space. The bolder, more contemporary site was designed in-house.
"Everyone in Hollywood gets a nip-and-tuck, why shouldn't we?" asked editor-in-chief Lew Harris. "The whole idea for the relaunch is, 'Bigger, better, more.'"
The site's content has been reorganized and includes several new features. Foremost are the E! Online Plus sections for music, television and movies containing reviews, news, trailers and clips, and special content such as a weekly play list from radio stations nationwide, audio clips of new tunes, and a primetime grid in the television section.
Another addition in the Plus departments are links chosen by staff editors for interest and relevance; they will not be partnerships or paid placements. "It's a bit like portaling, except we are hand picking the things ourselves," Harris explained. He said his publication did not fear sending users away, noting that "E! Online's place in the community of Web sites is very strong."
Creative director Janine Gevas said she wanted to make it easier for users to see the broad range of content. "We tried to accomplish that by making the front door shorter in length and more exciting," she said, "with animated elements and Flash, and by laying out the index pages to show related things at a glance."
With new content and design come new on-site advertising opportunities, said Laurel Wyner Dunlea, vice president of marketing. These include several sponsored buttons found on the front page and throughout the site. "Our goal is that they'll be contextual," Dunlea said. "We hope that, for example, Amazon.com would want to advertise the movies they sell in the Movies Plus pages." Dunlea said ad opportunities such as these are part of an ongoing beyond-the-banner strategy, which also includes the creation of customized mini-sites within E! Online.
An aggressive advertising campaign, leveraging the site's 200,000 subscribers and affiliation with the E! cable TV channel, will brief consumers on the changes to come. TV spots and banner spots on-site and off will herald the relaunch, while a countdown on the Web page, begun last Friday, links to a splash page listing the new features. A weekly e-mail newsletter will cover the relaunch and on Oct. 12, a dedicated newsletter will be sent to subscribers and registered members. Said Dunlea, "We want to warm people up."