Time rolled out its long awaited Web redesign Wednesday night, and lest anyone miss it, it's debuting in tandem with an elaborate multimedia project on the new One World Trade Center.
A year in the making, the project includes a special issue, multimedia site, softcover book and movie by Red Border Films, the magazine's new documentary film unit. There's also a cool 360-degree interactive photo shot from the top of the tower and video that goes behind the scenes of the shoot. The venture is akin to the sort of ambitious multimedia storytelling projects that news organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post have recently produced.
To some, projects like the Times' Snow Fall are a way for established news organizations to get attention as they compete for audiences with lower-budget newcomers like BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post, but they’ve also been criticized as gimmicky and a costly indulgence.
Time said its One World Trade project was done in-house, which kept costs down. Spearheaded by a photo editor Jonathan Woods, it involved building a special camera and a rotating aluminum arm for the camera, which produced 600 images that were then stitched together into a panoramic view. The resulting photo is the subject of a three-gatefold cover of the issue, a first for Time, that will hit newsstands Friday. Advil was the project’s sole sponsor.
Nancy Gibbs, who became Time’s managing editor last September, said the site relaunch was delayed in part so it could coincide with the One World Trade project’s publication.
She said the initiative showcases Time’s access, immersive storytelling and multimedia resources, including a tool that lets users zoom in on the photo. “You can count the pores on the Statue of Liberty,” she gushed.
The site relaunch has been long anticipated as parent Time Inc. prepares to spin off from Time Warner later this year. Sports Illustrated also has a site redo in the works, and Fortune is expected to follow with a brand new site when its JV with CNNMoney.com ends in May.
Time.com has increased the amount of content posted on the site and made significant audience gains in the past year, but it has a long way to go to catch up to other rivals for online news consumers. To that end, the revamped Time.com has new features meant to keep readers longer, like more interactive bells and whistles and cues on article pages to point people to content elsewhere on the site.
"We've grown our audience and time spent enormously, so this will give readers an even better way to come to Time for their news and find everything they're looking for in one place," Gibbs said of the site redo.
Nearly 50 percent of Time.com’s traffic now comes from smartphones and tablets, so strong consideration was given to mobile users. The mobile home page shows a scrolling view of breaking news for the reader wanting quick, up-to-the-moment updates.
With online advertising growth generally faltering, Time.com took steps to ensure advertisers’ messages are seen. For one thing, the common but oft-ignored right-hand rail display ad placement was moved to the left-hand side. “It’s a major ad-engineering tactic,” group publisher Jed Hartman said.
The new site also was built with a viewability feature that will ensure that ads are loaded at the same time the accompanying content is, rather than after the fact when readers may have already left the page.
There’s also a new native ad platform that borrows from the editorial look and feel of Time Inc. The new unit has a different font and background color from editorial, to avoid readers confusing the two, and is labeled “content from” the advertiser.
While that wording might seem timid compared to that of other publishers that have labeled their native ads “sponsored” or “paid,” Gibbs said she thought this language was clearer.
“I think it’s the most transparent possible language for what it is,” she said.