Los Angeles Times Bets On Social Sharing With Redesign

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 5.42.54 PMThe Los Angeles Times‘ website underwent a redesign this week, and the changes included a left-aligned navigation bar, more seamless scrolling movements and “neighborhood” pages. But one of the most significant is the Times’ new story presentation, which pushes social sharing pretty hard.

With their new design, your eye will notice pull quotes alongside the story with a link to tweet that quote and the story’s link. And before you read the story’s first word, you’ll see two or three “sharelines,” pre-written summary sentences for you to share either on Facebook or Twitter. I’m intrigued by this development for a few reasons:

  1. I’m prone to think pre-written sharing sentences kill creativity. I don’t know how much the general public as opposed to snarky writers cares about the way they present what they’re sharing with friends, but if I had a guess I’d say people use sharing stories as not only a method for ensuring their friends read something they find important but also to promote their own interests. It’s not a bad thing; this just means we often use social sharing to indicate to others what we think is important in the world (even if that’s cats), and we want to be able to call upon our own words to communicate this. On the other hand, we’re all looking for more time in the day, and tweets/Facebook shares written for us help accomplish that goal.
  2. This likely adds to the list of odd jobs reporters assume. Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 5.44.10 PMThey’re already being asked to tweet and share their pieces to Facebook, but writing three different summaries of all your stories could get old. It would for me. It’s unlikely that even a paper of the Times‘ caliber has enough social media editors to take on this role, plus the writer knows the story better than anyone else and would probably perform this task the most efficiently. On the bright side, Nieman Lab’s Josh Benton says in a piece about the Times redesign that bulleted summaries at the top of the story “help draw the reader in.” He may be right.
  3. I wonder who will be doing this next. With all the robot journalism buzz lately, you know the software or social media plugins capable of generating “sharelines” for every story are coming. Is it possible that Twitter could become a constant repetition of identical tweets? Because that sounds lame.

What do you think about the L.A. Times redesign? Do sharelines bother you?