Gawker's media image-driven redesign

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Gawker Media sites are in the beta version of a significant redesign. Each redesign in beta -- which at present only involves Gawker and Jalopnik -- features a prominent headline over a single, dominant image while directly underneath lie three less prominent stories and a menu to the side. The image-driven placement of a feature story is a something of a major change from the prevailing philosophy across the Gawker Media empire, though in retrospect the Big Board may have been a portent of things to come. "Web media needs to move to TV metaphor–with full-screen imagery and other content interrupted with full-screen ads,” Nick Denton told MediaMemo's Peter Kafka via email. “Everything right now is so, um, bitty.”

And that's prime online ad real estate. Denton survived his own extraordinarily pessimistic 2009 internet plan relatively unscathed, though Gawker media's page view bonus system was, for a bit, temporarily suspended. "Executives should be planning now on a decline of up to 40% in advertising spending during this cycle," Nick said at the time.

The pendulum swings. Gawker Media's first half revenues in 2010 were up 45%. Still, the constellation of sites was not entirely immune to the vagaries of the recession. Gawker Media has slimmed down considerably, down to nine properties from a high of fifteen.

"But we did manage to focus our energies on our fastest-growing and most commercially promising properties -- which is one of the reasons we've managed to buck the advertising downturn," Denton blogged last month. "And we've resumed hiring -- one of the very few media companies to do so this year." Gawker Media is presently seeking a full-time TV booker.

Even more than the TV metaphor, however, it appears that Gawker Media is looking to mobile device optimization. When asked by eMediaVitals via email to what degree that Gawker Media's redesign was influenced by the iPad, Denton replied, interestingly, "oh, quite a lot, I think. Have you looked at Reeder on the iPad?"  

Reeder, which has features image caching, is one of the best feed reading options available for the iPad and iPhone. The Google Reader client has an intuitive interface, a remarkably fast subscription syncing process and enjoys good word of mouth from the tech blogs and Apple fan sites alike. Design-wise Reeder, where you slide to right to toggle read/unread items and slide to left to toggle starred/unstarred items, could conceivably work well with Gawker's Media's new redesign. Reeder also just added image zooming for the iPad. Finally, Reeder's social sharing options -- Twitter, Instapaper, Google Reader Share, Delicious -- are also clearly attractive to a place like Gawker Media.

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