New L.A. Times site: precooked tweets and a new flavor of infinite scroll
The Los Angeles Times introduced its new responsive website this morning, tackling major industry trends like responsive ad units, mobile-first design and "treating article pages as entry points as valuable as the homepage," according to a press release. Here are three quick takeaways:
Precooked tweets: Just click and enjoy
They're called "sharelines," and an L.A. Times spokesperson told Poynter the ready-to-share tidbits won't just be the responsibility of social media editors. Reporters will contribute them, too.
It's a cool idea. Not only do these pre-written lines at the top of each story facilitate sharing, but they also serve as handy bullet points like those in the NYT Now app. You don't have to tweet them to get something out of them.
As Nieman Lab's Joshua Benton writes, it'll be interesting for the L.A. Times to track what makes some of these blurbs more attractive to readers than others.
So far, they're not written quite like the stilted newspaper headlines shared when you use the Twitter button. But they're also not written so casually that you could fool your followers into thinking you wrote the thing yourself. They're still written in newspaper speak, but now you essentially have a choice of a few decks to tweet instead of just a main headline.
To infinity and beyond
Will any news organization do a post-2013 site redesign without an infinite scroll? A smooth transition into a new story when you reach the bottom of an article page is all about reducing the navigational friction that leads to high bounce rates and low engaged time on site. But sites have different philosophies about what kind of content should magically appear next as readers scroll.
Some L.A. Times articles, like stories on the L.A. Now or Politics Now blogs, transition directly into other stories on the same subject. When you reach the bottom of other stories, like this one about climate change, you'll get a choose-your-own adventure menu. Pick a subject area, and an entire section (like latimes.com/local) appears directly below the story:
NPR has offered a somewhat similar choice on its homepage since its redesign last summer, allowing readers to load more stories at the bottom of the page by choosing a category like news or books. And Quartz, of course, helped popularize infinite scrolls, but it has a rigid story order for each of its verticals (which it calls "obsessions"). The new NBC News article pages transition into related stories, so if you're reading a story about the environment you'll get another one on the same subject when you finish reading.
The editors behind the recent Time.com relaunch, meanwhile, told me in March that their data show related content isn't the best way to keep readers engaged. So Time readers arriving via social media see the site's top stories underneath the first story they visit, regardless of subject matter.
The new latimes.com is responsive, of course, unlike its Tribune Co. peers. Lucia Moses points out at Digiday that the L.A. Times strategy could be a model for news organizations like the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun as the company plans to spin off its newspapers.
The L.A. Times spokesperson said via email that design updates to the paper's iOS and Android apps are imminent, while a broader overhaul to bring them more in line with the new responsive site will be rolled out later in the year.
And while the site might have been designed with mobile first in mind, the introductory video is still all about a carefree mouse cursor zipping around a big screen and discovering all kinds of neat things to click.