With its website redesign, the New Republic wants to 'move away from the mushy middle'

The New Republic, which underwent a print redesign earlier this year, today unveiled its digital relaunch. (Screenshot, Newrepublic.com
The New Republic, which underwent a print redesign earlier this year, today unveiled its digital relaunch.

Gabriel Snyder, the editor of the New Republic, was tired of seeing good ideas "disappear into the ether" of Slack, the messaging app used by the magazine's staffers to trade observations, witticisms and arguments. When the New Republic embarked upon a digital overhaul earlier this year, he wanted to make sure the new website had a place reserved for stray thoughts kicked around by the magazine's ruminative writers.

The New Republic's redesigned website went live today, and that idea officially manifested as "Minutes," a running blog that aims to collect short-winded arguments and cerebral detritus related to current events in one place.

"It's really meant to be our fastest, pithiest form on our website," Snyder said. "Minutes is basically our way to engage the breaking news and conversations that are happening all around the digital universe — whether that's social media or even our Slack channels."

The debut of "Minutes" is part of a larger digital redesign undertaken by the New Republic that comes on the heels of a print redesign launched earlier this year. The changes are in line with an ongoing effort from the magazine to refashion itself as a digital media company oriented around solutions-based journalism.

By creating a destination for blogging on the New Republic's website, Snyder hopes to avoid the inevitable "gravitational force" of Web publishing that tends to pull shorter posts into longer ones. The goal, Snyder says, is to create a sharper distinction between pithy arguments and longer features to give readers a better understanding of the item before they click on it.

"As an editorial team, sometimes we're producing in-depths — reported features that take months of time to create and have whole teams of people working on them," Snyder said. "And sometimes we're just engaging in the conversation. If we can keep those two modes really distinct, I think readers appreciate that. Moving away from the mushy middle was one idea."

In another concession to readers, the New Republic today also unveiled "Signal," pull quote boxes featuring shareable takeaways from each of the magazine's articles. They all have buttons inviting users to promote the articles via Facebook and email, a touch Snyder hopes will help catapult them into the ongoing social media conversation.

By requiring writers to include a concise takeaway summarizing each article, Snyder is also seeking to hone the arguments in each article before they're published.

"If you're having trouble finding a line that really succinctly states its argument, then that's a pretty good clue that it might need to go back into more edits," Snyder said.

In its turn toward bloggier items, the New Republic joins The Atlantic, which earlier this year launched Notes, a clearinghouse for "First thoughts, running arguments" and "stories in progress" from the site's staff.

The redesigned website is underpinned by Mariner, a new proprietary content management system built by the New Republic's growing product team. In adopting Mariner, the New Republic joins other small news organizations, including The Marshall Project, that have created custom-tailored publishing platforms to suit their individual needs.

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.

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