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Living Can Kill You

Repositioning the news

Something is in the air on the second day of National Newspaper Week, as two major Canadian media sites redesigned along with one American blog. Meanwhile, the Economist thickened its pay-wall and Canwest is seeking bankruptcy protection.

Bankrupt CanWest

Last things first: CanWest seeking protection is not much of a surprise as the company has been gorging on newspapers and local TV stations while not taking care of the debt. Unfortunately for Canadians, the restructuring of the company will lead to an even thinner coverage about the cities and towns where they live.

Gating The Economist

The Economist, meanwhile, knows its audience is willing to pay for its content in magazine form, but sees many of its online readers aren’t print subscribers. By tightening its paywall and making its content available for free for a shorter period of time, the plan is to make its online readers more valuable to its business. The logic is the same as has been used by many newspapers in the past to the determinate of their bottom line, and The Economist, despite being an elite publication, will need to commit to a five-plus plan if they hope to convert their revenue stream.

Redesigning a round Boing Boing

BoingBoing, after nearly ten years online, has done a fairly dramatic overhaul of its site, with two of the most notable changes being the logo update and the use of a rounded, sans-serif as its headline typeface. Once a loyal reader, but no longer one now, the design strikes me as being an good match to the tone while managing to balance the business needs of one of the most popular online-only publications out there.

Reinvigorating Radio 3

Shortly after Boing Boing began publishing online, CBC Radio 3 launched its first sites. These award-winning efforts were some the most innovative experiments in online content and rich-media design. Unfortunately, they were also about five years ahead of the curve. Now, after languishing with an awkwardly framed site, the Radio 3 site has redesigned to emphasize the social aspect of music. Additionally, it better caters to the splintering genres the make-up Radio 3’s playlist. The player seems much better although it wasn’t working for me (likely either a firewall or geolocation thing), but it still is strangely difficult to link to particular pages on the site.

Reimaginging the Star

Finally, the Toronto Star. When I hear smart, seasoned, and savvy people across my social networks literally raving about the redesign, it’s always worth a look. Especially when its about a site I have never been impressed by (and this goes back a long time, my first critique was in 1996). Things are different this time with this latest version of TheStar.com as designed by Teehan & Lax.

The result is a successful attempt to break the news design ghetto, even if the visual design is cautious. TheStar.com now was four distinct ways to view the homepage content: the standard view, a pictorial grid, a text grid, and a timeline view reminiscent of feed readers. In fact, may of these design conventions draw from feed reader UIs which suggests the Star is looking to grow its audience by acting as a news buffet for audience sourced, in part, by links shared on Facebook. Glad to see TheStar.com make the effort to push news design conventions in interesting directions, and it will be interesting to see how these play out over the coming months.