If you’ve been publishing on the internet for long, you undoubtedly know what it’s like when you spend a significant amount of time formatting an article for the web, only to realize hours or even days later that the piece looks like shit on mobile. A photograph that you had right-aligned makes a paragraph unreadable. An image, rendered for the mobile screen, is tiny and indecipherable. The pagination is broken. Because we do most of our writing and publishing on a desktop/laptop, it doesn’t always occur to us to visit our own article on our mobile phone to ensure that it’s still readable. Realizing this, BuzzFeed’s vice president of growth and data Dao Nguyen made a subtle-yet-important change to the site’s CMS:
But writing a big list post is a lot of work, she said, and previewing it on a non-desktop platform was a task easily forgotten.
Now when BuzzFeed authors click the preview button in their CMS, they see what their posts will look like on mobile devices as well as on desktop computers when they preview them, Nguyen said. That’s a fix that’s important for the site’s readers’ experiences, because sometimes writers use “embeds and large graphics that don’t scale down to mobile-sized screens,” Chris Johanesen, BuzzFeed’s vice president of product, said on the same call.
When the Washington Post announced last year that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos had purchased the paper for $250 million, it was met with a degree of optimism in the media sphere. If anyone could reboot a legacy news publication, it’s the ruthlessly innovative Bezos. But while reading this Digiday list of 10 ways the Post has changed under Bezos’s leadership, I was struck by how cosmetic most of the moves have been. It’s begun to expand the newsroom — bringing in 50 new editorial staffers — and its digital traffic is growing, but then again most news sites’ digital traffic is growing as more of the world gains smart phones and access to the internet.
It may be too soon to pass judgement, however, since several of the items that show the most promise are for projects that aren’t yet completed. The Post has expanded its computer engineering team, for instance, is building a new commenting platform, and is in the process of a major redesign.
The paper announced a website redesign, but it’s a long way from being completed. Chief among the goals is improving the article experience; article pages are cleaner, and photo galleries have better resolution and sharing features. But article pages are still marred by Google AdChoices and take too long to load — four to five seconds to load — which the Post wants to cut to two to three seconds. “Speed is something we need to get better at,” Prakash said. “We’ve made progress, but we’ve still got a long way to go.”
Explaining his decision to leave the Post for Vox Media, Klein criticized the paper as lagging in technology and for being tied to a daily-journalism publishing model. Here again, the Post is just getting started. Its new blog Storyline allows for storytelling in different formats and to be told over days and months. A new CMS that will build in analytics to inform and guide news staffers as they post content is still in the works. And the holy grail of being able to personalize content to readers based on their point of entry and interests is still a ways off — as it is for most publishers.