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Should the Web become more like TV?

This article first appeared in the St Louis Beacon, Dec. 6, 2010 - Gawker Media runs several popular blogs catering to a variety of interests and audiences. There's Gawker.com for celebrity and media gossip, Deadspin for sports (founded by central-Illinois native and Cardinals fan Will Leitch), Kotaku for video games, Jezebel for women, io9 for science fiction, Jalopnik for car culture, Gizmodo for consumer electronics and Lifehacker for software and productivity. Among others.

Right now, Gawker's offerings are in a fairly typical blog format, but it's working on something new. And a big part of that something new is going to look a little more like television.

Gawker says it is working to recognize its potential for doing video well and displaying it better, doing video advertising better and creating "appointment programming."

Nick Denton, founder and owner of Gawker Media, posted a detailed explanation on Lifehacker that talks about the rationale behind the redesign.

The new template will increase the standard size of video and photos included with blog posts. This reflects the higher number of readers drawn in by stories based around posts built around a visual component.

Denton writes that he originally thought the blogs would focus on text-based stories and would be outperformed by TV stations and others who already had the technology and knowledge to produce video. "But what is increasingly evident is that traditional media companies are encumbered by old formats in video as much as they are in written journalism. Gawker bloggers, once they're as familiar with iMovie as with cut-and-paste, can beat them," he writes.

Advertising is of course very important to for-profit entities like Gawker Media, but Web advertising has been tricky to figure out. Denton looks toward TV for the answer: "We can even appropriate the idea of the commercial break. ... we can run a 15-second video commercial in the 640x360 slot between two autonomous editorial items almost as if it was just a slide inserted into a slideshow -- or a spot before the next segment."

And finally, Gawker will adopt appointment programming by posting content on certain topics at a consistent time at regular intervals. Just as with television, this develops repeat viewers and allows advertisers to more tightly integrate with the content. Says Denton, "Many topics are less time-sensitive [than event and seasonal topics] and they will be moved to a programming grid which owes more to TV than to magazines. For instance, Lifehacker's personal finance coverage is popular with both readers and advertisers; like much of our more helpful content it is often lost in the blog flow. From next year, it will be showcased at a regular time, say Fridays at 3 pm, a personal finance hour."

Denton's entire, more detailed and comprehensive post can be found on Lifehacker. You can see a beta version of the new design at http://beta.lifehacker.com

Brent is the data visual specialist at St. Louis Public Radio.

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