By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

More thoughts on

The FAQ that accompanies the redesigned says that more change is coming: “Different features and sections of the site are scheduled to debut on different days. While we realize that this might be confusing in the short-term, we’ve studied our options carefully and believe that the gradual switch we have planned will ultimately result in a better user experience.”

With that in mind, here are a few random observations offered in the hope that better things are yet to come.

The look. By switching from a tiny sans serif font to the same one used by corporate cousin, the site is automatically more attractive and readable. I’ve heard complaints that the front is too crowded. It is, but it’s less crowded than before. The front also seems a bit newsier than it did previously, with the wacky, offbeat stuff moved farther down the page. The Boston Globe front would benefit from the same look, and I assume that’s coming.

Split personality. One problem I’ve had with for a long time is that the site comes across as very different from the electronic Globe. That stems in part from its legacy. Although the Globe has always been the driving force behind, it started out as a partnership with media outlets such as Boston magazine, Banker & Tradesman and New England Cable News. These days, it’s pretty much just the Globe, with video from NECN and New England Sports Network. But the split personality remains. Particularly frustrating is the fact that the Globe site conspires at every turn to dump you into, whether you want to go there or not.

There are also cool features on, like the “Government Center” collection of databases, that are maddeningly difficult to find.

Now, some of this is just a naming convention. Both and let you choose that day’s print edition, which isn’t much different from’s letting you choose that day’s Globe. But has always struck me as flightier and more superficial, more separated from the core journalistic mission, than those other sites. As I said above, maybe that’s changing. I hope so.

Sharing. The hot trend of the moment is technology that lets you share stories you like on various social networks. is particularly strong on this, letting you post stories to Digg,, Reddit, Newsvine, Facebook and something called StumbleUpon, which is a new one on me. The Globe’s options are relatively paltry, limited to just Digg, Facebook and

Comments. As Adam Reilly notes, still doesn’t allow you to post comments to stories. I know that the issue has been one of computer capacity, but come on, folks – buy some servers. (Yes, the site does have message boards, but that’s rather old-fashioned.)

More stories like what? I found a new feature this morning, but it needs some work. Example: Go to Shelley Murphy’s story on MIT’s lawsuit against the architect Frank Gehry, scroll down a bit, and you’ll find a box titled “MORE STORIES LIKE THIS.” Here’s what you’ll find:

  • Patrick to consider replacing police details with flagmen
  • United Tech profit up
  • Massachusetts high schools vying to update old science labs
  • State to study plans for school construction

Obviously the algorithm needs some work.

Almost forgotten. The link to blogs has been moved to the very bottom of the front, which doesn’t strike me as a smart move. The outside blogs section needs serious updating. Let me point out just one example: Under “Politics & the media,” you will not find Reilly’s Don’t Quote Me or David Bernstein’s Talking Politics, both at; Jessica Heslam’s Messenger Blog, at; or (ahem) Media Nation.

With the Herald unveiling a redesign in September, we can see two different philosophies at work. The Herald has done something rather daring — it has almost completely broken the tie between its Web site and its print edition. Stories are posted blog-style, in reverse chronological order, throughout the day, with no differentiation made between wire copy and staff-written stories. It’s impossible to know whether some of those stories ever made their way into the print edition. And though the Herald is not exactly rolling in cash, publisher Pat Purcell has somehow found enough computer capacity to allow comments.

That said, can be easier to admire than to use. You’re constantly forced to drill down through submenus of submenus. I also find that I’m often missing stuff that I would have seen if I’d picked up a print edition. The solution I’ve hit upon — subscribing to RSS feeds for the sections of the paper I’m most interested in — isn’t entirely satisfying, as I feel as though I’m missing the flavor of the site.

The philosophy at the Globe, on the other hand, is evidently to take the Globe as a starting point and to build on it. It comes across as being similar to and, only not quite as smoothly implemented — at least not yet.

These are interesting times for newspapers. New circulation figures show that print continues its free-fall. At the same time, efforts are under way to find new ways of measuring total newspaper readership, online and in print. As my Northeastern colleague Steve Burgard tells the Globe today, “You’ve actually got more eyeballs looking at journalism than ever before.”

By putting so much of their resources into the Web, executives at the Globe and the Herald show that they understand print’s days are numbered.

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  1. Peter Porcupine

    Ah, they did worse than that! After having me as an additional political blog on the Political Intelligence page for over a year, I am now deleted, removing the final Conservative fig leaf.Sigh.Of course, they didn’t ask when they added me, so I suppose they can delete in the same way. The Lord giveth….

  2. Allan

    Dan – new site, same old shotty journalism. Curt Schilling wrote the following in his blog post this afternoon:”Any discussions about this will focus on many points, that will miss the point. Did I ‘leave’ money on the table, yes. Could I have gotten another year? I think so. In talking with my advisor Ed Hayes, assessing the market place and current free agent crop as well as existing contracts. Looking at the teams that called, my best guess would be around 14-15 million for a 1 year deal with the potential to get 25-30 for a two year deal. Shonda and I were very clear on this from the outset, we wanted no more than a year. We wanted to stay here. So while there will be points of debate, they’ll all miss the point. We got EXACTLY what we wanted, and then some. This is where we want our career to come to a close. This city, this team. This is where we want to retire, raise our kids, and walk away. We got it, all of it, and more. Did I get too little? Hell I would argue that one of the top 3 pitchers of all time just signed a 10 million dollar deal. Scott Boras could argue that one of his clients is certainly worth more than Maddux, I can’t. Actually he would be arguing that one of his clients is worth more than another of his clients right?”And then Steve Silva and the Globe writes the following, which totally misses the point!! (As Schilling said it would!) hope someone calls them to task.

  3. Peter Porcupine

    Hmmm….so he plans to run for GOVERNOR, not the Senate…

  4. Tim Allik

    Hi Dan, I’m a former news producer and project manager and so have a bias here. I like most elements of the new site very much. It’s a lighter look and feel and I appreciate that. I also am glad to see that that the rotating widget has been eliminated, an element which I never really understood or liked. Overall, the redesign is an approvement and has so far been executed well as far as I can tell, which is usually much easier said than done. My one significant complaint is that when I opened the homepage up on a standard size screen this morning, I could literally read only one single news brief without scrolling down the page. The short, cryptic headlines in the left column (“Holiday display causes controversy, “Microsoft offers free programs”) are not enough to convince me to put a dime in the proverbial newspaper box and click through. You need to scroll down to access 99 percent of the news content, but to me there isn’t a real clear sense of focus or hierarchy in the vast nether regions down there. It’s egalitarian chaos and a wee bit too overwhelming for my eyes. The white space at bottom of the page adds to a sense of “suburban sprawl.”It will be interesting to see how all of this affects site traffic.

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