Readers, marketers take fresh look at elegant sites

A recent Neiman Journalism Lab article claimed a growing backlash against "fast, cheap, and dirty" online journalism with sites such as The Verge gaining large audiences by focusing on well-executed page design and art integration that recall the glory days of glossy print magazines.

In the news
A recent Neiman Journalism Lab article claimed a growing backlash against "fast, cheap, and dirty" online journalism with sites such as The Verge gaining large audiences by focusing on well-executed page design and art integration that recall the glory days of glossy print magazines.

Why does it matter?
It is unlikely Web-based journalism will turn away from the current model of pushing as many stories as possible, optimized for search engines to engage as many eyeballs as possible, but Marty Moe, chief content officer for Vox Media and cofounder and publisher of The Verge, says that quality over quantity in the online news experience is poised for huge growth.

"We believe no one has brought all the best elements of the digital, magazine, newspaper, and television experience to the Web and done so in a holistic way - and that's what we are trying to do," he explains.

Moe argues an emphasis on elegant design also ends up being a win-win situation for the online marketing community. "We're providing an experience for brand advertisers they're not used to having. They are now connecting with a more valuable audience."

One challenge facing these design-centric platforms is that elegant sites on a computer may not be quite as visually stunning on a mobile device. For that reason, and others, David Leavitt, VP, Weber Shandwick, suggests PR professionals need to keep in mind that even if a story for a client originally appears with a polished layout, it may end up being read as simple text on an RSS feeder or smartphone.

"The trend is toward cleaner experiences across the Web," says Leavitt. "That means everybody needs to raise their game - and that's a good thing."

Key facts

1. The Verge went from zero to 11 million unique readers in its first 12 months of business

2. Sports is the leading vertical for enhanced design with sites such as Grantland, ESPN.com, and SBNation.com

3. Earlier this year indie music site Pitchfork began publishing what it termed cover story articles - profiles of artists with specially designed dynamic layouts

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