Death Of The Homepage Revisited

Looks like I am not the only one who is bothered by thoughts that surround the decline of the homepage. Gawker's Nick Denton posts a pretty long one on the upcoming changes to the Gawker properties, of which the most significant change is the end of the home page as we have known it at least on his network of sites. It is worth reading the post in detail and Felix Salmon's even longer take on it (it is good till the half way point, after which it disintegrates).

A quick summary of the proposed changes yields the following interesting points:

1. Plateauing of ad revenue and rising cost of content: Selling ads at quantity (CPM) is always a game with a predictable (also undesirable) end. Things get even dicier when you are a publisher of quality content (unlike a Facebook or Twitter, where the users do it for you) as the cost of producing content in the vein of Lifehacker or Gawker is not something that gets cheaper as you add more hands that create it. There is also the 80:20 problem, that 80% of your traffic comes from 20% of your content.

2. Contrary to what he says, it is the death of the front page: If every page was a front page, you'd see only excerpts of stories there. There is no more a front page, every page is a story page. I am reasonably certain that there is a graph inside Nick's computer that says engagement is greater and bounce is lower on the story pages than on the section and home pages. There may actually be a lot of method to this madness.

3. Day parting is a bold step. I think this will be a limited measured run. If he cracks it, Nick would have made the first foray for any content publisher online into this domain. As an added bonus he gets a solid legacy to lean on, which is much better than the slimy bits that is associated with him and Gawker.

4. Content cross-pollination – This is old school and done-to-death. But I think the attempt is to make it one continous system (in format) across the system. Milk more page views. Nothing new here.

5. Video: Differentiated inventory again, with more day parting. I like this.

6. The last point makes the clear that this is the final move in a long term strategy:

  • Build the audience
  • Build a differentiated set up for ads (cut out the networks)
  • Build a different ad framework (new formats)
  • Alter the brand's (Gawker's) persona
  • Hit growth targets
  • Cash it in