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June 27, 2010 at 9:01 PM

MSNBC.com unveils its biggest redesign, new tactics

If you visit MSNBC.com, get ready for a big change Monday.

The news site operated by Microsoft and NBC is rolling out the biggest redesign in its 14-year history.

Among the changes is a new presentation approach that departs from the traditional, print style. Instead of starting story pages with a block of text, site editors may opt to start the page with a video or photos.

There’s a new “upscroll” feature that displays an index when users scroll upward, above the masthead. Story pages are divided vertically, displaying blocks of text, video and photos, plus a section for commenting within the story page.

Further down the pages are blocks with related stories and a dashboard that graphically shows the current, most-read topics on the site.

Also debuting on the site is a larger video player that shows transcripts and tools for clipping and sharing snippets.

“We lead with the strongest storytelling element,” said Charlie Tillinghast, president and publisher.

Instead of standard layout templates, MSNBC.com has about 30 different ad combinations possible on its pages.

“It’s a flexible layout that’s done based on the sponsorship,” Tillinghast said.

The redesign may lead to fewer page views. Instead of maximizing the number of pages users visit, MSNBC.com is trying to increase time spent on pages by enabling them to read text, watch views, peruse photo galleries and comment in one place, said designer Ashley Wells, the site’s vice president of creative development.

“The quality of the ad impressions goes way up, the engagement with the user goes up,” Tillinghast said. “If that means fewer page views, we’re fine with that.”

The emphasis on bigger pictures and video may help MSNBC.com compete against visual news sites such as The Huffington Post.

Tillinghast said the redesign gives the site more of a consumer feel that could increase its audience in the home; it’s now used mostly by adults at work.

MSNBC.com built the publishing platform in-house in Redmond and has considered commercializing the system.

It’s built with Adobe’s Flash technology and not Microsoft’s Silverlight “because of the adoption rate,” Wells said, and because Flash video ads are standard in the ad industry.

UPDATE: MSNBC.com noted that Wells’ comments about Flash are about the site’s video player. The underlying system was built with Microsoft’s ASP.NET technology.

Comments | Topics: asp.net, Digital media, digital media

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