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Newsweek's Redesign: Nice Try

With so many voices loudly urging magazine execs to start re-imagining their products before it is too late, they must feel besieged -- sort of like a person going through one of those mid-life crises where everybody seems to have an opinion about what you should do...except you.

In this environment, I'm impressed when any traditional media organization stays focused enough to try out a new approach. This weekend, Newsweek is unveiling a new website design. Its home page looks different and feels different, but to appropriate the famously problematic (for grammarians) Apple campaign, does it actually Think Different?

According to the company, it is using its editors to "filter" the web in order to "find the most important stories and concepts for our audience." So far, so okay. Sounds like Newsweek is becoming a content aggregator.

Next up? Interactivity. Newsweek promises to present "the most thoughtful questions and comments of our readers." Sounds like more filtering work for the editors.

Time now to exploit the archives, one of the key assets for any publication that has been around forever. In this case, get ready for Newsweekopedia, which is where you can access "decades of great NEWSWEEK coverage and commentary by topic, providing easy access to a wealth of information on everything from Google to immigration reform."

Yikes, the editors are handling this work, too!

I'm starting feel kind of dizzy.

But let's keep going.

What about UGC? "Taking advantage of the instantaneous nature of the medium, we will feature comments, questions and thoughts posted by NEWSWEEK readers to our twitter feed, sometimes in response to a question posed by NEWSWEEK editors, sometimes in connection with a story or commentary we have already published."

Oh no, I bet I know who's going to be filtering this stuff.

Next, we come to an area called "Serious Fun." Now, call me old-fashioned, but to me, serious is serious, and fun is fun. Never the twain shall meet, and so on and so forth. Anyway, the bad news for this serious type of fun work is that, you guessed it, the editors have even more work to do:

"Every day, NEWSWEEK editors will select people, groups or concepts in the news and ask you, our readers, to weigh in. A daily play on NEWSWEEK's popular Conventional Wisdom feature, Serious Fun is intended to be a thinking person's diversion, something that satisfies both your Webby sweet tooth and your hunger for deeper discussion and understanding. Express your opinion and then join the discussion on each topic."

Sweet tooth? More like a heroin addiction.

This is getting to be a somewhat longer and a much snarkier post than I had intended to write. I'm really trying to support the guys over at Newsweek for at least trying to do something new. But somehow the writing they've shared with us is so breathlessly idiotic that I feel like someone over there just discovered what a browser does or the miracle of email or something.

Which brings us to "In the Know." Here is what that's about: "You know the Web is full of informational gems â€" nuggets of insight and knowledge all too often impossible to find amid the minute-by-minute updates of the mass media. Every day, NEWSWEEK editors will seek out those jewels and deliver them to you, whether they were published on a site here in the U.S. or halfway around the world. Check "In the Know" every day to be more informed and more enlightened."

I'm starting to feel tired. Newsweek is opposed to the mass media!
Good luck, Newsweek, and good night.

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