At a meeting with media specialists in New York, Mitra Kalita, vice president of programming at CNN Digital, stated: “The homepage is not dead.” Later, in a Poynter Institute interview, she noted the importance of a well-curated and maintained homepage to attract and keep loyal readers.
“We know we are contending with competition from other sites, feeds and platforms. We know there are audiences out there who aren't among the CNN loyalists. The challenge is to preserve and dominate a core audience even as we leverage the homepage and other platforms to find new users,” she explained in the interview.
Recently, Vox Media introduced a new take on what a homepage could be when it introduced its story packages.
While the clusters of stories that make up a package aren’t technically actual “homepages,” they are landing pages designed to capture a reader’s attention through related stories.
Sanette Tanaka Sloan, senior designer on Vox Media’s product team, explained to Nieman Labs that many of the company’s sites don’t reach readers through their homepage, but rather through an individual story.
When a user reaches the site, they’re presented with a package of stories that become a landing page, where readers can explore related content. The landing pages also provide opportunities for reporters to share stories and for SEO purposes.
“Our editorial teams were basically creating and thinking about these packages and were already using tools that weren’t entirely suited for it and just kind of working around it. So they had this notion of a tightly coupled, holistic group of stories that needed to be published mostly all at once,” Mandy Brown, Vox Media’s new head of Chorus (their CMS) stated to Nieman Labs.
Vox Media made the decision to invest in its own editorial tools rather than designing for Facebook and the like. So far, it has seen some success with the story packages.
The template was first used for the “Recode 100” list; editors adapted it from there. Reporting data from the “Recode 100,” Vox Media saw average page views per session increase from 1.2 page views per article to 2.4 page views with package stories.
However, according to the company, time spent per page was lower, with readers spending one minute and 43 seconds on package stories and four minutes on articles. The company, though, states that shorter articles could account for less time spent.
Eater has also used a packages template to great effect, creating city guides around its food coverage.