The New Netscape

AOL's recipe for rejiggering its Netscape portal includes a heavy dose of social media with a pinch of mainstream reporting.

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Since joining AOL last year, Weblogs founder Jason Calacanis has thought long and hard about social media's potential to improve the company's various properties. Mr. Calacanis is now overseeing the reinvention AOL's passe Netscape Web portal, the first fruits of this labor. It's an original fusion of community tagging, journalistic rigor and social networking.

Similar to Digg, Reddit and other user-maintained sites, the new Netscape first prioritizes stories across 30 categories based on reader interest, which is expressed by users' posting, viewing, linking to, commenting on, forwarding and/or voting on stories. Then a team of staff bloggers and editors follow up on those stories generating the most interest. "The original stories and the discussions surrounding them takes it 80, 90 yards," Mr. Calacanis said. "Our anchors will actually pick up a phone and do some more reporting to take the stories the last 10, 20 yards."

The democratizing influence of social media has come so far inland as to infiltrate The New York Times, which now lists most e-mailed, most blogged and most searched stories online. But whether Netscape's 11.4 million users -- and the advertisers who love them -- stick around once the site goes permanently web 2.0 on July 1 remains to be seen.
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