Time magazine began rolling out a redesign of its web and mobile sites Wednesday night in a bid to start punching in the same digital weight class as CNN, The Huffington Post and The New York Times.
The new site will introduce large native ad units that unfurl as readers scroll among editorial stories. Some traditional display units are also getting a refresh, with ads for Citi pulling elements from a smaller display unit on the left side to a large box in the middle of the page.
"We're rethinking the way ads should look," said Jed Hartman, group publisher of news and business at Time Inc., which includes Time magazine. Siemens, Advil and Citi are sponsors for the redesign, he added.
The new site will also includes a dizzying panoramic picture from the top of Manhattan's One World Trade Center. The image accompanies a 6,000-word magazine article on the tower as well as a digital documentary from Time's Red Border films. Advil sponsored the editorial package.
The rollout comes just days before Time's onetime mortal enemy, Newsweek, reintroduces a print magazine to newsstands. Newsweek went all-digital at the end of 2012, when Barry Diller's IAC/InteractiveCorp still owned the title, with the coverline "#LASTPRINTISSUE." Mr. Diller sold the magazine last August to IBT Media, which eventually decided to bring Newsweek back to the ink-on-paper game, albeit with far smaller circulation than before.
Time and Newsweek executives said the similar timing of their digital and print initiatives this week was a coincidence, but it helps frame publishers' dilemmas and changing priorities in the media business today.
Since April, Time has hired 35 people to fill digital roles across editorial, business and development. It's also increased its monthly unique visitors to 12.1 million in January, a 26% increase from the month a year earlier, according to ComScore. That doesn't include mobile visitors, which Time says comprise nearly half the brand's traffic. CNN's desktop site, by comparison, drew nearly 40 million unique visitors in January, according to ComScore.
The bulk of Time's revenue comes from print advertising and subscriptions, but the redesign aims to further expand its digital presence. "It was long overdue," said George Janson, managing partner and director of print for Group M, of the redesign. "There are going to be a lot of eyes on this to see how it actually materializes."
Time parent Time Inc. is spinning off from parent Time Warner in the second quarter, meaning the publishing company won't have thriving entertainment businesses to help shelter it during rough weather. Time is a key part of the company's strategy going forward, according to Time Editor Nancy Gibbs.