Meta: Long live the front page
I spend a lot of time consuming the interwebs. News, analysis, listicles, infographics, longform, charts, podcasts, newsletters, streams - give them to me.
But it struck me today that the only “front pages” I visit consistently belong to Google, Twitter, and Reddit - which, appropriately, describes itself as “the front page of the internet”.
A swift review of my Pocket and Instapaper queues, and my Pinboard archives, reinforced what I suspected: in 2013 I read hundreds of pieces in the Atlantic, the NYTimes, the FT, the WSJ, Buzzfeed, Bloomberg Business Week, or on Medium.
But I cannot remember the last time I found my way to articles from any of these sites by any means other than I saw it shared on Twitter, via my [Percolate brew] (www.percolate.com), or linked to in one of the many email newsletters to which I subscribe.
I did check out to the NY Times homepage a few weeks ago - but that was because I wanted to experience their redesign.
I have no idea what most sites’ front pages look like any more, and I am not quite sure how to feel about that. And even though traditional RSS has become less important to my read-all-the-things workflow, I am more dependent than ever on both algorithmic aggregation and human curation to find the signal in the noise.
It’s also true that I’m in the minority on this - traffic to the front pages of sites like the New York Times, The Guardian, and the FT are several orders of magnitude higher than visits to any individual article page. The exceptions to this rule tended to come from an article having been “Drudged”; these days, and depending on your demographic, Reddit and the major social platforms are more likely to be the ones that upend the natural order of (non-paid-for) traffic.
In any newsroom or digital media organization, there will be talented editors (increasingly assisted by tools like ChartBeat and Visual Revenue) devoted to optimizing for the front page audience. Increasingly, there are also designers and developers working alongside editors and product managers, agonizing over how to evolve article pages to create more and better pathways to engagement in a post-front page world.
Long may they co-exist.