Farewell, old friend, farewell.
Scotsman.com, the site I edited from 2001 to 2007, is about to undergo a comprehensive redesign, in much the same way as a beloved pet undergoes a comprehensive redesign when taken to the vet for the very last time.
You can see what the future holds on the new scotsman.com beta site.
What I would like to do at this point is to carry out a forensic, line by line analysis of which is the better site and why. However, I am slightly biased towards the version created when I was Editor. And, in any case, too many people like to take all-too-predictable pops at The Hootsmon – a fine Scottish institution and a vital part of our national life – and I am not going to administer a metaphorical swift kick to its happy sacks by giving yet more ammunition to its detractors.
So I have come to praise Caesar, not to bury his successor up to the neck in keech. For the record, lest these things become forgotten after the redesign, scotsman.com 2001-2007 vintage achieved great things:
Traffic increased tenfold to four million unique users a month. The site became one of Google’s top 30 worldwide news sources. The site won the Newspaper Society’s best daily newspaper site award three times. In the Newspaper Awards, it was listed ahead of papers like the FT. Our original online content saw scotsman.com shortlisted for several national and international journalism awards. Mediaweek rated it as the sixth biggest news site in the UK. Hitwise said it was the eighth.
Those achievements are pretty amazing given the site was run by a small, regional publisher with sod-all resources and a sometimes far from affectionate attitude from some newspaper colleagues. (All of whom are now, I’m sure, true believers in online journalism – or unemployed.) Compare that record to the other Scottish titles and you see quite how remarkable the soon-to-be-former scotsman.com was.
The success did not come from the repurposed newspaper content we put online. It came from what the small dotcom team did to that content and the additional online-only material we created. And it came from the close cooperation between the different parts of scotsman.com – editorial, operational, development, design, even *gasp* those grubby commercial types.
What we built back in 2001 looked nice but that was secondary to how it worked. The old scotsman.com was a model of usability. It was built with an unrelenting focus on getting the reader to what they wanted as quickly as possibly. And it was built to be easily put online by one person.
The old scotsman.com was innovative – look at our early adoption of tags (themes or topics), RSS, video podcasts and user comment. And it was put together by a remarkably talented team, who by our results could be justifiably described as world class. Most of us have left Scotsman Publications. (Many ended up at The List – an Edinburgh listings mag with a dramatically improved online presence.) However, some remain at The Scotsman – bringing their professionalism and considerable talents to bear on implementing the redesign – always a major task.
Ah yes, the redesign, well, you can have your say on it thanks to this survey on scotsman.com.