SMH’s New Look Smashed By Social Media

smh homepageThe Sydney Morning Herald has relaunched their website complete with a new, and according to Twitter, terrible design. The relaunch of the website coincided with the launch of The Sydney Morning Herald as a compact edition, replacing the overly large broadsheet edition.

According to the editors, the changes to the site make the site easier to use. It has streamlined content and grouped related topics together. If you’re wanting a crash course in the changes, and what the editors of SMH think of them, check out their piece on it here.

However, many Twitter users weren’t happy with the changes, angrily posting their frustrations, using the hashtag #bringbackoldsmh.

jamie comment

The main criticism seems to be too much white screen, which is quite true.  Compared to the old layout, the new layout is quite spacey, with large margins between sections and even between stories and their headlines. This is more so towards the top of the homepage, with the page tightening up as you scroll down.

Even simple changes such as the font change have been questioned, and it could be the font change that is creating the spacey feel of the homepage.

font change 2

Placing the acquired website Daily Life under the category of “Women’s Perspective” has also riled up the Twittersphere. women's perspective daily life tweet
Placing Daily Life under a section titled “Women’s Perspective” seems to have stuck the great stories produced by the site’s writers in a small hole, limiting their scope and intimating that a woman’s opinion is a niche market. This can be problematic as women continue to strive for equality against older, white, male commentators.
daily life men women comment
daily life comment
daily life women comment
Daily Life writer, Clementine Ford, addressed the problem in an open letter to Fairfax Digital.
clementine ford face“Frankly, I expected better from Fairfax when it came to respecting its female writers and readers. As far as I can tell, you and your colleagues have not only completely disregarded the popularity of Daily Life but you’ve demonstrated a woeful lack of respect for your audience – both female AND male.”
It’s true: as a regular reader of Daily Life I hadn’t realised it was aimed 100% at women. Some of my favourite posts have been from the site’s male writers.
“I feel embarrassed that I even have to revisit lessons from Feminism 101 with you, but women’s opinions are neither niche, nor do they need to be packaged as some kind of alternative and/or irrelevant perspective from the norm (that being the default male position, where the real news and change-making occurs).”
This is the major problem I have found with the repackaging of Daily Life – women’s views are not an alternative, and they are not niche. When it’s noted that the more masculine sections of the site are labelled under “Executive Style” this is even more frustrating. Can women not be executives?
“Women’s Perspective”? For goodness sake, just because Fairfax’s mastheads have gone tabloid physically doesn’t mean they need to follow suit editorially. Could you have chosen a more disparaging way to demonstrate your complete disregard for the contributions Daily Life makes to Fairfax’s digital presence? Do you think it could have even been possible for you to decide on a more patronising tactic to show exactly which sections of the newspaper you think matter and which don’t?”
In this case, it didn’t take long for Fairfax to get the message and act. The “Women’s Perspective” title was dropped and the title Daily Life was returned on both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s websites.
clementine ford
While the website changes may have been welcomed unhappily by the reading public, the change to go “compact” for the print edition appears to be a positive.
However, that decision has also copped its fair share of flack. The “compact” format has traditionally been the marker of a tabloid style paper, like The Daily Telegraph. Articles are shorter, more sensational and aimed at entertaining rather than informing, however The Sydney Morning Herald assures quality of content will not be impacted by the physical shape of the paper. Hence, why the paper is “compact” and not “tabloid”.

tabloid compact comment

But while SMH is trying to make its print edition more popular and easier to read in most locations, it seems more and more people are accessing their news via a more digital means.

smh digital

Reading the news becomes an act of habit: we have our preferred news sources, our favourite columnists, and our favourite sections and we know where to find them. A massive change like the one The Sydney Morning Herald has undergone is going to challenge our reading habits, and in the first instance make accessing the news more difficult.

frank power facebook SMH

And for those who can’t handle the new website, the app for the iPad may be the only choice. It’s easy to use, nice to look at and has the benefit of reminding you of reading a traditional print paper. It’s easy to see the future of print when looking at this app. It will be interesting to see how in the future SMH faces the challenge of the pay wall and retaining readers.

So while SMH is treading in a new direction with a new site and a smaller sized print edition, the future of print itself hasn’t changed: it still lives on in the many possibilities that is the online world. After all, videos and images enhance text, they don’t necessarily replace the beauty of the written word.

What do you think of the changes made by The Sydney Morning Herald? How do you prefer to access your news? Let us know in the comment section below, on our Facebook page or via Twitter. 

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3 Comments

Filed under Buttons & Screens, News Wraps, Pageturning

3 responses to “SMH’s New Look Smashed By Social Media

  1. The change in font has changed the top section of the SMH homepage dramatically, e.g. Todays homepage compared to 1st of Feb – http://i.imgur.com/RVVv90j.jpg
    Also the way to get back to the homepage (and not just clicking back so as to actually refresh the data) the button moves around now, whereas before you could always click the top SMH banner….

  2. I’ll be perfectly frank: I have never liked the SMH website front page. There’s just too much going on for me to handle, so those changes don’t phase me one bit. It’s still yucky and busy and I still don’t like it, but as long as the individual article pages (often linked to me via Twitter or Facebook) are easy to read, I’m happy!

    But the broadsheet changes? I’m enough of a romantic (and a jerk – I love taking up a whole cafe table with a huge paper just to read one story) that I will actually miss that element of the reading experience. Then again, I don’t actually *buy* newspapers; I just read those that are lying around, so it won’t make an iota of difference to their bottom line what I think!

  3. Geoff

    Never had a problem with any mainstream Australian paper’s websites. Still don’t.
    As for the broadsheet vs the tabloid… give me a tabloid anytime. Those broadsheets were just totally unwieldy. Try reading one on a bus or a train or even in the loo FGS… long live the tabloid.

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