They quickly set to restoring the original look of each writer’s homepage. It took less than one full business day to make the changes. “Web Site Paradise Restored!” James Fallows proclaimed after the re-redesign was launched yesterday.
Still, the fix of the bloggers’ individual sites does not change the fact that The Atlantic has introduced a new way to think about Atlantic online content. As Klein wrote before the changes were made yesterday, the redesign isn’t necessarily bad—it’s just a different animal. TheAtlantic.com writers have always been brands unto themselves, but the new clearly labeled “channels” now promote the Atlantic brand over the individual personalities that write for it online:
As things stood a week ago, there really was no Atlantic online. Instead, there was a respected magazine called The Atlantic Monthly that had agreed to offer web hosting to a certain number of blogs. You never heard anyone say “did you read the Atlantic online today?” Instead, it was whether you’d read Ta-Nehisi, or Andrew, or Fallows. The magazine designated them “voices,” but the redesign suggests that it eventually realized they were the only ones being heard… I see the appeal of making sure that the blogs are part of the greater glory of the Atlantic, as opposed to the greater glory of the bloggers.
But Cohn disagreed that the bloggers were being de-emphasized in relation to the Atlantic brand as a whole. “The bloggers are the absolute centerpiece of the Web site,” he said, pointing out that the homepage now features the names and photographs of the site’s key bloggers, alongside links to their latest posts. “The success of TheAtlantic.com is our bloggers, and we’d be crazy to mess with that.”
In other words, Cohn wasn’t about to let his bloggers stay unhappy for long. By the end of the day yesterday, most of the site’s bloggers had come down in favor of the redesign and the “channel” format. As Megan McArdle wrote even before the changes were made:
The Internet is great precisely because it enables rapid experimentation, and failure, and change of the things that don’t work. But there’s no way of knowing whether something will work until you’ve tried it.
And after spending a weekend with his team working overtime on the redesign fix, Cohn agreed.
“It’s incredible that you can work so long on something, realize you made a mistake and fix it within forty-eight hours. It’s incredible.”