How Brand Bloggers Can Keep Up with the Times

This post is part of the Branded Blogging Series, which features tips on how to learn from the successes of some of the most innovative and successful brand blogs.

The New York Times, one of the world’s most prestigious and respected news sources, is also a leader in branded blogging.

The Times, which separates its blog section into over 60 separate blogs, should be looked to for inspiration by brand bloggers. The design of the blogs, as well as the way they engage readers and display visuals, are what captivate readers and keep traffic to the site flowing.

A recent redesign of one of the news organization’s blogs is a great case study for brand bloggers to pay attention to.

Giving Blogs their Own Look and Feel

In April, the Times rolled out the redesign of its Well blog, which focuses on health and fitness.

The new design made the site “look more like an independent website than another Times blog that might get linked from the front page now and then,” wrote Nieman Lab’s Justin Ellis.

The purpose of the redesign was to differentiate Well from the rest of the paper and reach out to a niche market. This strategy, which is also implemented by blogs like Gawker and the Huffington Post, has earned the paper money and readers.

“It’s likely Well is not the last section from to be turned into its own mini empire,” says Ellis. “As the Times continues to work on its digital subscription framework, the incentives are stronger than ever to create dedicated audiences who want to keep coming back to a part of the site.”

Prominently Displaying Visuals

The redesign of the Well blog and other niche sites, such as the Times education blog SchoolBook, placed an emphasis on visuals over text. The old layout of Well, seen on Nieman Lab, incorporated a few paragraphs of text per article on the landing page. In the redesign, the Times made the size of its pictures bigger and includes merely a caption or a short paragraph describing the article.

Director of digital design for the Times Ian Adelman told Ellis that niche blogs provide the paper the opportunity to showcase multimedia. On the main page of the site or in other news sections, “there’s a little less room for things that are unique to that content environment to surface and breath in ways that make sense.”

Well, SchoolBook and other Times blogs tell a comprehensive story with photos, which is important to the sustainability of a brand. Pages with more photos than text have an average of 94 percent more views.

Awarding Active Commenters

At the end of 2011, the Times overhauled its comment system, prominently displaying them on the story page and gave privileges to trusted commenters. The site also allowed for reply threading and made it simpler to share comments on Facebook and Twitter.

Like the other top branded blogs, the Times tuned into an important fact: In the time of social media, readers and consumers turn to the web, where they have a chance of their voices being heard.

The fact that the comments system on the blog also encourages writers for the paper to chime in shows that the company cares about its customers opinions. According to {grow} blogger Srinivas Rao, showing readers that the company is listening will only result in more brand advocates.

The Times’ blogs are designed to fit the needs of readers online. They have the power to draw in new fans, and empower the ones they’ve got — a model that all brand bloggers should follow.

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