New York -- AOL on Tuesday launched a completely revamped version of AOL News, http://news.aol.com, that adopts an innovative blog format, combining traditional news sources, AOL programming and social news, all in an easy-to-use single-page experience.
The new version of AOL News has been designed to incorporate more elements of blogs and social news sites such as Digg.com.
The online division of the world's largest media company said it aimed to keep readers returning and to introduce a new generation of media consumers to the site by offering more interactive features such as polls and voting features and user-created news on one page.
The site's visitors are being encouraged to participate in the site's news as much as consume it, as evidenced by AOL News‚ new tagline: Read, Watch, Vote, Comment, Rate, Rank, Share and Discuss.
Some of the social news features had to be pulled off the site at different points in the morning and afternoon to accommodate heavy traffic, said Lewis D’Vorkin, senior vice president of AOL News & Sports.
He stressed that the revamped AOL News is in a beta phase, during which AOL is closely monitoring usage of all sections and features of the site and making the necessary adjustments.
“We had large traffic today, some big stories, so we removed some of those [social news] features to better the performance of the site,” D’Vorkin said.
AOL expects to reinstate the removed features progressively this evening and during the day Wednesday, the spokeswoman said. At press time, AOL News did not seem to be experiencing any performance problems.
Unlike other news portal sites, AOL News leverages the increasingly popular blog format that combines traditional news sources, AOL programming and social news tools to create a comprehensive source of news and information, such as giving readers the ability to rate and share articles and post comments.
We believe that AOL News will set the standard for other major online news sites. This new, interactive experience engages news consumers in a real-time dialogue about the latest news and debate of the day.
“I truly believe that when you go to most news sites, it is a Web 1.0 world,” D’Vorkin said, referring to the first generation of Internet sites. “They have rearranged the furniture. We have built new furniture.”
“News habits have changed, and AOL News is the first site designed from the ground up to appeal to today’s online news consumer,” said D’Vorkin.
Having a hot new Web site crushed by a flood of Web traffic is almost a point of pride with the Web 2.0 set, but a company the size of AOL should be able to do better, said Rich Miller, an analyst with Web analysis firm Netcraft Ltd.
“They have got vast infrastructure and have launched large services before, so if they are having trouble I would not be bowled over by their reliability,” he said.
AOL's sports site will also re-launch later this week following a similar design model.
In addition, much like a recent redesign initiated by CNN.com, AOL News has adopted new content delivery techniques that allow users to consume more multimedia content without having to jump to and from multiple pages on the site.
Among the features of the new AOL News site:
The new design divides the page into three vertical columns, with the heart of the programming at the center column. There, AOL's editors and producers update and select top news stories, videos and photos in one place.
Much like a blog, new stories push older ones lower as they are posted.
The right column offers constantly updated news headlines, photos and breaking videos from major news sources – including The Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News, CNN and others. This column also features links to AOL’s roster of News Bloggers, including Mo Rocca, Dinesh D’Souza, The Young Turks and Power Line.
The left side of the page features stories that are generating the most user interest, including most popular and most commented on stories, along with user-submitted news.
The site also includes in-depth features, called Topics Pages, on a wide range of stories, such as elections, health, science and more. These Topic Pages include headlines, photos and videos, as well as interactive features and community elements.
D’Vorkin said the ability to personalize the news page will come in the next two to three months, using technology the company acquired from Relegence, a financial news services company.
Asked if AOL was caught by surprise by the intensity of Tuesday's traffic, D’Vorkin replied that it was not. “Nothing surprises me and nothing catches me off guard,” he said.
The AOL News redesign is groundbreaking as a “mass market” news site that adopts a blog format with a broad set of interactive, Web 2.0, social news features, he said. It brings together features that AOL has been testing and providing for several years, he said.
“We have developed a very unique site,” he said. “It is exciting to learn and present news in a vastly different way.”
AOLNews, http://news.aol.com, is one of the top four news sites on the Web, attracting more than 19 million unique visitors a month, according to comScore Media Metrix.