NBCNews.com gets a remake for its post-Microsoft life

NBC News is eager to leave its Microsoft era behind, and it now has the relaunch to prove it.

Today, NBC News plans to roll out a clean, responsive, mobile-first redesign to NBCNews.com. The new site, which will be joined by a new NBC News app later this week, is a part of NBC’s effort to bring its digital content and broadcast programming closer together as one cohesive cross-platform digital brand.

The new site comes almost two years after NBC News officially ended its 16-year partnership with Microsoft, a company NBC news doesn’t seem all that sad to see go. Working under Microsoft was like working “with our hands tied behind our backs,” NBC News president Deborah Turness said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday. “We got our site back.”

Splitting with Microsoft also gave NBC News something else: complete control over its ad sales. This, NBC News hopes, will be a big draw for brands, which can work with one company and get its ads on multiple properties — both on broadcast and digital. So when NBC says it has a new cross-platform content strategy, it’s also talking about its ad efforts.

Much of that new effort is reflected in NBC News’ ad units, which are designed to fit well with their surrounding content. The new offerings include edge-to-edge parallax ads (which stay in place behind the page as users scroll) and “cascade ads,” which flip to expose content before flipping back. It also plans to sell native ad spots, which will appear on the front page alongside its own stories.

NBC News old (left) and new (right).

NBC News’s self-sufficiency extends to the new site as a whole. While the company consulted with user-experience design company Hard Candy Shell on the core content strategy and initial prototypes, it designed both the site and its app in-house. (It did the same for the “Today Show” app it launched last year.)

Greg Gittrich, who signed on as NBC News vice president of news and product in late 2012, stressed to Digiday that the new NBC News is more than a redesign — it’s a full relaunch  “It certainly would have been easier to simply pretty up the current product,” he said. NBC News didn’t do that.

Instead of just making a few cosmetic changes, Gittrich says NBC News both built a new content-management system and focused on how to look beyond the traditional story page to explore newer, more digital ways to report and tell stories. Many stories on the new NBCNews.com will incorporate lists, large photo galleries, social media embeds, and even GIFs, giving NBC’s reporters far more flexibility to publish stories in the way that makes the most sense for the subject at hand.

NBC News is also investing heavily in original video series like “Show Me,” animated shorts that attempt to explain complicated topics in ways that are both easy to understand and easy to share. 

All of this comes as mobile visits make up a big part of NBC New’s over all traffic. In December, the site got 11 million monthly unique viewers from mobile devices — nearly a third of its desktop numbers, according to comScore.

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