AOL takes page from blogs, relaunches news

NEW YORK Tue Jun 26, 2007 2:48pm EDT

The overhauled AOL news portal in an undated image courtesy of the company. REUTERS/AOL/Handout

The overhauled AOL news portal in an undated image courtesy of the company.

Credit: Reuters/AOL/Handout

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Time Warner Inc. plans to launch a test of its overhauled news portal on Tuesday, drawing influences from the uncluttered design of popular Internet blogs.

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.

AOL news can be found at news.aol.com/

"I truly believe that when you go to most news sites, it's a Web 1.0 world," Lewis D'Vorkin, senior vice president of AOL News and Sports, said, referring to the first generation of Internet sites. "They have rearranged the furniture. We have built new furniture."

AOL's sports site will also relaunch later this week following a similar design model.

D'Vorkin's work has included introducing a blog-like format about a year ago to celebrity gossip Web site TMZ.com, now one of the most closely read sites in Hollywood. TMZ is a joint venture of AOL and Warner Bros.

Like some, but not all, of its mainstream media rivals, AOL News faces a decline in visitors in the past month, according to comScore Media Metrix figures for May.

Even as top news site Yahoo News' traffic rose 8 percent to 33.7 million unique visitors in May, AOL News traffic fell 12 percent to 19.1 million. The New York Times brand site also fell 9 percent to 8.3 million visitors in May.

AOL overhauled its business model last summer, when it decided to give away most of its services away for free to boost online advertising by focusing on its free portal.

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 is occupied by wire feeds from major news sources from the Associated Press, ABC News, CBS News and others. AOL News bloggers entries will also appear on the right column.

The left side of the page will feature user-submitted news and top stories voted on or commented on by viewers.

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.

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