This fall, we plan to completely overhaul SmartPlanet. Here's what's in store, and here's what you should expect in the next few weeks.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

We've been working hard for the last several months to make important changes to SmartPlanet. I want to take a moment and explain what that means. (And give you a sneak peek, too.)

A new look.

Around mid-November of this year, we're going to redesign this website again. But it's not just a redesign -- it's a rebrand, too.

Since we launched SmartPlanet in 2008, we've had an identity problem: people see the leaf and the grass in the logo and think, "green." (Or "eco" or "sustainable" or "ethical.") That's been a real challenge for us, because we are foremost a publication dedicated to covering global business innovation. We may cover corporate sustainability initiatives or environmentally-friendly products or practices, but it's just one tiny part of what we do -- yet we're finding that it's hijacking our reputation. Countless people I've spoken with over the years think we're a "green" site, which means some of the hard-edged business coverage we do isn't taken as seriously.

So we're rebranding. That means we've got a new logo, a new color scheme, a new attitude and aesthetic. The point is to visually fulfill that promise we're making with our editorial coverage.

You can see a preview of our new look in the photo at the top of this post. We're thrilled.

Addressing the "too long" and "too short" issue.

There is more to the relaunch than just aesthetics. Here at SmartPlanet, one thing I've been wanting to do for a long time is divide up our features from our news briefs, which are all published on the section called "The Bulletin." This autumn, we're going to do just that.

As a reminder, there are currently eight sections on SmartPlanet:

  • "The Bulletin," which is a collection of short news briefs published throughout the week;
  • "Business Brains," a series of profiles of interesting people from an executive standpoint;
  • "Pure Genius," a series of Q&A-format interviews with interesting people from a creative standpoint;
  • "Global Observer," a series of dispatches from urban hubs around the world;
  • "The Report," a series of shorter, reported news pieces;
  • "The Big Story," a series of long-form, reported, narrative feature stories;
  • "The Take," a series of opinion pieces from columnists Chris Nelder and C.C. Sullivan;
  • "The Word," a series of book reviews from Jenna Marotta.

(There is also a sponsored section, "Smarter Ideas & Insights," which is authored by IBM, which advertises in this publication. SmartPlanet's editorial team has no involvement in this section.)

A common complaint we always receive is that a story is "too long" or "too short." How can that be, if we're receiving both complaints at the same time and publishing stories as short as 100 words and as long as 2,000? Surely personal choice plays into the matter, but part of it is that we're not giving our stories the appropriate context. The long stories feel like blog posts; the short updates feel like half-hearted stories. We can't win because the expectations aren't right.

For SmartPlanet 3.0, we plan to formally divide the short news briefs from the longer features by housing them in completely different sections. (You can see this divide in the photo above.) Our plan is to have "The Bulletin" update through the week with new news briefs, as it has been -- but place all the other (all-original!) sections in a sort of "magazine" that we publish on the weekend. These two different types of stories will have different layouts, too.

Our hope is that you'll be able to lean back and read our "magazine" before the busy work week begins -- but then stay with us during the week as the news cycle rolls on.

Our newsletters are coming along for the ride, too.

Subscribers to our SmartPlanet Weekly newsletter will probably notice that we went off our Friday publishing schedule for the first time in years this weekend.

The reason: we're beginning to put together that "magazine" I spoke of, and that means we're starting to publish feature stories on the weekend, instead of throughout the week. To accommodate this, we've moved the Weekly from Friday -- which effectively looked back on a week's worth of stories -- to Sunday, which will preview an "issue" that just went live. The stories will be the same: subscribers to the Weekly will still get a Q&A from Pure Genius, or a couple of dispatches from Global Observer. This time around, you'll hear about them before anyone else.

Subscribers to the Daily won't notice many changes except one: we're keeping that newsletter strictly for updates from "The Bulletin." That way, there's absolutely no overlap between the two newsletters: if you want our new "magazine," you can subscribe to the Weekly; if you want updates from "The Bulletin," the Daily will do you well. (And if you want both -- and many of you already do! -- subscribe to both.)

One more thing, by the way: the look of the newsletters will soon match the look of the new site. (And yes, we're finally eliminating that right column, as so many of you have requested.)

In summary...

New look. New feel. New (and more logical) presentation of SmartPlanet stories. Plus a few keep-up-with-the-times updates, like a responsive-adaptive framework that works on tablets and smartphones alike -- yes, we're finally ditching those creaky iOS and Android apps -- and new layouts for articles that make them much easier to read.

I promise to you that we're not just rearranging parts of the site for the hell of it; almost all of the changes we're making are to address concerns about how you, the reader, experience SmartPlanet. So bear with us over these next couple of weeks as we change our publishing schedule to prepare for the new design, and don't be a stranger: if you see something funny, just drop us a line using the contact form in the bio box that each of us has below every article we write.

We're really excited about these changes, and it's been a long time coming. Stay tuned -- more information to come as we get closer to launch.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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