The Revenge of the Home Page

As social networks become less reliable distributors of the news, consumers of digital journalism are seeking out an older form of online real estate.
Illustration of a old fashioned sign that reads Welcome to Our Homepage
Illustration by Nicholas Konrad / The New Yorker

Nilay Patel, the editor-in-chief of the digital technology publication The Verge, has lately taken to describing as “the last Web site on earth.” It’s kind of a joke—there are, of course, tons of Web sites still in existence, including the likes of—but also kind of not a joke. For much of the past decade, publications’ home pages were rarely the focus of attention; journalistic outlets relied on social media to distribute what they published. The Verge is an outlier in that it invested heavily in its home page when it was out of fashion to do so. In 2022, it launched a dramatic redesign that was meant to make its site a more dynamic destination; it included a “Storystream” of short posts and visual highlights, similar to tweets, that provide dozens of updates a day in real time. The new Verge looked less like a traditional publication and more like a social-network feed, which initially struck many industry observers as ludicrous. Why bother trying to do what the social platforms already do better? The home page was dead. TikTok was the future.
数字技术出版物 The Verge 的主编 Nilay Patel 最近将 描述为“地球上最后一个网站”。这有点像个笑话——当然,还有大量网站仍然存在,包括 之类的网站——但也不是个笑话。在过去十年的大部分时间里,出版物的主页很少成为人们关注的焦点。新闻媒体依靠社交媒体来传播他们发表的内容。 The Verge 是一个例外,因为它在主页上投入了大量资金,而这样做已经不合时宜了。 2022 年,它进行了戏剧性的重新设计,旨在使其网站成为更具活力的目的地;它包括一个由短帖子和视觉亮点组成的“故事流”,类似于推文,每天提供数十条实时更新。新的 Verge 看起来不太像传统出版物,而更像是社交网络提要,许多行业观察家最初认为这很荒谬。为什么还要费力去做社交平台已经做得更好的事情呢?主页已经死了。 TikTok 是未来。

“The immediate reaction was ‘This is doomed to fail, no one will ever go to a home page again,’ ” Patel recalled. Then Twitter imploded under the leadership of Elon Musk, and all of the major social platforms pivoted away from news distribution. In the end, The Verge’s redesign worked. According to the company, the number of “loyal users” (defined as those who have five or more sessions on the site in a calendar month) increased by forty-seven per cent in the course of 2023. Though it is not a general-interest title, The Verge continues to be the most visited single site under the umbrella of Vox Media, its parent company. One could argue that its makeover, which has now become a subject of admiring chatter among media executives and the editors who work for them, heralds the revenge of the home page.
“第一反应是‘这注定会失败,没有人会再访问主页,’”帕特尔回忆道。然后,推特在埃隆·马斯克的领导下崩溃了,所有主要社交平台都放弃了新闻发布。最终,The Verge 的重新设计取得了成功。据该公司称,“忠实用户”(定义为每个日历月内在该网站进行 5 次或以上会话的用户)数量在 2023 年增加了 47%。作为兴趣标题,The Verge 仍然是其母公司 Vox Media 旗下访问量最大的单一网站。有人可能会说,它的改造现在已经成为媒体高管和为他们工作的编辑们津津乐道的话题,预示着主页的复仇。

The major social platforms operated for a long time like digital big-box stores for media content, offering a little of everything all at once. Twitter, especially, served as a one-stop shop for news and entertainment among a certain kind of very online user. In the twenty-tens, the conventional wisdom was that content was best distributed to consumers by social platforms through algorithmically personalized recommendations. You read whatever news surfaced in your Facebook or Twitter feeds. News articles circulated as individual URLs, floating in the ether of social-media feeds, divorced from their original publishers. With rare exceptions, home pages were reduced to the role of brand billboards; you might check them out in passing, but they weren’t where the action lay.
长期以来,主要的社交平台就像媒体内容的数字大卖场一样运作,一次性提供所有内容。尤其是 Twitter,它为特定类型的在线用户提供了新闻和娱乐的一站式商店。在二十世纪二十年代,传统观点认为,内容最好通过社交平台通过算法个性化推荐分发给消费者。您可以阅读 Facebook 或 Twitter 信息流中出现的任何新闻。新闻文章以单独的 URL 形式传播,漂浮在社交媒体提要的以太中,脱离了原始出版商。除了极少数例外,主页被简化为品牌广告牌的角色;你可能会顺便查看一下它们,但它们并不是行动所在。

Now digital-distribution infrastructure is crumbling, having become both ineffective for publishers and alienating for users. Social networks, already lackluster sources for news, are overwhelmed by misinformation and content generated by artificial intelligence. A.I.-driven search threatens to upend how articles get traffic from Google. Text-based media have given way to short-form videos of talking heads hosted on TikTok, Instagram, or YouTube. If that’s not how you prefer to take in information, you’re out of luck. Surrounded by dreck, the digital citizen is discovering that the best way to find what she used to get from social platforms is to type a URL into a browser bar and visit an individual site. Many of those sites, meanwhile, have worked hard to make themselves feel a bit more like social media, with constant updates, grabby visual stimuli, and a sense of social interaction. Patel told me, “What we needed to do was steal moves from the platforms.”
现在,数字发行基础设施正在崩溃,既对出版商无效,又对用户疏远。社交网络本来就乏善可陈的新闻来源,现在被人工智能生成的错误信息和内容所淹没。人工智能驱动的搜索可能会颠覆文章从谷歌获取流量的方式。基于文本的媒体已经让位于 TikTok、Instagram 或 YouTube 上托管的人物谈话短片。如果这不是您接受信息的方式,那么您就不走运了。被垃圾包围的数字公民发现,找到她以前从社交平台获得的信息的最佳方法是在浏览器栏中输入 URL 并访问单个网站。与此同时,其中许多网站都在努力让自己感觉更像社交媒体,不断更新、引人注目的视觉刺激和社交互动感。帕特尔告诉我,“我们需要做的是从平台上窃取动作。”

Perhaps the platform era caused us to lose track of what a Web site was for. The good ones are places you might turn to several times per day or per week for a select batch of content that pointedly is not everything. Going there regularly is a signal of intention and loyalty: instead of passively waiting for social feeds to serve you what to read, you can seek out reading materials—or videos or audio—from sources you trust. If Twitter was once a sprawling Home Depot of content, going to specific sites is more like shopping from a series of specialized boutiques.
也许平台时代让我们忘记了网站的用途。好的地方是您可能每天或每周多次访问的地方,以获取一批精选的内容,但这些内容显然并不是全部。定期去那里是一种意图和忠诚度的信号:您可以从您信任的来源寻找阅读材料(或视频或音频),而不是被动地等待社交源为您提供阅读内容。如果 Twitter 曾经是一个内容庞大的家得宝,那么访问特定网站就更像是在一系列专门的精品店购物。

Semafor, a global news publication that launched in late 2022, originally focussed on publishing e-mail newsletters. The rise of the newsletter was another strategy for building loyal audiences without relying on social media: rather than try to get readers to visit your Web site, you deliver your content straight to their in-boxes. But over time Semafor’s site has become more important. “It actually felt like a slightly counterintuitive choice to say, ‘We’re going to invest in building a Web page,’ ” Ben Smith, the co-founder of Semafor, told me. Smith was the long-running editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, a publication built to distribute content through social media. “We were convinced that home pages were dead. In fact, they were just resting,” he said. (The New Yorker launched a redesigned home page in late 2023, having reached a similar conclusion.)
Semafor 是一家于 2022 年底推出的全球新闻出版物,最初专注于发布电子邮件通讯。时事通讯的兴起是在不依赖社交媒体的情况下建立忠实受众的另一种策略:您无需尝试让读者访问您的网站,而是将内容直接发送到他们的收件箱。但随着时间的推移,Semafor 的网站变得越来越重要。 “实际上,‘我们要投资建设一个网页’这句话感觉有点违反直觉,”Semafor 联合创始人本·史密斯 (Ben Smith) 告诉我。史密斯长期担任 BuzzFeed News 的主编,这是一家通过社交媒体传播内容的出版物。 “我们确信主页已经死了。事实上,他们只是在休息,”他说。 (《纽约客》在 2023 年底推出了重新设计的主页,也得出了类似的结论。)

Smith sees Semafor’s site as a way to compete with social media as a real-time aggregator of information, a role that publications largely ceded in the twenty-tens. Semafor’s features include a Global Elections Hub that ranks political races around the world according to their urgency, and a function called Signals, which uses A.I. translation to help Semafor journalists search for and summarize articles from international publications. The goal is to give readers a breadth of stories and opinions at a glance. “There was a period that Twitter did that job very well,” Smith said. “It was a place where you could find diverging good-faith arguments about shared facts. Social media has stopped doing that.” He added, “People are interested in things that are curated by humans.”
史密斯将 Semafor 的网站视为与社交媒体竞争的一种方式,作为信息的实时聚合器,而出版物在 20 世纪 10 年代基本上放弃了这一角色。 Semafor 的功能包括一个全球选举中心,根据紧急程度对世界各地的政治竞选进行排名,以及一个名为 Signals 的功能,该功能使用人工智能。翻译以帮助 Semafor 记者搜索和总结国际出版物中的文章。目标是让读者一目了然地了解广泛的故事和观点。 “有一段时间,推特在这方面做得非常好,”史密斯说。 “在这里你可以找到关于共同事实的不同善意争论。社交媒体已经停止这样做了。”他补充道,“人们对人类策划的事物感兴趣。”

In recent weeks, I’ve been asking people which URLs they regularly type into their browsers these days. Some listed sports sites such as or to check for scores; others pointed to the Times’ games hub, (Of course, the Times’ main home page,, is the rare example of a media URL that has been a steady traffic colossus.) Several respondents listed Defector, a publication that was launched in 2020 by former writers of Deadspin, a sports blog under the now defunct Gawker Media umbrella. Defector is profitable, with the vast majority of its revenue coming from paid subscriptions. Jasper Wang, its head of revenue and operations, told me that the vision for Defector was “a hangout blog in the tradition of the old Gawker sites”—in other words, a place you might check on multiple times a day. “We never thought of Twitter or Facebook or Google as the core of the machine; for us, the site itself was the core of the machine,” Wang said. Defector’s home page is simple but effective, displaying the publication’s personality through its chatty headlines and its gang of regular bylines rather than through flashy design features. Other home-page modules highlight subscriber comments and upcoming digital live events, including Twitch streams. According to Defector’s data, seventy-five per cent of all paid subscribers’ visits to the site start with the home page. Cultivating that habit is also key to the site’s business model: the more times in a month a subscriber comes to the site, the more likely she is to retain her subscription in the following month.
最近几周,我一直在询问人们他们最近经常在浏览器中输入哪些网址。一些列出的体育网站,例如 或,用于检查分数;其他人则指向《纽约时报》的游戏中心。 (当然,《纽约时报》的主页 是媒体 URL 保持稳定流量的罕见例子。)一些受访者列出了由《Deadspin》前作家于 2020 年推出的出版物《Deefector》,现已解散的 Gawker Media 旗下的一个体育博客。 《叛逃者》是盈利的,其大部分收入来自付费订阅。该公司的收入和运营主管 Jasper Wang 告诉我,Defector 的愿景是“一个具有旧 Gawker 网站传统的聚会博客”——换句话说,一个你每天可能会多次查看的地方。 “我们从没想过 Twitter、Facebook 或 Google 作为机器的核心;对我们来说,网站本身就是机器的核心,”王说。 《叛逃者》的主页简单而有效,通过其闲聊的标题和一串常规的署名而不是通过华而不实的设计功能来展示该出版物的个性。其他主页模块突出显示订阅者评论和即将举行的数字直播活动,包括 Twitch 直播。根据 Defector 的数据,所有付费订阅者中 75% 的访问都是从主页开始的。培养这种习惯也是该网站商业模式的关键:订阅者一个月内访问该网站的次数越多,她在下个月保留订阅的可能性就越大。

However dynamic or sociable they become, Web-site home pages will continue to reckon with the structural problems of the social Internet. Facebook still works to track its users around the Internet, and uses the data to target them with advertising. Readers often log on to publications like the Times with their Gmail accounts, further entrenching Google as an Internet gatekeeper. Consumers’ attention is still largely dictated by algorithmic feeds, and TikTok continues to provide the best opportunity to draw new eyeballs, at least until it gets banned by the United States government. Individual sites trying to replicate the dynamism of social platforms must reckon with the fact that they are doing so at a far smaller scale. Loyal audiences are pointedly not everyone; there is a limit to how much revenue can be juiced from them. Moving away from the traffic firehose of the wider Internet seems counterintuitive, in that sense, but it may be the only viable option left.
无论网站主页变得多么充满活力或社交性如何,它们都将继续考虑社交互联网的结构性问题。 Facebook 仍在努力跟踪互联网上的用户,并利用这些数据向他们投放广告。读者经常使用 Gmail 帐户登录《纽约时报》等出版物,进一步巩固了 Google 作为互联网看门人的地位。消费者的注意力仍然很大程度上取决于算法源,而 TikTok 继续提供吸引新眼球的最佳机会,至少在被美国政府禁止之前是这样。试图复制社交平台活力的各个网站必须考虑到这样一个事实:它们的规模要小得多。忠诚的观众并不是所有人。从它们身上获得的收入是有限的。从这个意义上说,远离更广泛的互联网的流量消防水管似乎违反直觉,但这可能是唯一可行的选择。

One welcome lesson of the post-platform Internet is that sticking to what you’re good at might be a better strategy in the long run than trying to make content that’s popular. Another site that many people told me they frequented was Arts & Letters Daily, which is known for one thing: each day, it posts three links to literary-world stories published elsewhere, accompanied by short teasers—like tweets that predated Twitter. Arts & Letters Daily was founded in 1998, and its design has not changed since. The site was a sensation of the early Internet; it was acquired by the academic magazine Lingua Franca in 1999, and after Lingua Franca shut down, in 2002, was rescued by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The managing editor of the Chronicle, Evan Goldstein, who also runs Arts & Letters, described its curatorial ambit as “slightly gossipy forms of intellectual warfare.” For a time in the twenty-tens, when curation seemed like the purview of social-media platforms, Arts & Letters’ simple aggregative format seemed hopelessly dated. Yet, it continued doing what it does, and now its approach is so vintage that it looks fresh. “The algorithmic unsettling of Twitter has opened up new possibilities for old formats like ours,” Goldstein said. The longevity of Arts & Letters Daily hints at the possibility that giant social platforms may ultimately seem like an aberration in the history of digital journalism. Goldstein told me, “If you stay put long enough, everything returns.” For all the publications that spent years scrambling for clicks far afield, it may be time to turn inward, for a home-page renovation. ♦
后平台互联网的一个值得欢迎的教训是,从长远来看,坚持自己擅长的事情可能比尝试制作流行的内容更好。许多人告诉我他们经常光顾的另一个网站是《艺术与文学日报》,该网站因一件事而闻名:每天,它都会发布三个在其他地方发表的文学世界故事的链接,并附有简短的预告片——比如 Twitter 之前的推文。 《艺术与文学日报》成立于 1998 年,其设计至今未曾改变。该网站在早期互联网中引起了轰动。 1999年,它被学术杂志《通用语言》收购,《通用语言》于2002年停刊后,被《高等教育纪事报》拯救。 《纪事报》的总编辑埃文·戈德斯坦(Evan Goldstein)同时负责《艺术与文学》杂志,他将其策展范围描述为“有点八卦的知识战争形式”。在二十世纪二十年代的某个时期,当策展似乎是社交媒体平台的职权范围时,艺术与文学的简单聚合格式似乎已经过时了。然而,它继续做它所做的事情,现在它的方法是如此复古,以至于看起来很新鲜。 “推特的算法令人不安,为像我们这样的旧格式开辟了新的可能性,”戈德斯坦说。 《艺术与文学日报》的长寿暗示着大型社交平台最终可能看起来像是数字新闻史上的一个反常现象。戈尔茨坦告诉我,“如果你呆在原地足够长的时间,一切都会回归。”对于所有花了数年时间争夺远方点击量的出版物来说,现在可能是时候转向内部,进行主页翻新了。 ❖