Ten months ago, when we introduced a reimagined print version of the Reader, I promised that significant changes to our website would follow. Of course, I didn't promise how quickly those changes would come.
It took us a while to think—and rethink, and then second-guess our rethinking—about where we wanted to go, digitally speaking. With nearly infinite space online (if not infinite patience for what columnist Michael Miner has thoughtfully described as "the digital beast")—we ended up creating the new ChicagoReader.com in pretty much the same way we created the new Chicago Reader that started showing up in street boxes last April. We managed to sweat every detail, obsess on everything, and think, rethink, overthink.
Here's the thing: does the medium really matter? In our case, not so much. What matters is the content. Our new site delivers the same in-depth articles, insightful blog posts, incisive criticism, and smartly curated events. It just does it better—in ways that are cleaner and more sensible and also more unique and innovative. Our best idea came when, upon trying to figure out how to make even better use of the thousands of Reader film reviews from our roster of venerable critics, we lamented the epic annoyance of having to crosscheck Reader-recommended movies in one tab of our browser against movies streaming live on Netflix and Hulu Plus in another.
So why not marry the two? The result, our Old Movies to Watch Now feature, does just that.
Our new expandable calendars for Agenda (the upcoming week's most interesting goings-on) and Soundboard (same deal, but for concerts) similarly take something we've done for a while and make it more accessible, intuitive, and, well, exciting. The same principles apply to our blog, the Bleader, which collects smart, shit-stirring, and sometimes heartbreaking observations from the people who think, rethink, and overthink the Reader every week.
Speaking of overthinking, I may have been wrong earlier when I said what really matters is the content. If you want me to boil it down further (as if you had to ask), what really matters is the people. And our new site makes it easier to engage with us, be it through Twitter handles published next to every byline; rosters of contributors included on the News, Music, Food, Film, Arts, and Style pages; and the author pages where you can view a staffer's work, comment on it, and shoot him or her an e-mail.
There are many more changes to come, including a whole other level of social-networking integration and a new mobile site that will change the way you navigate the city (in the same way we hope Old Movies to Watch Now will help you navigate your couch).
We want many of those changes to be informed not by our thinking but by yours. Send your comments, questions, concerns, and obsessions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just talk to us about them in the comments field below. We plan to continually evolve what we do on this new site, as well as what we'll do on other, perhaps yet-to-be-invented platforms.
Who knows? With the right amount of hustle, the next big thing might take us even less than ten months to pull off.