Changes At WIRED (And Questions)

Earlier this month, WIRED unveiled a new design for its Science Blogs platform. But the re-design is only the most visible change to WIRED’s science coverage. There are plenty of other recent changes as well.

While I have more questions than answers at this point, I thought I’d share the changes that I do know about (and my questions).

Writers

It appears that WIRED will be moving forward with fewer science bloggers than it has in the past. Some WIRED science bloggers were notified in early March that their blogs would be cut at the end of the month.

There has been no public announcement or statement from WIRED, so it’s not yet clear how many science bloggers were cut. The only blogger who confirmed being let go was Mary Bates, author of the Zoologic blog. “I was told it wasn’t me, it was them – a new person at the helm, radical site redesign, and shifting of editorial priorities,” Bates told me, via email.

[Update: it looks like the remaining science bloggers are Gwen Pearson, Rhett Allain, Aatish Bhatia, Erik Klemetti, and Maryn McKenna – as well as the contributors to Map Lab. And, of those who are leaving, David Portree has already moved his spaceflight history blog to a new site.]

Downsizing the number of blogs comes shortly after the departure of two prominent members of WIRED’s science staff. Greg Miller, a senior staff writer who covered biology and technology (and who was one of the creators of the Map Lab blog), left WIRED in January. And Betsy Mason, former senior editor for online science, also left her full-time staff position recently (though still appears to be freelancing for the site).

I’m not sure what these changes mean in regard to the future of science coverage at WIRED.

Design Changes

One of the reasons it’s difficult to determine how many science bloggers are leaving WIRED is that the site re-design has eliminated the clearly branded blogs that populate the Science Blogs platform.

Science Blogs used to include a roster on the right side of the page listing each of the bloggers and the name of his or her blog. For example, Maryn McKenna wrote Superbug, Rhett Allain wrote Dot Physics, etc. That sidebar is no longer there.

Instead, the Science Blogs page includes only an image, headline and date for each post (sometimes with a subject matter header). If you click on a story, it will tell you the name of the author. And if you click on the name, you will see other posts by that author. But titles like Superbug or Dot Physics are gone (as are the branded sub-blog pages).

[Update: The branded sub-blogs do still exist(!) – you just can’t find them from the Science Blogs page. They can still be found if you scroll down to the bottom third of WIRED’s Science page.]

Another change with the site re-design is that comments are no longer visible unless a reader clicks on the “view comments” tab on the left-hand toolbar or at the bottom of each post. I thought this was an interesting move, given all of the discussion over the past couple of years on the value (or not) of comments.

Questions

So, those are my observations. I have a lot of questions as well. So far, I haven’t heard back from WIRED, but here are some of the things I’m curious about…

1) Which bloggers are leaving Science Blogs (and who’s staying)? [Note: This question’s been answered. See the update note in Writers section above.]

2) Why did WIRED choose to eliminate the clearly defined sub-blog brands on Science Blogs? [Note: Have since learned that they haven’t been eliminated (see relevant update note) — they’re just harder to find. New question: why?]

3) Are there, or will there be, new editorial guidelines for those bloggers remaining on the site?

4) Is WIRED planning to run fewer stories on Science Blogs, or does it plan to bring on new science bloggers or run more work from freelancers?

5) What does the future hold for online science reporting from WIRED?

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One thought on “Changes At WIRED (And Questions)

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