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New face for Deja News

The firm redesigns its site to implement a more portal-like look and feel in its quest to be the home page to newsgroup aficionados.

Hoping to cash in with advertisers by categorizing its vast array of content, Deja News, a Web-based newsgroup aggregator, today launched a revamp of its home page, which now resembles the look and feel of a Net gateway site.

Similar in navigation to more "traditional" portal sites such as Yahoo and Excite, the service has organized its content into nine channels, including "Arts & Entertainment," "Computers & Science," "Health & Medicine," and "Sports and Recreation," among others.

Deja News' new strategy is also similar to that of Net community GeoCities, which leverages its users' content, instead of relying heavily on external Web links.

But the most immediate benefit of the revamp is to present a clearer picture for advertisers, who were confused about the service. Executives believed that organizing content into specific channels would provide a more focused approach to sending advertisements to a desired audience.

Content sites are beginning to jump on the portal bandwagon, offering some of the features and functionality of traditional, search-based gateway sites while leveraging their original content. Sites featuring news, financial information, and sports content are starting to offer chat, free email, and other services found on Yahoo, Excite, and other portals.

While Deja News executives will call the service an "affinity portal"--Internet gateways that present content relevant to a specific market or interest--they denied that today's announcement was a bid to compete with the big boys of the portal race.

"We're not moving into the direction to be like a Yahoo, Excite, or Lycos," said Deja News vice president of marketing David Wilson.

Rather, the newsgroup aggregator plans to use the opportunity to develop its identity as a simplified means of accessing and contributing to newsgroup forums.

"We're trying to be the Web destination for discussion," Wilson said.

The redesign marks what the company considers its bid to become a new media player, and to shed its previous image as primarily a research tool. The company has added a four-person editorial staff that sifts through newsgroups looking for commentary that it then posts on its site. Combining this content directory with free email, Deja News is hoping to be an attractive home page option for newsgroup aficionados.

Deja News currently boasts 4.5 million users and 115 million unique page views per month. In addition, the site lists 50,000 newsgroup forums. Wilson said the volume of messages and discussions made efforts to organize the material more sensible.

"[The revamp] was the genesis of ideas because we were pelted with a huge amount of content every day, and our audience couldn't keep up with it all," Wilson said.