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Gawker shakes up blog format, sales department

Gawker Media is moving to a new format for its blogs that turns the reading experience into something resembling more of an RSS reader. Will readers bite?

Gawker's new look
Gawker's new look for 2011
Screenshot by Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Web publisher Gawker Media plans to drastically change the way users interact with its network of sites with a redesign launching next year that lets users jump through stories and interactive advertising akin to using an RSS reader.

The new design was unveiled earlier today by Gawker founder Nick Denton as being the "most significant change in the Gawker model since the launch of Gizmodo and Gawker in 2002," and something that "represents some convergence of blog, magazine and television."

What that means to end users is that they'll be able to cycle through news stories from a right-hand navigation bar, without scrolling down the page like a typical site. One of the big reasons for this, Denton explained, is so that certain stories can remain pinned to the top, no matter what you're looking at, which works better with the company's high-volume publishing model.

Denton noted that a large part of the change is centered on advertising, particularly balancing the cycle of breaking news content--some stories being big, and others small-- around advertisers that are choosy about where content appears.

"We can't predict a surge in traffic; and often advertisers don't want to be associated with scandal, however enticing it is to readers," Denton said. "But the experience of Gawker, Deadspin and other sites shows that--once the dust has settled--advertisers flock to buzz and growth."

As part of the redesign, one item that's already causing controversy is the use of video ads. These have now been integrated into the reading experience, so that readers must sit through a clip prior to reading a story. These are similar to the click-through ads found on many publishing sites (including CNET), but their placement within the site now more closely resembles content.

The overall change is being attributed, in part, to the departure of two high-level Gawker sales employees, as reported by Business Insider. Gawker sales boss Chris Batty and salesman Michael Caesco have left the company due to what Denton referred to in a private employee e-mail as a "serious" divergence in strategy that "spilled over into unhealthy conflict between editorial and sales," according to the story.

"However, of all media companies, Gawker Media is one that has built itself around audience growth, in the belief that advertising will follow," Denton said in the e-mail. "That isn't the only media strategy available; it just happens to be the one that we chose; and it is to that which everybody signs up when joining the company."