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With A Revamped Website, Geek Culture Hub Nerdist Enters “Phase Two”

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The Western Twitterer’s Burden

When I got on the phone with the team at Nerdist Industries to talk about the geek culture site’s recent redesign, I had a confession to make — even though I’m a regular listener to the Nerdist podcast, and I’ve watched a number of their YouTube videos, I’d only been to the actual website … Once? Twice?

My experience might not be typical, but it’s one illustration of how Nerdist fans aren’t necessarily focused on the main website. Here’s another: Nerdist.com reached a high of 2 million unique visitors in the last month, while the flagship Nerdist Podcast supposedly sees 5 million monthly downloads.

Editor in Chief Brian Walton acknowledged that the audience is a bit fragmented, and beyond the by now de rigueur switch to responsive design (allowing the site to adjust to any size screen, including smartphones and tablets), the redesign was also aimed at “bringing all the good stuff … to one roof.” He added, “Nerdist.com is going to be the place where, as a brand, we move forward.”

For example, he said that Nerdist will continue to run videos on its YouTube channel, but we’ll start seeing more exclusive video content on Nerdist.com.

The company was founded in 2008 by comedian Chris Hardwick, whose combination of funniness and geekiness seemed to position him perfectly for the explosion of interest in science fiction, comic books, and other elements of geek culture. (Hardwick has become a seemingly ubiquitous presence at San Diego Comic Con’s big panels.) Nerdist was acquired by Legendary Entertainment (which is behind the new Godzilla movie, among many other films) in 2012, with the promise that it would continue to operate as “an autonomous editorial brand.”

Seth Laderman, Nerdist’s senior vice president of content and operations, the website redesign kicks off “phase two” for the company (yes, I’m guessing that’s a reference), which will also involve adding more social features to the website. It won’t turn Nerdist into a full-blown social network, he said, but given Nerdist’s emphasis on community, it makes sense to create more ways for visitors to interact with each other.

Another big aim in “phase two” is to help the non-Chris Hardwick members of editorial team step further into the limelight, not just by filing regular news stories but also featuring more heavily in the podcasts and videos.

“It’s very rewarding to see the people that work here get recognition, but it’s also is a bit of a situation where fans will still say, ‘Congratulations, Chris, really good article!’” Walton added. “You deal with it, but you know, that’s because Chris is a damn good ambassador. We’re naturally creating a more distinct voice, and Chris has been nothing but supportive about it.”

Walton went to explain the team dynamics with an elaborate Voltron analogy that, frankly, went over my head.