Time Inc. websites will be getting a new look over the next few months, thanks to a new in-house platform called Element.
Ben Ronne, Time Inc.’s executive director, product, platforms, told me that this is part of a broader effort to centralize the company’s technology — for example, he said that in the past year, Time Inc. has gone from 14 content management systems to just two.
To be clear, Element isn’t the company’s new CMS. Instead, it sits on top of the CMS, and includes basic templates for how articles, galleries and recipes should look across all the different Time Inc. properties. The end result should be pages that load more quickly and are optimized for mobile.
“This is a huge step in the right direction for Time Inc. to be even simpler and even more effective at an enormous scale,” Ronne said, later adding, “We really feel like Element is going to provide the technology that our content deserves.”
Faster, cleaner pages are a nice goal, but how can Time Inc. balance that with the need for advertising? For one thing, Ronne said the team did a “huge audit” and was “ruthless” in removing things (like ad units and audience-tracking technology) that were no longer useful. Element also includes more room for native ads, which hopefully means Time Inc. can make money while using fewer banner ads.
The other issue with templates is that not every Time Inc. site should look alike — a People article shouldn’t have the exact same look as a Fortune article. To address this, Ronne said the company is taking inspiration from open source development projects. There’s a core platform, but each of the individual publications can customize it and create their own components — and they can contribute those components back to the core code base.
“We’ve got a central team that can enact a level of governance and standards to ensure that the page speed we worked so hard for doesn’t go down the tube when a brand goes off the rails,” Ronne said.
The company started the transition by rolling out Element on Cooking Light and MyRecipes. Not every property will get a full redesign as part of the process — Ronne said those two sites were overdue for a new look anyway — but the plan is to switch over every Time Inc. website by the end of the summer.