indiatimes-betaIndiatimes, the online portal from BCCL owned Times Internet Ltd, has received something of a makeover, tweeted @neerajarora. The changes aren’t particularly drastic (newold). Two key elements stood out for me:

Spin A Track: Halfway down the new homepage is the real eyecatching addition: a jukebox. The service, which works, but showcases limited songs, apparently hasn’t fully launched. There is more to Indiatimes’ plans than just streaming: the promise of “India’s largest music store”, and a buy button next to a song. Wonder why someone will buy a song online when they can either stream it, or just download it from one of the many sites illegally providing music online. However, there is clear synergy here with the mobile service Indiatimes 58888.

indiatimes-spin-a-track

2009 has been the year of digital music launches in India, with Hungama and Nokia launching music stores, In.com and Guruji’s music streaming/access initiatives gathering momentum, and Rediff also launching SongBuzz.

OneClick: not a very evident addition to the site (I couldn’t find it in the previous design), but key topics, probably using tags, are being showcased separately. The OneClick page provides context to news, with related news from the groups websites, timeline and frequency of coverage, related updates from Twitter and an integration of the map with news, connections between newsmakers. Perhaps the OneClick pages should have been highlighted better on the homepage. .. I just stumbled upon it, and it’s almost as if it was hidden away. OneClick is also something which NDTV Social should look to incorporate.

What does OneClick remind me of? Web18’s Connect, which is excellently optimized for search (example: link #2 for David Coleman Headley), and has the potential for delivering pageviews related to people in the news. These are similar to a product called Evri, which has been implemented by Washington Post, and allows greater discovery of content online, and connections between topics and newsmakers.

The Design

All in all, there isn’t much that is spectacular about the new design, , but frankly, anything is better than the previous one which just looked unkempt. Thankfully, every second link on this homepage doesn’t have a red NEW next to it, despite the service being months old. My.Indiatimes.com appears to be missing from the homepage. In terms of advertising spots, there are two 300×250 banners on the homepage, both of which are now in the sidebar. There is apparently no text advertising on the homepage, and Google text ads have been dropped.

Content in the sidebar has been better segmented, and the overall focus of the new design appears to be on what’s hot at the time, with better integration of HotKlix. There’s a “Times @” box which highlights the top stories at Times at a particular point in the day. This is an unusual implementation. iTimes appears to have been given significantly more pixels in this design, albeit towards the bottom of the site. There are fewer segments in the sign-in box, for Mail, iTimes and MocoLife. In the previous version, the site had tabs for mail, itimes, chat, dating, iDiva and Group SMS (i.e. MocoLife) in the sign in section.

I hope that this is an interim homepage of sorts: the previous version needed a facelift, but there is clearly some way to go before content discovery issues are addressed. The problem for Indiatimes is that there are just too many segments (just take a look at the sidebar) for the user to process and choose, and discovery of content remains tedious: Consolidation of segments is needed, and the change in the sign-in box is an indication of that. What’s needed, though, is a single sign-in, and consolidation of brands. I think it needs to begin with choosing between MocoLife and Indiatimes 58888.