Dayparting scrapped. Lesson learned.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has cancelled its two-year experiment with daypart presentations of its Web content. The idea was spawned by a study that showed how people use the Internet for different things at different times of the day. So every weekday, the look, feel, content and functionality of the home page changed dramatically.

…two years of hard-won experience made it clear that we can’t be all things to all people all the time. People might want to play games or shop or read celebrity gossip, but they weren’t coming to our site for that (well, maybe for the gossip)…

…In the next few weeks, we’ll switch to using a single home page layout around the clock that, we hope, incorporates the best features from the variant designs we’ve used the past two years.

The idea of dayparting is one familiar to broadcasters. In fact, I think news consultants coined the term. Regardless, it’s a valid concept in a Media 1.0 world.

However, it — like so many other tried and true top/down media concepts — doesn’t work online, because we’ve moved far beyond the “browse” phase of the www. Nobody goes through the home page to get to content anymore. Search engines either take us to pages inside Websites, or RSS delivers them directly to our desktop. As Caroline Little of washingtonpost.com, said, “Coming in through the home page is an old model and coming in sideways is the new method of arrival for most users.”

So the concept was doomed to failure from the start, a victim of the belief that mass media rules apply to all forms of communication. The paper now will focus on its core competency of covering the news and its blogs. With that mission defined, they’ll do well, methinks.

Lesson learned.

(Thanks to PaidContent for the tip.)

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