If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But feel free to give it a new coat of paint.
In February, as Texas Monthly‘s forty-second anniversary came and went, we made little-to-no fanfare about the occasion. I don’t say this as a passive-aggressive play for belated congratulations or a desperate plea for some lukewarm atta-y’alls. Rather, I make this point to illustrate that self-assessment need not be hung on the coattails of a round number. When our new year flipped, we did as we always do and checked our previous year’s work against our mission statement, which is plastered in large, bold letters in our front hall:
“If our readers have ever finished the six o’clock news or the daily paper and felt that there was something more, then they know why we started Texas Monthly.”
Over the past year, had we given you, our readers, that “something more”?
I can confidently say that we did. Last year, we published a 25,000-word story on the Lake Waco murders, a short testament to the power of the Aggies’ Midnight Yell Practice, and a fond look at George Strait and his, sniff, farewell tour. We received three National Magazine Award nominations and won seven City and Regional Magazine Awards. We saw site traffic records broken and had stories picked up across the globe. We continued to be driven by a compulsive desire to uphold the 42-year-old vision of our founding editor, William Broyles, and publisher Michael R. Levy, and its guiding light led us right.
In fact, given the ever-evolving and quickening pace of media today, those words have come to feel that much more relevant. News outlets struggle to be first rather than best. A homogenous pile of stories ricochet around in the simultaneously cavernous and suffocating halls of social media, creating an echo chamber that spins a reader around harder than jeans in the wash. It’s all too often that we look up, shell-shocked from the bombardment of information, and ask, “Where’s that ‘something more’?”
As a way to fill that void, in December 2011 we launched our news vertical, the TM Daily Post; a little more than a year later, we redesigned our entire site and completely overhauled our digital strategy. Since then, we’ve more than quadrupled site traffic, and this success and growth is directly attributable to applying Broyles’s words in the twenty-first century. And adding to them that “if our readers have ever felt like they couldn’t keep up with the daily paper, the six o’clock news, and the fifteen websites they have bookmarked, their RSS feed, their Twitter stream, their text and email alerts, and the podcasts piling up on their smartphones, then they know why we started this.”
But we wanted to push a little further. So for the past five months, we’ve been working on a few things under our website’s hood. Today we move our site from Drupal to WordPress, a change that will streamline our publishing workflow and make it frictionless for our writers to get their stories to our readers. We also refreshed our design, bundling stories by theme and topic to make it easier for you to find the kinds of stories you want to read.
To that end, a quick tour:
If you look at our navigation bar above (I’ll wait while you scroll back up), you’ll see it remains relatively unchanged, except for the important addition of a Longform channel. Here we will showcase our incredible and award-winning in-depth reporting, from recent stories—like a profile of the unstoppable Curtis Graves and this ode to the horny toad—to classics from the archives—like this very-nearly-unbelievable detective caper by the incomparable Gary Cartwright.
Above our primary nav bar is a subnav (clearly a misnomer, but alas, such is the parlance of the business). In it, we’ve called out the Daily Post, Burkablog (our politics blog), and Encyclopedia Texanica, an A-to-Z guide to some of the most important topics to Texas, from Willie Nelson and tequila to Rick Perry and the border.
Further down the homepage, you’ll find all of our latest news clustered together, a quick and visual guide to the day’s most important stories. Below that, there’s another selection of additional stories published to each of our primary verticals: Politics, Food, and Travel. We also tease out a few stories from the current issue of the magazine and a handful of #longreads, both current and archival.
On each of our channel pages—Politics, Food, Travel, and The Culture—readers can drill further down into these broad topics to find news on the #txlege, classic Texas recipes, travel guides, and the best new music and movies coming out of our state, among many other things. These pages have been designed so you can find exactly what you’re looking for and hopefully fall down an Internet wormhole of similar content (look for the “More” links at the end of each mini-section).
And if you’re on the hunt for something not featured on our pages, use our new-and-improved search function to ferret out individual stories.
Of course, we recognize we aren’t reinventing the wheel here. Many of these small tweaks and improvements have been long-overdue, and we thank you for remaining a true and loyal audience through our growing pains. That said, we welcome your feedback—both positive and negative—here in the comments and on our various social media platforms. We always want to know how we can do something more.