UsatodayWhen I think of USA Today, I think newspaper. However, with some new changes to their site, USA today wants you to think “Social Network”.  Reading through the comments on their announcement, veteran readers are not liking the change too much. There are comments like “this redesign is horrible,” or “I think you did too much too soon,” or “Improved search, NOT.”

After taking a look at all of the new features they have added, I think it was a great move. While some might find it hard to adjust to initially, I think they’ll end up falling in love with the new look that’s easy on the eyes, and features that will make their news experience that much better.

Usatoday1To make it “social,” they started with the obvious. Conversation. Now every single news article will have a comments section where people can discuss the news. USA Today will place the most interesting comments featured up at the top of main pages.

Along similar lines as the conversation feature, they’ve added a community center where readers will be able to find some of the best comments, user-submitted photos, and other things. You can become a member of the community by creating a profile page where you can upload photos, write a blog, upload your Avatar, and send messages to others users. Sound familiar?

They’re even adding in a voting system where readers can “recommend” an article, or vote on a story that they think others will be interested in.  The purpose of this is so that it’s easier to see what the hot topics are, or what everybody is reading.

There’s a whole list of features that I haven’t even mentioned. It’s a big change, and one that their loyal readers will probably have to adjust to. Steve Rubel over at Micro Persuasion thinks that the change is good but it doesn’t go quite far enough.  He suggests that the media needs to “bridge their communities to the ones where we already spend out time. RSS, widgets and embedded content would help here.” His ideas make sense, but I think USA Today needs to take a few baby steps after this giant step to allow readers time to catch up and adjust to the differences.