Hkun Lat
Photo: Hkun Lat

Frontier freshens up at five

To mark our fifth birthday, we’re rewarding ourselves and our readers with a new website – one with a cleaner, magazine-style design and exclusive features for members.

When Frontier Myanmar launched in 2015, our website was a bit of an afterthought. Print was still king in Myanmar – most people were only just getting on the internet for the first time – and Frontier was very much conceived as a print-focused media organisation.

Our website was also designed to accommodate a mix of short news and longer content. Over the years we’ve thought more deeply about how we as a media organisation could best use our resources and skills to contribute to the country’s development.

We began to move away from short news stories, and our relaunch as a fortnightly publication in March 2018 freed us up further to focus on the longform (sometimes very longform) articles and investigations that we have since become known for.

This wasn’t necessarily something our website was designed for, so over the past six months we’ve been building a new site and it’s almost ready to go live. The new website will better showcase our content, particularly the great work from our photography team, through a design that more resembles a magazine – think large pictures and white space. Features and investigations will be given much more space than short news. Mobile users will of course be able to access the Frontier website through their browser, but later this year we’ll also launch a new mobile application to improve the user experience further.

The centrepiece of the website, though, is an archive of every print edition of the magazine since we started publishing five years ago. This archive will be available exclusively to members, who will be able to access it through an “issues” page after logging in.

The issues page is like a library, featuring the cover of every edition of Frontier since 2015. Click on a cover, and you’ll be taken to a contents page for that issue. The articles will be arranged almost as they are in the magazine, starting with the cover story, followed by the editorial, and ending with the backpage.

Although it sounds simple, making this happen was harder than you’d think. Because none of the articles on our current website have been tagged with an issue number, creating an archive required sorting through five years of articles and assigning them to their respective issues. A small team of newsroom staff worked long hours to tag all the articles.

Once the new site launches, we’ll still be making the articles in each print issue available for free, usually starting a week or more after the magazine comes out, like we’ve always done. But browsing our current website, you don’t get a sense of what a single issue looks like. We wanted to change that, because for us the print magazine is centralto Frontier’s identity. Members will soon be able to read a digital version of the magazine via the website as soon as we go to press, and before the print magazine hits newsstands or reaches subscribers.

The website marks a new phase for Frontier. We’re still committed to making all of our magazine content available for free in English and Burmese, because we believe that it’s important everyone has access to high-quality journalism about Myanmar, and readers should soon enjoy a much better user experience.

But we’re also thinking more about our core audience, particularly our members, and catering to their needs. We believe that the membership programme we launched earlier this year represents the future for Frontier, as it will shift us away from an advertising-based revenue model to one based on readers. We’re building a community around independent journalism, and it’s great to see that so many people believe in our mission.

This is already happening ­– we’ve had a great response to memberships so far – but the new website will only make memberships more attractive and, in the process, help us to build our financial independence.

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