ZDNetTechnology news website ZDNet UK will re-launch by the end of the month to put social networking at its core.

The new site, which has been in development for the past year and is currently in the final stages of beta testing, will offer free community features aimed at turning its readership into an IT-literate community.

ZDNet UK also plans to create a new post of community editor - a hybrid marketing/editorial job - to moderate discussions, grow the community and create a dialogue with the readership.

The UK redesign is the first overhaul of sites in CNET Network's ZDNet portfolio with other sites also expected to re-launch.

"We will still have our lead stories giving people an overview of what is going on because we have got a dozen people on staff monitoring the industry," Matt Loney, ZDNet UK site director, told Journalism.co.uk.

"But equally a big part of this redesign was to let the reader decide what they want, how they get it and to give them more control over that because if we don't do that someone else will.

"We have always let people interact with the website to a degree, but now what we are doing is allowing people to log in and collect all the stuff they need together; it's like a MySpace for geeks."

The technology news provider, which currently has more than two million unique users every month, will now have a free subscription feature in which users can blog, track discussions and set up alerts on new postings based on author, subject matter and keywords.

Features also list the most-read, discussed and popular items on the site as well as highlighting readers' contributions by drawing attention to the talkback [reader's comment] of the day.

It is intended that the community editor will spur further debate and encourage the readership to bring its collective knowledge to the site though comments, forums and blogs.

"What we are trying to do is to say to the readers 'here you are, personalise your content - on our front page you'll see what we think is important but you can set up your own alerts and your own streams of content'," said Mr Loney.

ZDNet UK has no plans to introduce a paid-for service with advertising and sponsorship continuing to pay for the site.

"We wanted to do something that would increase page impressions and loyalty from our readers," added Mr Loney.

"We really want our readers to create content because every page of content they create is an extra page of content we can sell advertising against and it's an extra page of content that will bring more people to the site."

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