Richmond Times Dispatch
Apr 2020
The Future of Local News
Shifting young people's news consumption from social media to interactive hyper-personalized news apps.
Problem & OpportunitySolutionMedia PresenceApple GlassesrealityOSProcessStrategyDesignReflection
Although people are interested in local news, local newspapers are struggling nationwide, as experiences still offer a standardized media diet which fails to adapt to the needs of younger people who mainly rely on social media for their news consumption. However, there is an opportunity for (local) newspapers, as young people increasingly question news found on social media. To succeed, those experiences should take into account the increasingly diverse population and be fully interactive.
Strategic Group Project
4 weeks
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The Problem
Local newspapers are hurting nationwide. While young people care about the news, consuming it can feel like a chore.
Source: How Young People Consume News and the Implications for Mainstream Media
Flamingo, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University
Local newspapers are hurting nationwide, mainly due to struggling to adapt to the needs of the younger generation. As there are increasingly less people from the older generation, newspapers are forced to adapt their services, but they have yet to risk fundamentally changing the experience and putting younger folks in the center. Young people fundamentally differ from older folks not only in their interests and expectations to news experiences, but also in their core attitude in terms of what they want from them. They are primarily driven by progress and enjoyment in their lives, and this translates into what they look for in news. While their goal still remains to connect their world to the world, they have increasingly social and personal needs and they don’t see traditional news experiences as the ideal way to fulfill those. Finally, newspapers are competing with many other experiences, many of which are not primarily news experiences but serve as an indirect exposure to fulfill those needs to a certain extent. Hence, in a survey conducted by RTD comprised of 95 people aged 18-34, almost half (47%) rely mainly on social media as their primary news source.
The opportunity
Readers want to discover their local communities, but their relationships to the city are unique.
Source: How Young People Consume News and the Implications for Mainstream Media
Flamingo, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University
We have learned to curate our content. Experiences like Spotify (active personalization) and Netflix (passive personalization) are part of our daily media diet. And we even curate our own news feeds through social media apps like Twitter and reddit. In contrast, traditional news outlets still offer the same standardized media diet which hasn’t changed in decades.
Readers depend on social media because it’s the easiest way to personalize the news. But there is demand for an alternative. According to a study by Reuters and Oxford, “in light of attention around well-being, privacy and so on, young people are reflecting on their use of social media”. While roughly 1/3 of Millennials and Gen-Zers have quit some form of social media, 86% don’t trust news found on social media and 40% already pay for news products and services.
The Strategy
Your local news paper is your personal portal to the city.
Cities are becoming increasingly diverse. As a consequence, media habits of people are increasingly diverse either. In addition, news experiences should take into account the fundamental attitudes of younger people who are driven by progress and enjoyment, as mentioned earlier. Therefore, a revised news experience is based on two main factors: hyper-personalization and interactivity. News experiences need to mainly rely on a hyper-personalized feed that is individually created based on each user’s interests and needs as well as learning from their user behavior. In addition, experiences should be highly interactive, visual, and easily digestible to account for enjoyment and progress.
Introducing a new way to consume local news
Re-imagining the local news experience.
The revised Richmond Times Dispatch experience is re-imagining the way we consume (local) news. Focused on personalization and interactivity, it offers a tailored media diet to an increasingly diverse audience. Each story is fully interactive and easily digestible while allowing users to deep dive into articles as well. Whether you want to be informed quickly or spend more time on the topics you care about most, this revised news experience adapts to your individual needs.
A News Experience Tailored to Your Needs.
Through personalized onboarding, the app knows which news you care about most and prioritizes those in your feed.
Hyper-Personalized. Fully Interactive.
RTD is unlike any other news experience. Every story / article is fully interactive. In your personal feed, you only see stories you actually care about based on your user behavior and followed topics.
Interactive Story
Concise, highly visual, easily digestible.
Stories make it more easy and fun to consume the news. By accompanying the main aspects of a headline with visuals, you always know what's going on in your community, in less time.
New Opportunities for Sponsored Content.
Interactive stories create a new opportunity for increased ad revenue streams through sponsored content.
Multi Page Stories
Detailed Stories in a Continuous Feed
Some stories are more complex and need more than one page to get the point across. For such stories, you can tap on the right half of the screen to continue, just like you know it from your favorite social media apps.
Story Article
Want to Deep Dive Into a Specific Story? Swipe up!
Each story has more detailed information in a traditional article format, which is simply accessible by swiping up.
Interactive Single Story
Browse Through Stories by Topic.
Instead of going through a category-based story feed, you can browse through individual stories by topic and choose which of them peaked your interest. Individual stories have more detailed interactive content.
Curated Content Made for You.
While your personal feed is generated by an algorithm based on your behavior, the discover page shows content that is curated, trending, or might interest you. Categories and sub-categories let you follow your favorite micro-community, such as your neighborhood.
Unlimited Personalization.
You have full control over the information you see. Quickly manage followed topics or neighborhoods as well as other info.
The Process
In the following, I will thoroughly explain the main aspects of the process of arriving at our final solution. Alongside, I will give explanations about our decision-making for several critical design decisions.
Research & Strategy
Secondary & Primary Research
To holistically understand the problem and consumer demand/unmet needs, we conducted primary and secondary research, and held focus groups where we examined current market trends, consumer value drivers, competitive threats.
Main Insights
Young people are interested in local news.
  1. 70% of people under age 35 think it is important to keep in touch witch local politics and 66% think it is important to stay in touch with local events.
Young people mostly find out about local news on social media.
  1. Facebook was the best means for following local news and events, followed by Twitter, word of mouth, and public radio.
Young people pay for news services on a national level but not on a local level.
  1. No one reported subscribing to local publications, although several subscribed to national ones (The New York Times, The Washington Post).
To better understand the users we design for, we created a persona of our target users.
Competitive analysis
How Might We Get Young People to Consume News?
Based on our research, we know that young people mostly consume news through social media. Therefore, it is critical to analyze how commonly used social media is delivering information to (young) users.
Brainstorming Concepts
Based on the competitive analysis, I brainstormed 20+ different concepts which are converged down to 3 in the following.
We chose option B as it is the most impactful idea and allows for more control of the ecosystem. It is a concept that is relevant for news in general and can therefore be applied to other news experiences.
Design Principles
I used wireframes to quickly sketch initial ideas and iterate through concepts after getting feedback from test users.
For the onboarding process, it was critical to balance the effort of the user and the value of the information given. Hence, the final onboarding is short and concise, yet helps to create an initial personalization profile.
Main User Flows
In the following, 4 essential flows of the main experience are shown.
To revise the branding of Richmond Times Dispatch, I changed typography and slightly adapted colors. I chose Gilroy as it is a very modern and versatile font with many different font weights and it is equally easy to read.
Prototyping & Testing
Building the Prototype
I used ProtoPie to build prototypes of the experience that were afterwards tested with our target audience.
iteration cycle
Quickly Accessing Your Neighborhood News
During prototyping with test users, it became evident that people want to have a quick overview of all news in their neighborhood besides a personal feed. Hence, I changed the design for all categories and neighborhoods to be quickly accessible on the discover page.
I am always trying to improve ways to bring my ideas to life in an accurate manner. And what this entails is my great interest in trying out new tools. Using ProtoPie not only enabled testing user interface design remotely but also interaction design or in other words, how motion can drive design to make the overall user experience more clear, easy, and fun to use. Completing this project during COVID-19 has created new challenges and opportunities that ultimately benefited the overall outcome. While we were not only more productive, we could also practice user testing with people who are far from our physical location. Moderating such user testing sessions was a fun challenge to combat.
Dominik Hofacker
Experience Designer
Dan Ivey
Experience Designer
Thuraya Al-Wazzan
Thomas Freeman