Category: newspapers

Is the tide turning for UX in media?

Here is a word that does not come up often enough in journalism-tech conferences:


Empathy for readers, for advertisers and for colleagues in other departments. (That last one is a big deal if you want to get innovative things done at work.)

Empathy is simply the ability to understand the feelings and perceptions of another person. And it is a key ingredient to making products a person (who is not you) might hope to use and enjoy.

Yesterday at Poynter’s Mobile News Summit (#mobilenews15) in NYC the concept came up quite a bit. Not everyone used the exact word, but their meaning was quite clear. The day was putatively about mobile, but it focused extensively on putting readers and their needs first.

One of my favorite quotes of the day was directly on that topic.

Question: Is there a business case for investing in user experience? Answer from Jim Brady of Billy Penn: Yes. Frustrating users is not a strategy.

Job opening: Senior Manager Mobile Initiatives

We are hiring a number of web and mobile positions right now – but a key to our success is this role. You can find the official listing here:

Contact me directly if you have questions.

Day to Day:

  • Assist in defining and driving the vision and strategy for Android and iOS native apps and responsive websites
  • Take a leadership role in guiding the development roadmap for native apps and web, balancing user needs, business requirements and internal resources
  • Work with the Head of Mobile and the Product Owner to turn business strategies into detailed requirements for the development team
  • Work with the Creative Director and User Experience Manager to guide development of visual and interactive designs that support business requirements and delight users.
  • Work with Digital ad team to integrate revenue requirements into all phases of strategy and development
  • Support all mobile projects via direct collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders, including corporate executives, publishers, editors, and product, revenue, design and development teams
  • Develop and track KPI for new features and products.
  • Build and maintain strong relationships with digital and mobile leads in our local markets.
  • Be a voice for the mobile consumer in all internal discussions
  • Organize and lead the monthly Mobile Editors Call

Must Haves:

  • 5+ years of product management experience
  • Experience leading an Android or iOS development project
  • Knowledge of mobile trends and technologies
  • Familiarity with human centered design principles
  • Experience with responsive web design projects
  • Success in formally or informally leading a team
  • Comfortable managing large projects amidst ambiguity
  • Skill with standard web analytics tools such as Omniture and Google Analytics
  • Skill analyzing large and diverse data sets to develop business models, track digital performance, and support strategy discussions


  • Experience with editorial products and newsroom operations
  • Familiarity with online advertising technology and business models
  • Passion for using data to drive decision making.
  • Experience with enterprise content management systems
  • Experience with A/B testing methodologies

The readers we ignore and the news they want

Millennials like news. They just don’t like you – the legacy newsroom.

Don’t take it personally. By all accounts the under-40 crowd and many over forty (API millennial study here) read and value news. But they are not paying for it in larger numbers, and they are certainly not nearly as loyal to a small handful of digital news sources as their parents were to print.

We can argue that the Internet, and even more specifically mobile phones are the leading cause of this disruption. But that takes agency away from journalists and places it squarely on “technology.” And framing it as a tech problem drives us to try and solve it with technology.

“Throw another Snapchat on that mobile template. The young people will love it. Did you check how it looks on the Apple Watch and Google Glass?”

Which is odd, because we know why people read the news, or seek out other types of information: relevancy. Technology is just a convenience that lets us access that information 24/7 in almost any location or context.

Gary Kebbel at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is organizing a conference this Fall: Mobile Me & You and I have been thinking about news, smartphones and relevancy in preparation for a talk there.

So let’s propose a maybe not too controversial theory: While much of the journalism being produced by legacy news organizations is of value to younger readers, it does not entirely speak their language nor fully reflect their lives.

Here’s a tongue-in-cheek test: open up your local printed newspaper – how many comics on the page were launched prior to 1960? FYI – that list includes B.C., Dennis the Menace, Beetle Bailey, Blondie and Prince Valiant.

Comics aside, our failings are sins of omission as much as commission.

Many newspapers are still built to cover “community” as defined seemingly generations ago as rigid beat structures constrained by geography and by local government services. Advocating a change to that system is nothing new; numerous blog posts have covered the ground. Unfortunately, experimentation has come largely but not exclusively from digital news start-ups.

These days, digital-savvy readers live seamlessly between online and offline. is their local market and Netflix their local theater. The problem is neither Amazon or Netflix are “local” in a sense that is recognizable by local media. But, chances are about 30% of your hometown have shopped at Amazon in the past year. And Netflix has 40 million U.S. customers. There is a reason suburban malls are in trouble and Blockbuster went out of business.

Any local media out there covering new Netflix releases that aren’t House of Cards? HuffPo does.

Speaking of video: Good Mythical Morning. Never heard of them? The North Carolina pair appeared recently in an advertising campaign for Wendy’s and have 7.3 million subscribers on YouTube. They have received a smattering of local media coverage. A smattering. Keep in mind the top rated cable TV show last week received 4.9 million viewers.

Any local media out there covering YouTube shows? Tubefilter does.

One last category: games. Mobile games are estimated to be a $25 billion industry this year. Globally the movie industry is a $100 billion business, about $10 billion domestically.

Any local media out there covering mobile games? Vox does – Polygon.

The list goes on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are all communities of interest comprised at least in part by your neighbors. Why do we spend so little time highlighting the conversations and content our local readers create on those platforms?

Uber, Yelp, and Pandora all have to some extent supplanted services that were previously hyper-local. But local people still continue to use them. So why don’t we cover them like we cover local taxis, business listings or radio stations?

By ceding “things that happen online” to Internet blogs and digital news start-ups we have washed our hands of a huge swath of human existence. And, we have done so for reasons that are as much due to structure and vision as resources.

This is not a “millennial” problem. It is a gap we face with any digital-friendly audience. It is not a “mobile” problem – though many of these users are mobile-first. It is not a “UX” problem as your user experience doesn’t much matter if readers find nothing of interest to read. The problem is the news industry has gone for years without needing to examine who its audience is or what they want. And our organizations have calcified to the point that it is difficult for us to even ask, much less answer the question.

Without a change in our approach and more attention paid to local lives lived online we will remain in a downward attention spiral. As readers migrate more and more to a hybrid digital/physical existence they will continue to leave us behind. Not because they don’t care about us, but because we don’t seem to care about them.

Why personalization is hard (and why you need to aggregate.)



Since it launched, Zite has been one of my favorite apps. Keying off my Twitter stream the product does an absolutely amazing job of finding stories I am 1) interested in; 2) had not seen already; 3) from sources I was unlikely to stumble across.

That sort of personalization – saving time by accurately filtering information –  is of huge value to readers. If you can reduce the number of clicks (the currency of the web) needed to find stories of interest, I am likely to return. No surprise that most media organizations have recommended story lists on their websites.

But in many cases these lists are of minimal value. Browsing just now – five of the suggested stories were more than four months old. And I was reading about the Affordable Health Care Act.

The challenge is, even the most prolific news sites (say the NYT) only publish 1000 – 1500 stories daily. Even over a week or a month, there is not enough variety to make an effective recommendation in every case. So, older or less relevant stories are surfaced. But as a pure aggregator Zite is not restricted to a single news source. A billion new pages are added to the world wide web daily. That is more than enough to recommend 50 – 100 highly relevant stories to me each day.

Doing some news math, the filtering value (or number of potential clicks saved) to the user is not comparable:

Zite: (one billion possible stories / 100 filtered stories) = 10,000,000 clicks saved.
News site: (one thousand possible stories / 10 filtered stories) = 100 clicks saved.

Yes, that is a farcical equation and the news site still returns a positive value — but not enough to be competitive.

For news publishers, there are three ways to improve our odds: 1) Improve the algorithms to eliminate outdated or irrelevant articles; 2) Reach outside your own CMS and aggregate stores from other sources; 3) Start focusing your metrics less on raw page views, and more on efficiency and value created for the reader ‘clicks saved.’ (See Cory Bergman’s ‘time saved’ take on this earlier this year.)

Yes, those aggregated links will need to be highly relevant (see improve the algorithm above) and they will lead visitors away from your site. But, all Zite does is send me away. And yet I return every day.