Maybe to be at our best on mobile, publishers should think back to the web’s early, visually spare days


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Last week marked the 25th anniversary of the 1.0 release of NCSA Mosiac, the first important web browser, the one that led to…well, everything else that’s happened online in the past quarter-century. (Weird to see “World Wide Web” be listed as just one of the various systems Mosaic could work with — and only in third place!) Mosaic looks comically basic today, of course, with its default grey background, utter lack of layout (even <table> was a year-plus away), and general aesthetic case of the blahs. But from such starts spring miracles. Seemingly unrelated: The website Girlboss — “We exist to redefine success for millennial women by providing the tools and connections they need to own their futures” — redesigned recently. I know this because Girlboss editor-in-chief and COO (and past Nieman Lab Predictions contributor) Neha Gandhi emailed me, not because I am Girlboss’ Continue reading "Maybe to be at our best on mobile, publishers should think back to the web’s early, visually spare days"

#MetricShift Chat: Homepage Metrics with the Engaging News Project


This post is by Jason Alcorn from MediaShift


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Can your homepage design affect your web metrics, for better or for worse? New research from the Engaging News Project based on two news site case studies suggests that a redesign can improve page views and time on site, key data points of course for any news organization. In our #MetricShift chat on Friday, August 11, at 1 p.m. ET we’ll be talking about how to measure the success of a news site homepage. What metrics matter most? What changes are worth testing? And what lessons does this new research hold for publishers? The chat, which you can find by searching for #MetricShift on Twitter, will be moderated by Tim Cigelske, associate editor of metrics at MediaShift; and will include special guests from the Engaging News Project; MediaShift metrics and impact editor Jason Alcorn; and more. A Storify recap will be posted below after the chat.
The post #MetricShift Chat: Homepage Metrics with Continue reading "#MetricShift Chat: Homepage Metrics with the Engaging News Project"

This Bloomberg Article About Domino’s Is Set Up Like the Chain’s ‘Pizza Tracker’


This post is by Lindsey Ellefson from Mediaite


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Screen Shot 2017-03-15 at 11.05.15 AM Look at this article right now. For years, the Domino’s pizza tracker has enabled everyone from the socially anxious to the inhabitants of an entire dorm hall suite to order exactly what they wanted from the pizza chain with absolutely no human interaction whatsoever. The cool bonus was that the ordering process was actually fun. There were bright colors and even page themes to play with while a progress bar told the hungry customer, step by step, what was happening to the dough that woulds soon become their pizza. Over on Bloomberg today, there is a truly robust feature on Domino’s. Written by Susan Berfield, it focuses on the chain’s big redemption story. You recall all the commercials where Domino’s brass and cooks reviewed what was being said about their pizza in focus groups and online, then straight-up agreed that they were serving trash and vowed to change it. The choice
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Designing news products with empathy: How to plan for individual users’ needs and stresses


This post is by Libby Bawcombe from Nieman Lab


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Many people want to catch up on the news and stay informed, but these aren’t the only reasons people consume news. They also search for news in moments of crisis, times of anxiety and urgent situations. As a digital product designer for news organizations, I’ve often focused on user experience and visuals — and not enough on an individual’s personal circumstances that may affect how they perceive and comprehend the news. First, a little context: I attended An Event Apart — a conference for people who make websites — where Eric Meyer gave a great talk based on the book he and Sara Wachter-Boettcher co-wrote, called Design for Real Life. The aim of the book is to influence designers and developers to create products that don’t intrude or make assumptions about users’ identities or personal circumstances. Meyer and Wachter-Boettcher state:
You can’t always predict who will use your products, or
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How to Use Analytics to Test Your Web Design


This post is by Jennifer Aldrich from MediaShift


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Sometimes users lie. They don’t usually do it on purpose, to be fair. We can blame it on poor memory recall, something so many of us suffer from. I’ve conducted studies where participants told me they used a feature on a daily basis. But when I looked at the analytics, I saw a different story: they only used the feature maybe every 3–6 months. Could it be a misunderstanding on the part of the participants around which feature I was asking about? Yep. Could it be that they just feel like they used the feature way more than they actually did? Yep. Either way, one thing’s for sure: when you’re designing, you need to pay attention to analytics  — and you should integrate analytics tracking everywhere you can. The best way to begin: set up Google Analytics to track certain events.

Recording custom click events

Google Analytics makes it easy
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Investigating the network: The top 10 articles from the year in digital news and social media research


This post is by John Wihbey from Nieman Lab


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A nice piece of targeted empirical research with implications for news website UI and UX design, the study showed how site traffic could increase massively based on the aesthetic/functional qualities of the site — 90 percent in some cases. The study compared a contemporary “cleaner, photo-heavy scheme” versus a “more classic print-style layout.” The researchers also found that contemporary design could increase audience recall of the news content: “Layout matters, and it is consequential in terms of pageviews and what people recall from the news…Broadly, these results support news organizations experimenting with changes to their homepage, and considering a move from a more classic to a more contemporary design.” For more, see the Lab’s more detailed review. The paper is meant as both a reality check for local news organizations and as a how-to for dealing with certain realities, namely: “The typical local newspaper gets about five minutes Continue reading "Investigating the network: The top 10 articles from the year in digital news and social media research"

RJI Study: Cleaner Web Design = More Engaged Readers


This post is by Alex Remington from MediaShift


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Does page design affect the way the brain processes news stories? Yes — and we have experimental lab results that prove it.

Key takeaways

Reader experience can be significantly improved by:
  • Formatting the text of the story into shorter paragraphs.
  • Highlighting important story facts and terms.
  • Clean, uncluttered page design.
Similarly, the following distracting elements accompanying the story can reduce comprehension:
  • Flashy advertisements.
  • Photos and links to unrelated stories.
This wraps up the research I conducted for my RJI Fellowship, which I started in July 2014. To borrow a phrase from J.R.R. Tolkien, “this tale grew in the telling.”

Quick recap of the past year

I was very interested in how readers’ memory and comprehension could be affected by improving a news story’s presentation, rather than merely improving the words themselves. This led me to Paul Bolls, a professor in the University of Missouri School of Journalism and
Brain friendly version of ebola story is significantly more engaging
Brain friendly version of fracking story is significantly more engaging
Brain friendly version of personal medicine story is significantly more engaging
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2015 Webby Award Winners: Going Beyond Consumer Brands


This post is by Leigh Bloomberg from Brick By Brick from The Brick Factory


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When it comes to noteworthy design and innovative functionality, consumer brands usually get the most recognition. Luckily, The Webby Awards, the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet, categorizes its web submissions so that nonprofit organizations aren’t competing directly with the Volkswagens and Samsungs of the world. In choosing winners, the Webby committee judges websites on the following merits: content, structure & navigation, visual design, functionality, interactivity, and overall experience. In 2015, the Webbys honored superior web achievements in over 60 categories. Here, we examine winners in four categories that go beyond the consumer brand: Education, Nonprofits, Associations, and Activism.





2015 Education Winner

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Infoguide: The Sunni-Shia Divide
Council on Foreign Relations
cfr.org/peace-conflict-and-human-rights/sunni-shia-divide

When designing this Infoguide about the Sunni-Shia Divide in the Middle East, the Council on Foreign Relations was faced with a challenge: somber, academic subject matter and a ton of it. They deployed multiple tactics to
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Struggling with donations? 7 secrets to nonprofit marketing


This post is by Jessica Schram from Brick By Brick from The Brick Factory


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The biggest misconception about nonprofit marketing is that you need money to make an impact. False. In fact, studies show that today’s Americans are more inclined than ever to look for ways to give. In 2014, the number of online donors increased by 15 percent. Although Americans like to engage with social-conscious brands and seem to be giving more than ever, many nonprofits struggle with converting support into donations. Seventy-nine percent of consumers say they would donate if given the opportunity, but only 65 percent have actually done so this past year. Here are seven ways to make sure your organization meets its donation goals this year:

1. Understand your audience

Understanding what motivates potential supporters is crucial to making emotional connections with them, thereby increasing donations. A recent study by Charity Dynamics and NTEN found that the more individuals feel connected to organizations, the more likely they are to
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The Atlantic redesigns, trading clutter and density for refinement


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The Atlantic — has any general-interest magazine navigated the print-to-digital transition better? — redesigned its website last night, doing so entirely in-house and without months of public buildup. Here’s TheAtlantic.com editor J.J. Gould:
What if we described TheAtlantic.com as a direct, dynamic, digital extension of our core identity in journalism — as a real-time magazine? […] We created a site that makes a new priority of visual presentation, that offers a cleaner reading experience across digital devices, and that gives us the flexibility we need, both in our articles and on our homepage, to join the speed and urgency of the web with the noise-cutting and impact that have always been central to The Atlantic’s ambitions. The new homepage is composed of full-width modules each representing either one big story or a constellation of connected stories. We can move these modules up or down the page, Continue reading "The Atlantic redesigns, trading clutter and density for refinement"

When your newspaper wants to make a big statement, make sure you’re making it online too


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Indiana’s passed a bill that many say allows state-sanctioned discrimination by businesses against gays and lesbians, and it’s led to a huge backlash. The state’s dominant paper, The Indianapolis Star wants to take a strong stand on the matter, so it pulled out perhaps the biggest weapon a newspaper has — a front-page editorial: The move worked, getting the Star’s position a huge amount of attention — many times more than a standard editorial would have. (I must have seen that image of today’s front page at least 30 times in my Twitter stream last night; the editorial has been shared on Facebook more than 18,000 times.) If you’re going to do a blowout presentation in print, you’d want to do the same online, right? After all, a huge part of the discussion around the subject is happening far outside the Star’s print circulation area. Not really: The blow-out print presentation got slotted into a standard Gannett-made template. That included a hard-to-read headline on mobile, with Gannett-standard cluttered presentation and location-seeking modal: As the @MayorEmanuel-creating Dan Sinker put it: The followup discussion to that tweet includes some back and forth about some flexibility in the Gannett CMS that the Star apparently didn’t take advantage of. Still, it’s remarkable that, in 2015, a story that got so much thought and attention for print apparently didn’t get much for online.

Daily Must Reads, February 25, 2015


This post is by Julie Keck from Mediashift


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  1. Medium gets a bit more Twitter-like, and a bit more blog-like (Mathew Ingram / GigaOm)

  2. Making the leap from print designer to web developer (Mike Grant / Storybench)

  3. Jostling begins as FCC’s net neutrality vote nears (Brody Mullins & Gautham Nagesh / Wall Street Journal)

  4. Trouble ahead? Searching for Google’s future (Tajha Chappellet-Lanier / NPR All Tech Considered)

  5. Revenge porn boss wants Google to remove his ‘identity related’ info (David Kravets / Ars Technica)

  6. Billy Penn is Jim Brady’s biggest digital bet (Michael Depp / Net News Check)

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It’s small touches that can make a difference in New York’s layouts


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NYLogoBlackLockupLogo_outlines_whiteIn a recent long New York magazine interview with Jon Stewart, the Daily Show host made an offhand reference to a man named Conrad Murray, whom many likely recognized as the doctor who was convicted of manslaughter for prescribing the pills to Michael Jackson that eventually led to the singer’s death. But if you’re like me, you either never knew the name or had long ago forgotten it, and you would have either needed to open a new browser tab to Google him — or, more likely, just kept reading the interview without getting the reference. But on this particular article, I noticed a red line under Murray’s name, and when I hovered over it a box popped up on the side of the page informing me of his significance. In a media world focused the phrase “explanatory journalism,” I found this feature to be a simple yet elegant way of providing contextual information without disrupting the flow of reading. It seemed particularly well suited for this kind of Q&A, where the journalist can’t pause every few moments to explain something that Stewart just said. nymag-footnote According to Ben Williams, the editor of digital who oversees New York’s web content — including Vulture, The Cut, Grub Street, Daily Intel, and Science of Us — these explanatory footnotes are part of a larger effort to enhance the design and layout of New York’s feature articles. (One great example: This week’s Adam Sternbergh piece on emoji, which is littered with the things.) Each week, Williams and his designers choose one of the feature articles set to appear in the print magazine, usually the cover story, and brainstorm ways they can add visual design elements that improve the storytelling process. This has become increasingly common at many publications ever since the launch of Snow Fall, the multimedia story project produced by a team of New York Times journalists, designers, videographers, and coders — though when I mentioned Snow Fall, Williams was quick to note that New York’s forays into the medium are much less epic in scale. “It’s possible to build them with each issue and without overwhelming the team,” he said in a phone interview. nymag-jeterNew York began to experiment with designs outside the normal scope of its content management system with the publication of a long feature story on former baseball player Derek Jeter. The story centered on Jeter giving access to a photographer to document his daily life, so it lent itself to a wider display of photographs, rather than confining the images to the much narrower section allocated for text. drones-2The team then moved beyond just crisper images in October when the magazine published a story on the rise of drones. In addition to sprinkling drone-filmed videos throughout the piece, it also utilized animated gifs of cartoons hovering next to the story copy as you scrolled down. “The footnotes are an outgrowth of this,” Williams explained. The magazine runs a regular feature about a half dozen times a year that consists of a long interview with a cultural influencer. “When you read these interviews, there’s a lot of in-depth conversation,” Williams said. “And we run them as transcripts. We can’t add an explanatory sentence. So this is a nice way to give people more context on the references that are being used. If you’re reading the Marc Andreessen interview and you’re not fully immersed in the world of venture capital. then he’s kind of talking about things you don’t necessarily get, and the footnotes are the easiest way to explain it.” So what’s the editorial process like for such a project? “Once we know what’s going to be in each issue, which might be a week before it goes to press, we’ll pick a story, and often it’s the cover. It’s usually the story that will be most impactful and a lot of people will read.” For stories where they want to add footnotes, the editor who works on the story and the writer who did the interview will make the decisions on which elements need to be explained more. I asked Williams whether his team planned on building some of these tools into the CMS so they could be used more widely, but he said there were no current plans of doing so. He said such multimedia offerings can become distractions from the main text of a piece if used indiscriminately. It’s hard to determine how useful readers have found these new designs (other than my anecdotal observation that I found them informative). Williams said they aren’t measuring how many people are hovering over the footnotes. “In terms of the stories that we’re choosing for these treatments in general, they’ve been pretty successful in terms of traffic. They’ve almost always been our biggest stories on any given week. Now you can’t say necessarily that this is because of the design — it could just be the story itself that’s drawing readers. You don’t know. But certainly it’s paying off in terms of some of our most visible stories looking a lot better and they’re more pleasurable to read now, so hopefully that has some kind of traffic impact as well.”

Reprinted from SimonOwens.net.

Five fresh ideas for news design from a #SNDMakes designathon


This post is by Caroline O'Donovan from Nieman Lab


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The Society for News Design hosted its second #SNDMakes hackathon in Boston this past weekend. The last iteration of the event was held in Indianapolis, hosted about two dozen designers, developers, and journalists, and produced a handful of ongoing projects. This year’s event was hosted by Upstatement, the Boston-based design firm that’s worked with a number of media clients, including The Boston Globe, NPR, and Global News. #SNDMakes Boston participants came from both legacy media companies — including the Globe, ESPN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times — and new media outfits like Vox Media and Slate. These attendees, around 40 in all, split into six teams, each of which would produce a prototype for a news product by the end of the weekend. The idea was to organize teams based on variation in backgrounds, in hopes that not only would a viable product be conceived, but also that participants would be exposed to skills and expertise they might not encounter regularly in the workplace. “Within the context of the organization, #SNDMakes is one way we contribute to the industry by providing a vehicle to facilitate discussions about real problems all news organizations face,” says facilitator and SND digital director Kyle Ellis. “If you go back to our earliest days, SND was actually talking about convergence before that was a word people used. So, for us, #SNDMakes represents the desire to promote innovation and thought leadership, which are values we’ve always stood for.” Each iteration of #SNDMakes is designed to help participants answer a question. This time, the question was “How might we improve the content creation process for news?” Taking that as inspiration, each team brainstormed a narrower query, one that would hopefully be answered by their end product. Though not every team followed through on their initial plan and each team ended up at different points of functionality, the questions and themes of the event are worth documenting. And so, without further ado, let’s take a look at what each team came up with.

Caterone

Team 1’s project took up the question of how to guide a reader’s path through a website. “On sites like Vox.com, you often find that authors manually insert links at the end of an article that end up competing with the more impersonal metric or topic-oriented next-click modules below,” says team member and Vox developer Ryan Gantz. Instead of content recommendation based on most shared or most read, Team 1 asked, why not recommendations based on the reader’s personal interests, or an author they like? These could be algorithmically generated or executed by a person, as long as they target the user. Recc'd by HamNoGawker already uses a system something like this — when you read a story by an author, a left sidebar offers other headlines recommended by that author. To build out their concept, Team 1 used Vox as a model (two of its members were Vox employees, and Vox was the best-represented company at #SNDMakes, but they said this didn’t influence their decision). For the prototype, they experimented with a variety of possibilities for what recommendation generators could be — an individual, a content theme, a brand, or a team. The design was inspired by Yo. There are also multiple navigation modes in consideration. One metaphor the team built around was the DJ. “After reading an article or watching a video, a user chooses a DJ that suits the mood or authority they seek in a next read, rather than a topic or headline,” says Gantz. Another mode of consumption the team thought about was the newsletter or daily brief. For example, Ezra Klein fans who don’t want to read all of Vox could flip through Ezra’s 10 recommended stories on an Ezra Klein playlist screen. Writes Lisa Williams, who participated in and kept notes on #SNDMakes: “This reminds me of those little handwritten shelf tags in independent bookstores, written by staffers recommending a particular book.” The idea is interesting both from an editorial perspective, in terms of serving readers the content they want, and from a business perspective, in that it could, if successful, increase time-on-site, an increasingly important metric for advertisers.

Pre-Post

Team 2 wanted to tackle the problem of why content creators often make design decisions that might work for their own site, but don’t look as good or work as well when viewed natively on social media platforms. Facebook and Twitter offer services where users can paste a link and see how it will look when posted, but the Pre-Post team wanted to centralize those features for multiple social platforms in one place. “For example, a Vox.com editor would create a story in their CMS with a headline, images, etc. that would look great on the Vox homepage, but may be over the character limit or missing an image on Facebook/Twitter. Checking their content on every single platform after publishing is simply a lot to ask of individual content creators, especially when they’re focused on timeliness of content,” says ESPN’s Dheerja Kaur, who product managed the Pre-Post team. A special blend of skills made Pre-Post come together smoothly. For example, team member Kawandeep Virdee brought data parsing skills from his job at Embedly to the table that allowed Pre-Post to be more universally functional. Virdee says the team is working to make the product available as a standalone tool for anyone to use. “PrePost is ideal for integration directly into a CMS,” says Kaur, “but it’s also great for independent creators to check on their content to figure out why it might not be performing as well on certain platforms.”

Legit

Featuring teammates from Vox, Slate, INN, Upstatement, KPCC, and beyond, Team 3 wanted to tackle a hot-button issue around content creation — verification. Their project, Legit, looks at how fact-checking processes can be fused more seamlessly into a journalist’s workflow. legit“Early in our process, Sean Dillingham pointed out that when there’s breaking news people turn to social media because it’s fast and they care more about the speed of the news than the legitimacy,” writes team member and Slate staffer Doug Harris in an email. “At the same time, professional news organizations can seem to be slow because we must care about the legitimacy of news.” The goal of Legit is to help reporters keep track of tweets as they verify them, whether via geolocation or traditional reporting. Journalists can search tweets around a theme — for example, tweets that mentioned @BarackObama and include the hashtag #EPA — and give them a thumbs up or thumbs down. (You can demo that process here.) The Legit team has other ideas about the process of fact-checking. Could a bot be used to raise awareness of hoaxes by tweeting at people who retweet false information? Could users become part of the process? And what about platforms beyond Twitter, like Reddit or Instagram? Harris writes that, down the line, a comment box could provide reporters with a place to explain why they approved or rejected a tweet.

Anglr

Team 4’s project is focused on helping journalists quickly and efficiently find a perspective on a breaking news story that competitor outlets might not have thought of yet. (My name suggestion, Take Machine, came too late, after the name Anglr had been decided upon, alas.) “The question we tackled was how might we help journalists bring a unique perspective on a story to reach the target audience?,” says team member and Hacks/Hackers executive director Jeanne Brooks. “Enter Anglr, a search tool for journalists that helps you quickly identify a unique perspective to your story. You can search keywords to see the top stories on Google News, social ranking of each result based on Twitter and Facebook shares, and related keywords.” Lots of companies, including Twitter and Facebook, are thinking about ways to visualize what’s trending. Anglr would be a tool that does that, but with a very specific user in mind — a blogger or journalist under pressure to produce a lot of content quickly. “As we iterated on the idea, we identified a number of pain points for journalists. We felt the social data as part of the search was important because frequently editors and reporters need to make decisions not just on the story angle but on the story template as well,” says Brooks. “We thought if they were able to quickly see where information was spreading across social on their topic, they could use that to inform story format and distribution.” Brooks says the idea was intriguing enough that participants plan to keep working on finessing it.

Hmpgr

After some deliberating, Team 5 decided to tackle homepage optimization. Hmpgr is supposed to allow producers more flexibility when it comes to things like story hierarchy, image size, and headline placement. The idea, teammates told me, was to give designers back some of the control they had in the days of print. “Usability is not a core tenant for most CMSes,” says participant Kamal Grey of ESPN. “I thought it was an isolated issue, but it seemed as though a lot of my peers face the same issues with their respective editorial tools. While there are a number of third-party tools in the market, there still seemed to be a large opportunity to improve the user experience for content creators and develop tools that make their jobs easier.” The team prototyped the idea using The Verge’s homepage as a model. The challenges they ran into in conceptualizing the project are common ones: Would it be responsive? Would it work with different CMSes? They also asked more philosophical questions: What does a homepage mean, and who should have control over it? Throughout the process, Team 5 was concerned with questions of context, and how a homepage should be organized to best serve the audience. Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 4.02.21 PM Reactions to Hmpgr were very positive, though the idea does seem best optimized to a rectangle-based web. The team managed to get a sleek demo up and running; documentation of their brainstorming and building process are available on GitHub.

Attenborough

Finally we come to Team 6, which concerned itself with improving — if the name didn’t make it clear — the audio content experience. Specifically, the team was interested in thinking about how listening to a podcast or audio story could be more visually stimulating. “For example, wouldn’t it be great if you could see the photo while listening to an NPR Fresh Air personality who was describing that photo?” writes participant and Knight Lab executive director Miranda Mulligan. “In our prototype, we tried to answer: How might we more seamlessly show citations or annotations mentioned in an audio story. Attenborough tries satisfies that need by reducing the friction of connecting audio moments to web content.” The Attenborough user would be able to access photos, contextual links, or videos via mobile or desktop browser while in-audio, listening left undisrupted. Via the audio visualization, listeners are supposed to easily be able to tell how far along they are in a story and navigate the experience. There are some specific, technical challenges to what Attenborough wants to accomplish. MP3s are dumb vessels, and the information inside them is hard to access, which could make creating a generalizable product hard. “We looked at the work being done by PopUp Archive, HyperAud.io, Popcorn and Kettlecorn, and a few other projects that are all chipping a way similar-ish questions in different ways…And, well, we learned that there is still a lot of work left to be done,” writes Mulligan. Next steps after resolving those issues would be for the team to dive into how Attenborough would operate from the content creator’s perspective.
SNDMakes was more designathon than hackathon, meaning there’s less pressure for these ideas to become workable products or salable companies any time soon. Though some might have life after Boston, the idea of the event was to help spark new ideas in the minds of those who work on news design everyday. “As SND’s digital director, it’s really important to me to provide opportunities for SND members and non-members alike to come together, talk about the problems we’re facing in digital journalism, and then build solutions that we can share within our individual news organizations as the industry as a whole,” says Ellis. “SND aims to be a facilitator of important industry discussion, and now what you’re seeing with #SNDMakes is how we’re doing that for digital journalism.

In the (appropriate!) shift to mobile, is desktop sometimes being abandoned too quickly?


This post is by from Nieman Journalism Lab


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If you’re the kind of person who reads Nieman Lab, you’re probably already sick of hearing terms like “mobile first” and “mobile majority.” Web traffic, including news traffic, is shifting from desktops and laptops to tablets and smartphones — particularly phones. For years, many news organizations viewed mobile as a weird adjunct of the “real” digital product, the one they saw on their screens at their desk; a generation of terrible mobile websites followed. The trend lines are all going to mobile, and many (most?) news outlets are still behind. But a few others have gone in the other direction, with redesigns built for mobile first that, if we’re being honest, look kinda bad on bigger screens. NBC News, Sports Illustrated, Slate, The Wire, The Dallas Morning News’ (now dead) “premium” site: Reasonable people can disagree, but their hamburger-button-laden, box-and-overlay-choked recent redesigns seem to make more sense on your iPhone than your iMac. It’s a tough balance: On one hand, news sites have a lot of catching up to do on mobile. On the other, desktops and laptops aren’t going away any time soon, at least for one key market segment: people who spend their work days in front of a computer. Out of the office, yes, phones and tablets rule, and their lead will continue to grow. But the rise of the workplace as a place to read news has been one of the defining trends for online news, and most every news site still seeks peak audience during work hours Monday to Friday. I have a hard time getting too passionate about making that it’s-too-soon case — the overall trendline to mobile is still pretty overwhelming — but it is worth noting that (a) peak online news reading time is likely to remain traditional work hours, and (b) most people who are currently looking at a computer during those hours will likely keep doing so for quite a while. (Tim Cook may do 80 percent of his office work on a tablet, but slipping iPad sales would seem to indicate he’s an understandable edge case in a corporate environment.) The result could be a more bifurcated market, not a scenario where online news is, say, 85 percent mobile in three years. (There may not be too much more evening-and-weekend laptop traffic left to bleed off; I suspect most of that has already switched to phones and tablets.) This was prompted by this set of tweets started by Wolfgang Blau, director of digital strategy at The Guardian and previously online editor of Die Zeit in Germany. That’s that difficult balance: building for mobile growth, making it a top priority, but doing it without underserving the 9-to-5 audience that’ll probably be looking at a big screen for some years to come.

The Dallas Morning News abandons its “premium experience” strategy


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In yesterday’s paper, The Dallas Morning News announced it was ending its experiment with a “premium” site. We wrote about it back in October, when it launched. (The premium strategy replaced a more traditional paywall, albeit one that had hard categories of free vs. paid stories, not the metered approach most American dailies have taken. And to get my disclosure out of the way, I worked at the Morning News for eight years and root for it still.) The idea was that, rather than shut a lot of good content off from the free web, maybe you could increase digital revenue by creating a “premium” experience — a nicer look, getting rid of ads — and charging people 12 bucks a month to access it. As the DMN story notes, the premium experience was also “launched with promises of personalization and loyalty programs to come later,” which never really materialized. I appreciate the Morning News’ willingness to stray from the newspaper norm in seeking revenue. It was an early leader in wringing more revenue out of its most loyal print subscribers; it’s tried out multiple approaches to a free targeted daily product; that paywall strategy went against the grain. But you could see this result coming a Texas mile away. The premium site was not some beautiful, immersive experience — it was aggressively ugly and a pain to navigate. I found it actively worse than the non-premium site, and far from good enough an offering to drive payment. From last fall: For some more background and details, see this blog post from D Magazine, which features a good insider-juice-laden comment from Dallas journalist Eric Celeste, which I’ll just copy-and-paste here:
• It’s hard to know what lessons were learned by The News because so much of what went wrong here was a result of disorganization instead of strategy. The central question the premium site tried to answer — would people money for a better web experience (what they internally called a “velvet-rope experience”) — was never answered because that experience never materialized. This was partly due to the suicidal timeline the project employed (which caused all other digital projects current and future to be neglected) but also because some elements were never rolled out. The experiment was supposed to have three components (what Dyer would often call “three legs of the stool”): 1) a better looking site; 2) one with little-to-no ads; 3) one that offered significant subscriber perks. The third part — which was Dyer’s responsibility — never really happened. [I'd argue the first never happened either. Dyer here is chief marketing officer Jason Dyer. —Josh] They imagined offering Christmas card photos taken for you by Pulitzer-winning photogs, or game-watching parities with beat writers. They ended up offering T-shirts. That was part of the problem. The other: • The marketing/sales folks who were effing this cat never got newsroom buy-in. Top newsroom folks were against the premium site from Day 1. Once the premium site went live and starting siphoning traffic (not much, but some) from the basic site, the newsroom freaked. Understandable, since you were diluting the newsroom’s only real measure of success. And even if you think big gray corporate newsrooms need disruption, you’re not going to convince them when your efforts fail spectacularly. The number of non-subscribers who actually came to the premium site, looked around, and said, “I’ll pay for this” was “a fingers-and-toes” number, I was told today. • The News is not thinking right now about how to squeeze more money out of subscribers. It’s just trying to find a way to reach a mobile audience so it can THEN figure out how to then monetize it. The mobile efforts to which Dyer refers is just a mobile version of the premium site — I know, I know, at least this time everyone will get it for free. But there is a comprehensive, integrated (advertising/newsroom/marketing/subscription) strategy being put in place for a mobile-first platform that should start rolling out this fall and continue for a few years. It’s another valiant effort by the DMN to be nimble, to figure this new-media landscape out before it kills them. But first …

• They have to do what Dyer wrongly says they’ve done: Take valuable lessons from their failures. The DMN learned NOTHING from this it didn’t already know. The paper learned it with its paywall, and its tablet app, and when it tried to charge for high-school scores: People won’t pay for content that is ubiquitous, and the newsroom will (perhaps rightly) sabotage any effort that doesn’t get its reporters the biggest audience possible.

Is your news site too slow? Probably, though The Guardian’s trying to speed theirs up


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Web publishers face a quandary in 2014: User expectations for how quickly a website will load are getting faster and faster. But web pages keep getting fatter and fatter, adding custom fonts, bigger art, more video, and more complex JavaScript into the mix. Our 3G reality often falls short of our broadband dreams. guardian_logoPatrick Hamman at The Guardian gave an interesting talk last week at the FrontTrends conference in Warsaw about how they’re trying to make theguardian.com load a lot faster in its new, responsive design, and there are a lot of ideas in here ready to be stolen by other news site developers. One remarkable fact: A Guardian audience survey found that, of 17 key product drivers, the speed of the site ranked No. 2, behind only whether content was easy to find or not. A couple of the main ideas: The order in which a page’s assets load is critical to user perception. Load the most important parts (for a news article, the headline and text) first and load everything else (related stories, ads, comments, bottom nav, etc.) later. Let your user get started with the task she wants to complete right away. (He even suggests inlining CSS in some cases, long considered a little déclassé in modern web circles.) There’s plenty of good stuff about progressive enhancement and lazy loading if you want to learn more. Determine what an acceptable load time is — set your time budget, in other words — and test, improve, and iterate your way until you hit that goal. I loved this screenshot of a metrics email bragging that the new Guardian site was “142% faster than NY Times”: guardian-pageload-nytimes More about the Guardian redesign, including code, on GitHub.

The plague of uniform rectangles with text overlays spreads further, risks becoming news-web-wide contagion


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I appreciate Rob Meyer writing this post so I didn’t have to: It seems as though every new news site redesign has a common thread: stories presented as uniform rectangles with a text overlay. (Rob’s piece is really about the boxiness, but the text overlay trend is also approaching Defcon 3.) Bloomberg View’s redesign today prompted it, but there are plenty of others: NBC News, MSNBC, Gothamist, the top of The Verge, the “premium” version of The Dallas Morning News, Vocativ, Digg, Digiday, the less-than-loved new Slate, and more.

bloomberg-view-grid

It’s not that boxes are new or anything — the entire web is literally built on them. But it’s a clear trend and, I think at least, a slightly dispiriting one. At the same time we’re seeing increased creativity in article page design, we’re seeing a sort of clotted sameness descend upon front pages and section fronts. It encourages the reader to see everything as just another identical widget of content, I fear. And it, in some cases, limits how much text or other cues one can add to tease a story to the reader. Personally, I find them too scannable and too easily ignorable.

Rob suggests responsive design may be a cause; Ethan Marcotte, the guy who, ya know, invented responsive design says no. Far be it from me to dispute Ethan, but I think responsive has generally led to a regularization of front page chunks in order for them to reflow well on phones. And it fits with the cards metaphor we’re seeing everywhere. (Thanks, Pinterest.) But I think the bigger culprit here is the rise of tablets — both because web designers are taking cues from tablet apps and because tablet traffic is growing as a share of total traffic. What does tablet design prize? Big, tappable areas. It’s a kind of buttonization.

The plague of uniform rectangles with text overlays spreads further, risks becoming news-web-wide contagion


This post is by from Nieman Journalism Lab


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




I appreciate Rob Meyer writing this post so I didn’t have to: It seems as though every new news site redesign has a common thread: stories presented as uniform rectangles with a text overlay. (Rob’s piece is really about the boxiness, but the text overlay trend is also approaching Defcon 3.) Bloomberg View’s redesign today prompted it, but there are plenty of others: NBC News, MSNBC, Gothamist, the top of The Verge, the “premium” version of The Dallas Morning News, Vocativ, Digg, Digiday, the less-than-loved new Slate, and more.

bloomberg-view-grid

It’s not that boxes are new or anything — the entire web is literally built on them. But it’s a clear trend and, I think at least, a slightly dispiriting one. At the same time we’re seeing increased creativity in article page design, we’re seeing a sort of clotted sameness descend upon front pages and section fronts. It encourages the reader to see everything as just another identical widget of content, I fear. And it, in some cases, limits how much text or other cues one can add to tease a story to the reader. Personally, I find them too scannable and too easily ignorable.

Rob suggests responsive design may be a cause; Ethan Marcotte, the guy who, ya know, invented responsive design says no. Far be it from me to dispute Ethan, but I think responsive has generally led to a regularization of front page chunks in order for them to reflow well on phones. And it fits with the cards metaphor we’re seeing everywhere. (Thanks, Pinterest.) But I think the bigger culprit here is the rise of tablets — both because web designers are taking cues from tablet apps and because tablet traffic is growing as a share of total traffic. What does tablet design prize? Big, tappable areas. It’s a kind of buttonization.

This Week in Review: The Times launches native ads, and Yahoo’s against-the-flow news app


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A new look and new form of ads: Most news site redesigns aren’t much of a story, but when the news organization is The New York Times and the redesign is the first one in eight years, it gets a bit more attention. There were several places to read about various aspects of what the Times implemented and why: Mashable noted that the site has become semi-responsive, with adjustable dimensions for desktops, laptops, and tablets, but still a separate mobile site for phones. Journalism.co.uk emphasized personalization and engagement, with customizable menus, personal on-site breaking news alerts, and easier commenting. Fast Company pointed out the less cluttered design, and CNN’s Brian Stelter (a former Times reporter) highlighted the new back-end publishing system. The Times’ Reed Emmons explained some of the tech changes undergirding the site.

Initial reviews for redesigns are typically notoriously bad, but early reactions to the Times’ changes were actually fairly positive. Times public editor Margaret Sullivan collected some readers’ complaints and noted that the Times is committed to continuously tweaking and improving the site. Slate’s Adrian Chen tried to explain the lack of outrage about the redesign, concluding that it doesn’t change users’ experience much. “It allows you to read the Times the way you have for years. It’s just a little prettier,” he wrote. PandoDaily’s Adam Penenberg described it as a return to the simpler Times designs of the late ’90s and early 2000s, and Poynter’s Sam Kirkland said it still feels like a desktop-first design.

The most notable part of the redesign, though, is the Times’ introduction of native advertising — ads that mimic the paper’s editorial content. As the Financial Times noted (and as the Times’ leadership promised), the newsroom isn’t involved in creation of these ads; instead, they’re being produced by a new unit within the Times’ ad department. Digiday’s Brian Morrissey explained a bit more about how the ads will fit into the site, and Ad Age’s Michael Sebastian gave a few other notes, including that the ads will remain on the site indefinitely, and that they won’t be shared by the paper’s main Twitter or Facebook accounts.

The Times had previously promised that the ads would be clearly marked as paid-for content, and the first native ad, by Dell, certainly appeared to make good. Adweek’s Lucia Moses said the Times went further than most in identifying its content as an ad, noting that if the point of native advertising is to trick readers into thinking it’s editorial content, the Times labeling will defeat that purpose.

Still, blogger Andrew Sullivan was concerned that the news/advertising distinction isn’t strong enough, noting that it could get lost when the post is viewed outside the context of the rest of the site. And at The Guardian, Emily Bell said two questions need to be answered as native advertising becomes more widespread: How long will this trend last, and how transparent these ads will be.

yahoo-news-digestYahoo moves further into mobile news: Yahoo announced several new developments this week, including the launch of an app called the Yahoo News Digest that sends a twice-daily summary of stories to users. It’s the first new app based on Summly, the news-summarizing app Yahoo bought last year. The Verge’s Casey Newton has a very good summary of what makes this app distinct: It’s not personalized, but instead offers a single curated digest to everyone. It also has a definitive ending point, in contrast to the endless stream of news that’s in vogue elsewhere. Because of those distinctive choices, Newton called the News Digest “one of the best-looking, and most quietly provocative, newsreading apps we have seen in some time.”

On the other hand, BetaBeat’s Molly Mulshine understood Yahoo’s rationale behind the app, but saw it as superfluous. (The app got some glowing early reviews, though they appear to have come straight from Yahoo employees, as BuzzFeed observed.) Yahoo also launched new tech and food sites (called “digital magazines”), with the former being led by ex-New York Times tech columnist David Pogue. Pogue’s introductory post focused on tech coverage that’s more about elegance and efficiency than devotion to gadgetry or any particular tech religion, and he talked at Yahoo’s launch event about writing about tech for “normal” people.

Yahoo also launched a new unifying ad system that allows clients to buy ads across Yahoo’s platforms in a self-service format. (Adweek and TechCrunch have the details on those changes.) And it announced the purchase of a context-based mobile app, Aviate, that’s still in private beta. Yahoo CEO explained all the changes as part of a shift a mobile-centric media company that produces more of its own content and offers it in more mobile-friendly ways. Readwrite’s Owen Thomas said the changes helpfully narrow down Yahoo’s focus from its previous days of overreach, but its mission isn’t quite as cohesive and inspiring as its rival tech heavyweights.

Reading roundup: It’s only been a few days since the last This Week in Review post, but there are few ongoing stories that have continued to develop during that time. Here’s a quick rundown:

ezra-klein— We haven’t gotten official word that Ezra Klein is leaving The Washington Post after the paper reportedly rejected his proposal for a standalone explanatory journalism site, but The Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone reported that the Post has begun looking for Klein’s replacement. Gigaom’s Mathew Ingram urged the Post to cut a deal with Klein, and here at the Lab, journalism professor Dan Kennedy said the situation shows why news organizations should embrace a network model rather than one based on closely guarded control. Michael Wolff of The Guardian was skeptical, however, that such individually driven news sites represented a financially stable journalistic path.

— A few more pieces of the National Security Agency and Edward Snowden story: Wired’s Steven Levy wrote a long piece explaining what the NSA’s surveillance has meant for the tech industry. There was also some conversation among The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson, political blogger Marcy Wheeler, and Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg about whether Snowden broke the oath given to federal employees. And there were a couple of posts on the new Pierre Omidyar/Glenn Greenwald First Look Media initiative — one by Greenwald on his role in the project and another by NYU’s Jay Rosen with its new hire, Bill Gannon.

— We got a bizarre intersection between Twitter and advertising this week when the producers of the movie Inside Llewyn Davis bought a full-page ad in The New York Times that consisted solely of a tweet by Times movie critic A.O. Scott. Times public editor Margaret Sullivan checked out the story behind the ad, noting that the tweet was edited and that Scott had denied the producers permission to use his tweet in an ad. Gigaom’s Mathew Ingram and Reuters’ Felix Salmon both gave some thoughts on what the episode might mean.

— The Financial Times’ Jurek Martin and Danish professor Rasmus Kleis Nielsen offered smart, conflicting perspectives on whether the current state of American political journalism is something to be lamented (Martin’s view) or celebrated (Nielsen’s).

— Finally, The New York Times’ social media desk has loads of useful advice in this post at the Lab about what works for them and what doesn’t.