Everybody knows that the use of Visual storytelling can attract readers also in the digital world. But is that all we have to care to keep our readers?
I have been saying it in the last digital projects I did for some newspapers: A simple article is the new front page. It is for most of the times where our readers meet us for the first time, and very often coming from the social medias. Keeping the focus on our traditional home pages, the way we have been doing in the last years, is not enough.
The use of visual storytelling attract readers to the story and to each details of it. But design was never such an essential tool, like it is now, in digital journalism. It is a support tool that helps each story standing on its own and luring readers into our website, if used in a strategic way.
This is the basic. The point from where we should start today when its about digital journalism strategy.
To read more:
This week I read a very interesting article about The New York Times and its plans to double its digital revenue by 2020. To achieve that, they plan to develop strategies that will entice readers to spend more time with the Times.
They announced the creation of the Express Team. “This new team will quickly and smartly weigh in on the issues and questions that are attracting attention across the day and around the world” they wrote.
This is the right approach in digital journalism frequency.
Last year I had the honor to redesign the biggest car Magazine in Europe, Auto Bild.
It was the biggest change that the magazine ever had. Typography, tables, graphics, photo language, grid, everything was rethought to make the magazine more attractive and easier to the reader.
Some weeks ago, Horizont (a specialised media magazine), evaluated the best redesigns done in Germany. Auto Bild is in the TOP 3 (with a note of 2,36 – 3 is the best) in front of traditional magazines such as Stern and Focus. I am really proud of this result, and of the amazing job done together with the Auto Bild team.For the redesign I developed 4 “project books”: StyleBook (where is all the project: with templates and libraries; despite of the style standards of typography, color and elements), Architecture Book (where all the structure of the magazine is defined: grid, distances, lines etc) and a HandBook (that explains how content and design should work together).
Bellow are some pages of the “number zero” and some very few pages of the Style Book.
Check here the “before x after” of the redesign.
Some pages of Auto Bild redesigned
Some few pages of the Style Book
I got 3 nominations at the “The Lead Awards” in Germany, with my 3 latest works. I am proud and happy with the results of bringing visual storytelling to a popular newspaper.
As visual journalists, we can get used to see sad images coming from different parts of the world.
But there are some things that are just impossible to get used to. Was the case of this last one. In the middle of the refugees crisis here in Europe, is hard to believe that this still happen today.
This photo went around the world. And even after seeing it everywhere, was very hard to do this page.
The headline says: Can a photo change the world?
I was said that there is still a lot to explore in terms of Visual storytelling with Twitter and all other social media.
During the debate last week, The Washington Post did it and illustrated its live tweets with colourful cards.
What a simple and great idea.
In the last months I have been working on the redesign and design of a publication for its both print and online platforms.
This is the 32nd (or 33rd – lost account) publication I design/redesign. And like in every project I do, I get excited, passionated, thinking almost 24hrs about it. I definitely enjoy the challenge of bringing innovation at all levels.
At this point in my career, looking to all those projects in the past and analysing all the decisions and steps I am taking in this project now, I came with a thought that for me represents the essence of what design is and what guides me in every decision I take as a visual journalist:Design can never say “here I am”. It should always say “look who I brought”.
This visual principle can make a publication catchy. A cover or page memorable.
I hope you agree.
It’s very interesting the analysis that the @NYTimes twitter team made about what they learned during one entire year. They share lot of interesting points, from the post that worked better (and why) to the problems and workflow of photo-credits on their posts.
But what really called my attention was the promise of the team to find ways to interact more with readers, although mentioning moments where he expects, as a news organization, ”to remain above the fray”:When other types of companies face a maelstrom of outrage on social media, they tend to use their social media platforms to respond to people who have been angered, seeing them in part as customers or potential customers. But as a news organization, we expect @NYTimes to remain above the fray to a certain degree, delivering our journalism and not getting caught in the middle of how it is received. It’s difficult to imagine the Times as an institution responding to individual Twitter users like an airline might respond to upset passengers. But finding a suitable way to recognize and engage sincere criticism of our journalism that reaches us via social media would be a suitable use of such platforms. In 2015, we need to spend more time thinking about ways to be responsive to readership that comes to us from social media
I’ve spent some time using the new BuzzFeed app launched this week. It’s an interesting case to study, in sense of journalism, market and news-design.
As a designer, one of the first things that I missed was the information hierarchy. The app’s main screen is called Catch Up. The first thing you see on launch is the Quickly Catch Up module, and then the rest of the main stream of the app is a mix of stories from BuzzFeed and other outlets. But the wrong use of information design results in a confused navigation. You can easily get lost and tired while going through the different articles.
On the other hand, the articles load fast, in contrast with many mobile news sites. It’s so far the best performance I have ever experienced in any news app. And yes, this is directly connected to the design decisions you take.
As a journalist, the approach from BuzzFeed impressed me a lot. The app is everything the website isn’t: news-focused, fast and serious. It doesn’t have any LOL or “cute!” logos to click, probably trying to solve a trust problem of the website (interesting article about it here).
If this is going to work or not, only the time will tell us.
Will be interesting to see how the App will develop in the next months. In an interview with the BuzzFeed news-apps editor Stacy-Marie Ishmael this week, she says:“It’s helpful to signal to people when they’ve “finished” something, even though news itself is never “over.” It’s also useful from an editorial perspective — did what we select form a cohesive and useful whole for someone browsing through? And endless scroll is a challenging user experience on mobile”
For me, this is one of the main positive points on the app: a feeling of a real selection in the huge universe of interesting stories, instead of the “endlessly scrolling articles” function that many News products are using in the last time and can be really challenging when it’s about mobile navigation.
After basically one year of its publication, I read again one of the most remarkable documents I’ve seen, and noticed something that I saw in different countries in almost all newsrooms that i developed any digital project in the last years: You can feel the frustration at a newsroom that is, even with digital steps done, still oriented by an old model.
Seeing one of the world’s leading news organisations, like the NYT, giving itself a rigorous self-examination, when its about newsroom innovation and digital strategy, is inspiring.
I recommend the reading of the full report (in the end of this post). Here are some of my takeways:
“Readers are finding and engaging with our jour-nalism in vastly different ways. More readers ex-pect us to find them on Twitter and Facebook, andthrough email and phone alerts. But the newsroompays less attention to these platforms, even thoughthey offer our main, and sometimes only, channelsto tens of millions of readers.”
“Because we are journalists, we tend to look at ourcompetitors through the lens of content rather thanstrategy. But BuzzFeed, Huffington Post and USAToday are not succeeding simply because of lists,quizzes, celebrity photos and sports coverage. Theyare succeeding because of their sophisticated social,search and community-building tools and strate-gies, and often in spite of their content.”
“The need is urgent. Our home page has been our main tool for getting our journalism to readers, but its impact is waning. Only a third of our readers ever visit it. And those who do visit are spending less time”
“Real experimentation is about adopting a rigorous, scientific method for proving new concepts and constantly tweaking them to be as successful as possible. This is how every major digital innovator — including Google and Amazon — works today (…) We must push back against our perfectionist impulses. Though our journalism always needs to be polished, our other efforts can have some rough edges as we look for new ways to reach our readers.”
“If our Collection tool were intuitive and easy to use, we could encourage readers to drag and drop a group of stories into their own collections, which they could then share. This is an opportunity to em-power readers to make something on our site with less risk to our brand.”
“Tools, templates and permanent fixes can elevate the whole report”
“That runs counter to the approach at so many ofour digital competitors. “We are focused on build-ing tools to create Snowfalls everyday, and gettingthem as close to reporters as possible,” said KevinDelaney, editor of Quartz, which is known for inno- vative storytelling formats. “I’d rather have a Snow-fall builder than a Snowfall.”
“This contrast helps illustrate one of the biggest obstacles to our digital success. We have a tendency to pour resources into big one-time projects and work through the one-time fixes needed to create them, and overlook the less glamorous work of creating tools,templates and permanent fixes that cumulatively can have a bigger impact by saving our digital journalists time and elevating the whole report. We greatly undervalue replicability.”
“We’ve heard time and again that younger readersare moving away from browsing and that they in-creasingly expect news to come to them, on social,through alerts and through personalization. Thereis a sense that “if something is important, it will findme.” We are far behind in adjusting to these trends”
“We could create a “follow” button that offers read-ers a variety of ways to curate and receive their ownnews feeds, ensuring they never miss a Modern Loveor Maureen Dowd column. With a single click, theirfavorite topics, features and writers could automati-cally be collected in a Following Inbox. We couldalso offer readers the opportunity to have alertsabout new stories sent to their phone or email.”
“The percentage of readers who visit BuzzFeedthrough social, for example, is more than six timesgreater than at The Times. They have learned,among other things, that a great Facebook post has become a better promotional device than a head-line and that the impact of social is even greateron mobile”
“Promotion doesn’t just meanusing social media sites likeTwitter and Facebook. Emailand search are also powerfuldrivers of traffic. Anotheris optimization, the use ofspecialized tools and tactics todraw readers and keep themreading. At competitors, thisis done story by story andplatform by platform, beforeand after publication.”
“One approach would be to create an “impact tool- box” and train an editor on each desk to use it. Thetoolbox would provide strategy, tactics and tem-plates for increasing the reach of an article beforeand after it’s published.”
“Most of the social networks’traffic comes fromsmartphones. That’s why ourcompetitors say the key towinning mobile is to win onsocial”
“To help promote the Kristof collection, we pulledtogether a list of relevant, influential people whocould spread the word about it on social media.This work could be automated and turned into aninternal tool, which we could use to help promoteour best journalism on social media.”
“There is no reason that the space filled by TEDTalks, with tickets costing $7,500, could not have been created by The Times. “One of our biggest con-cerns is that someone like The Times will start a realconference program,” said a TED executive.”
“For example, our mobile app, “The Scoop,” andour international home page have failed to gaintraction with readers, yet we still devote resourcesto them. We ended the Booming blog but kept itsnewsletter going. These ghost operations distracttime, energy and resources that could be used fornew projects. At the same time, we haven’t tried to wring insights from these efforts. “There were nometrics, no targets, no goals to hit and no period ofre-evaluation after the launch,” said a digital plat-forms editor, about our international home page.”
” The newsroom should begin anintensive review of its print traditions and digitalneeds — and create a road map for the difficult tran-sition ahead. We need to know where we are, where we’re headed and where we want to go. (…) That means aggressively questioning many of ourprint-based traditions and their demands on ourtime, and determining which can be abandoned tofree up resources for digital work”
“Instead of running mobile on autopilot, we need to view the platform as an experience that demands its own quality control and creativity.”
“When it takes 20 months to build one thing, your skill set becomes less about innovation and more about navigating bureaucracy. That means the longer you stay, the more you’re doubling down on staying even longer”
“Our internal fixation on it can be unhealthy,disproportionate and ultimately counterproductive.Just think about how many points in our day are stilloriented around A1 — from the 10 a.m. meeting tothe summaries that reporters file in the early after-noon to the editing time that goes into those summa-ries to the moment the verdict is rendered at 4:30″
In the last years, in the more than 30 newspapers and magazined I have worked for, I saw covers, pages and infographics that I did, copied by other publications. I always took this as a praise, but this case now went too far.
A publication called ABC, from Poland, copied basically the entire graphic project I developed for Bild am Sonntag. Yesterday I saw the original newspaper from them and its unbelievable what they did. Formats, elements, borders, boxes, colors…..etc etc.
This was an entire year of work, tests and nights trying to figure out the best solutions for the biggest sunday newspaper in Europe, and they copied just like this? This time I felt in somehow stolen.
I selected some very few things to post here (although there are many more):