In a previous generation, The New York Times sought to expand as a national source of news and opinion. Likewise, NYT Global was tasked to scale the organization internationally by becoming an indispensable source for curious readers around the world.
Role: Product Design Lead, Design Strategy
Objective: How might we increase relevance and revenue in global markets?
Platforms: Web and Android
In 2017, The New York Times reported from 160 countries. Our journalism reached 136 million unique visitors from around the world and we had subscribers from 209 countries and territories. As international growth outpaced domestic and as 27% of our audience resided outside the US, our goal was to consider how we build engagement, relevance and revenue in both English and non-English speaking global markets (Latin America, Canada, Australia, Europe and the UK).
As design lead on NYT Global, I worked closely with our team of researchers and journalists to establish a strategy for in-market discovery where we sought to understand reader needs and contexts to build product and editorial experiences that are highly relevant and uniquely meaningful.
Innovating through presumptive design
We used provocations as sacrificial concepts: exaggerated ideas to help us understand the boundaries of risk for our products. Testing them with users allowed us to better understand their behaviors and motivations. Card-sorting exercises allowed us to visualize their mental models and identify their needs and pain points. From these insights, we developed design principles and strategies unique to each region. Each market was distinct in its opportunity and its challenges.
For example, we learned that Canada's proximity to the US means it should be treated more like an extension of our domestic efforts whereas Australia's remoteness requires a semi-autonomous editorial operation with locally-focused experiences. To reach new audiences in Latin America, it was vital to remove language as a barrier by incorporating translation and original Spanish-language reporting whereas, in Northern Europe, using translation felt inauthentic and turned off current and potential readers.
Left: Explanations of Americanisms to lower the barrier of entry for international readers, right: guidance of the report from a local’s perspective in addition to localized content in the home page.
Left: Giving permission to divert from the news feed, center: humanizing journalists and putting revenue in context, right: finding moments of delight in the report.
NYT Australia increases growth and revenue in the region
We built NYT Australia to lend credibility and support relevance within the wider New York Times. Here, readers in Australia can access distinctive Times journalism written for them as well as about them. Inviting readers to help shape the report, NYT Australia’s core mission is about conversations, connections and community. As of Fall 2017, readership has grown 30% year over year and active subscribers are up 45% since January 2017, 95% year over year.
Left: Autralia Letter, top right: photo essay by Adam Ferguson, bottom-right: creative for NYT Australia.
We learned in research that the Australian “tall poppy” philosophy extends to news reading habits. This cultural tendency to “cut down” those who are perceived to be elitist led us to think about ways to signal that this product is indeed “for you.”
“If I see you follow the New York Times on Facebook I just think you are such a hipster… I wouldn’t feel like a wanker for signing up to New York Times Australia, you know… I guess it’s like giving you permission, it’s like telling you, ‘this is for you’, you can read it.” — Reader in Melbourne
Knowing that morning news consumption is the norm, we learned that in Australia, this moment is of greater importance. Influenced by time zone, we designed the Morning Briefing: Australia Edition to support this behavior and catch up readers on what happened globally overnight.
Australia Letter, a weekly newsletter, is a personal take on what’s going on from bureau chief Damien Cave. We learned that including an Australian perspective is vital to the success of the project. In this case, Damien is a guide for the report as a whole, directing readers to the breadth of our content and providing context to enhance relevance.
The New York Times en Español reaches an underserved and highly engaged audience
The New York Times en Español was launched February 8th, 2016. The goal of the project was to determine the extent to which language matters to our readers in Latin America and Spain. Through rigorous testing we found out it matters very much, determining our approach of a fully translated companion experience to the core New York Times product. In 2018, NYT en Español reached 2.5 million unique monthly visitors, engaged more than 1 million Facebook fans and 250,000 newsletter subscribers.
The newsletter Boletín, delivered three times a week, is a curation of 5-6 of the best stories in the feed along with several op-eds. Of its readers, 80% are engaged. The newsletter also functions as the team’s main source of feedback with 20-25 reader comments a day.
NYT en Español is also available to users on Android devices through the NYTimes native app. If the device is set to Spanish, the app onboards the user into the Spanish-language edition, with the option of toggling into the core app at any time.
Left: a design to onboard users who are already using the app and have their device set to Spanish. Center: a design for the settings drawer in the Spanish edition. Right: onboarding for users who have toggled into the Spanish edition of the app.
The in-language edition played a major role in engaging audiences in key international markets but also contributed to the core report. Stories ranging from El Chapo to the Pope’s visit to Latin America, earthquakes in Mexico, major hurricanes in Mexico and the Caribbean, the crisis in Venezuela, the peace deal in Colombia, the death of Fidel Castro, NAFTA and President Trump were editorial heaves.