Mobile Insights from BuzzFeed, The Wall Street Journal and Quartz - Reuters News Agency

Mobile Insights from BuzzFeed, The Wall Street Journal and Quartz

Nov 26, 2017

Reuters Institute research found that mobile access to news has outstripped computer access. Researchers also found that most Asia-Pacific regions are smart-phone first, with a growing number of countries on the tipping point.

In response, publishers are innovating with mobile, such as experimenting with push notifications.

We were at Journalism.co.uk’s 20th newsrewired conference, where Brianne O’Brien (lead editor of news curation at BuzzFeed), Colleen Mcenaney (graphics editor at the Wall Street Journal) and Jason Karaian (global finance and economics editor at Quartz) discussed their strategies for mobile.

Let’s take a look at how each organization is adapting to the growing demand of mobile for news…

Find the colleague with the worst phone and test your content”

—  advised Mcenaney.

The Wall Street Journal

Colleen Mcenaney, graphics editor at WSJ spoke about how the WSJ are shifting the focus away from interactivity towards more linear, explanatory stories that put graphics centre-stage on mobile.

This shift is due to interactive components such as dropdown menus which work on desktop not being mobile-friendly, explained Mcenaney.

The WSJ mobile strategy in brief:

  • Greater focus on pieces of data that are accessible right away
  • Search engines prefer fast-loading pages and with the addition of dropboxes and interactive maps this can slow down the loading speed.
  • Focus on swiping and scrolling
  • We are building one model that is optimal for mobile that is easier to build up

An example of the WSJ’s focus on scrolling on their mobile platforms is their coverage of the space probe Cassini–Huygens which completed its mission on September 15.Graphics were at the centre of the mobile-format and Mcenaney described the user experience as “pleasant” because for text and graphics to emerge the user only had to scroll.

Advice for other publishers:

“Find the colleague with the worst phone and test your content”, advised Mcenaney.

Think mobile-first. Test it on mobile. Make sure your images are loading properly”

— said O’Brien.

BuzzFeed

Brianne O’Brien, lead editor of news curation at BuzzFeed explained that 18-34 year olds make up two thirds of BuzzFeed’s total IOS app downloads.

According to O’Brien, this demographic tend to be people who are busy, on their phone and whose attention span, at times, is short.

Consequently, BuzzFeed’s approach to mobile content aims to tackle the need to know parts of the story with a strong focus on visuals.

“It doesn’t matter how eloquent the long form or hard-hitting the investigation if you can’t break those stories down into a few sentences you won’t be able to grab or keep the attention of your audiences,” explained O’Brien.

BuzzFeed’s mobile strategy in brief:

  • Short texts and strong visuals
  • Varied templates including timelines, lists, tweet embeds and gifs
  • Taking a conversational tone
  • Push notifications that prioritise: context, clarity and humour
  • Mobile content that is curated by humans to bring a casual tone

 

Advice for other publishers:  

“Think mobile-first. Test it on mobile. Make sure your images are loading properly,” said O’Brien.

She added, “Use social and newsletters to find out what people what to see more or less of to gage what is working and what is not. It’s important to look at how people are consuming the news and then ask yourself what’s the best tone you can strike.”

You shouldn’t hide away from it humour and personality . There’s definitely ways to make it accessible and fun to reach new audiences” 

— said Karaian.

Quartz

Reuters Institute research found around a quarter of respondents now find, share, or discuss news using one or more messaging applications.

Last February, Quartz launched their mobile news app which uses the same informal, short vernacular as messaging apps. This has proved popular with mobile shares set to reach 80 percent by 2019. Jason Karaian, global finance and economics editor explained that the app is a “distilled voice of Quartz”.

Quartz’ mobile strategy in brief:

  • A focus on humour
  • Varying formats with push notifications including using haikus
  • Embedding simple, mobile-friendly graphics and charts
  • Experimenting with AI in the mobile app
  • Responding to reader feedback. For example introducing a Trump Snooze option.

This year, Quartz introduced a Trump Snooze which allowed users to snooze content about President Donald Trump. Karaian explained that the kernel of the idea was predominantly from reader feedback.

Quartz have also been experimenting with making their push alerts more engaging. For example, haiku’s are now being used to alert users to financial and stock market news.

Advice for other publishers:

“You shouldn’t hide away from it humour and personality . There’s definitely ways to make it accessible and fun to reach new audiences,” said Karaian.

 

What else is happening in the world of mobile? Find out in the latest Asia-Pacific Digital News Report 2017.