An information OS for a city: Redefining the opportunity for local media


What can the future of media could look like? There's no shortage of great design and content work being done at the national and global level for pubs like The New York Times and The Washington Post, Vox, Buzzfeed and the like. But this doesn't always work for smaller or more regional markets. What's the opportunity in a city like Pittsburgh? Using elements of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and other local media as a guide, I want to explore what a modern local media company can be. 

There's a potential for an operation like the PG to rebrand itself as more of an “informational operating system” for its city. With different types of products that are focused and useful and not necessarily bundled into a traditional news format, we can create more enjoyable experiences and more useful products readers will love.

In my talk and paper, I'll explore how publishers can define a strategy, brand and create modern news, entertainment and community experiences to reinvent their relationship with their audience. 



Building reader interest and finding a way to pay for it all


Two of the biggest challenges faced by online news organizations today are engaging audiences and creating advertiser-friendly models. The algorithm driven ads don't always satisfy our needs, can often be annoying, and thus prompts viewers to look for ad blockers. We all know where that leads.

If the ultimate goal is to maintain the highest standards of content and reader engagement for online publications, there are two broad issues which must be addressed. Firstly, customize the content to appeal to the reader’s interests, and secondly to monetize the operation in order to deliver quality content. 

Conventional media has not been successful in attracting younger audiences, where a general mistrust exists towards the media establishment. This free digital publication model is designed to appeal to all demographics and will offer a unique hyper customized reader experience which goes beyond what already exists on the market today. This ad supported model is designed to build a large and diverse audience and promises to create a high engagement level.

As a subscription model it can be further customized by any news outlet. While some of the proposed solutions can be applied in the foreseeable future, others might only become possible when technological advances make it affordable.




The Attention War


In November we talked about how publishers are losing the attention war to immersive experiences like X-Box, Netflix and Instagram. 

You don't have the budget or development team of the New York Times?We’ll show how two teams are using new, affordable tools to create video or VR driven stories that enrich a user’s understanding of the world around them.   



Branded, authoritative, and readable 


In a world where newspapers are dying and half the public believes fake news, what online news experiences need is design that is branded, authoritative, and above all, readable:

Branded, because we need to convert the current hummingbird model (where readers flit from flower to flower) back to the idea that your news source matters—and that it is worth your time to return to a source you trust.

Authoritative, because combating fake news means visually cueing the reliability of a particular source—one staffed by real journalists and editors, with real sources in real countries. In the coming years this will be more important than ever.

Readable, because an informed public needs to grasp stories that can’t always be reduced to headlines or sound bytes. Readability means even longer articles actually get read, sometimes even all the way through. Readability requires a combination of typeface, type size, leading, measure, hierarchy, contrast, etc.—as well as the introduction of visual information, both to break up the flow of text, and to further illuminate what is being said.

Design won’t solve all the problems facing newspapers, but it will help. And unlike more “immersive” approaches such as WebVR, original full-screen imagery, and original embedded video, the basics of solid, readable design should not be out of budgetary reach for even the most cash-strapped news publisher.