A team of designers, software developers, researchers and writers at The New York Times interviewed consumers, business people and experts to find answers to how people are using technology in conjunction with getting the news. Here are the top 10 themes they discovered (and wrote about)—with some SIPAfication.
1. Word of mouth is still the ultimate recommendation engine.
"While algorithms can offer interesting suggestions, nothing beats the recommendations from co-workers, family and friends." EB Medicine posts a video testimonial series to answer the question: "What do subscribers say about Emergency Medicine Practice?" "It's actually an old campaign that we resurfaced," Stephanie Williford, CEO, EB Medicine, said. "A number of years ago, we asked subscribers for video testimonials and offered an extension on their subscription for everyone who submitted a video." The American Physical Therapy Association lets students do the talking for them in this video.
2. Scheduled programming fosters ritual and connection.
The Times team believes that when content is watched at the same time, there's more synergy and excitement. "...there's something lost by the fragmented nature of how people now consume that content. If everyone is watching or listening to something different, connection over shared experience can be harder to achieve." Conversations about content can "often feel as valuable as the content itself" and turn it into an event. We like events.
3. People want stories with a clear beginning, middle and, most importantly, end.
Funny, I wrote this last week in an article about the great storyteller Mike Birbiglia. "I feel like there just has to be an end...," he said, "and you need to indicate to the audience that eventually you'll get there." The Times agrees. People want some closure, they say. "Through our research, we heard that people flock to true crime stories for just this very reason... they know that that the mystery will be solved by the end. When it comes to news, people want that feeling of accomplishment, as well."
4. People are tired of the "push."
Push notifications are getting to be too much. "Many users are turning to voice assistant technology, like smart speakers, because it allows them to get the information they need without ever having to look at a screen." An exception may be during something people signed up for, like a virtual event. For their virtual event, Education Week used pop-up notifications to alert attendees about ways to engage and where to find different content at different times.
5. Disconnecting from social media doesn't mean fleeing it entirely.|
People are deleting some apps but they still check in. In its SIPAward-winning website redesign, OPIS made social media a big part of its awareness campaign. "Social media is becoming [a major] part of Google rankings," said Ashlee Bovello, SEO and website marketing manager for OPIS. "Be sure to link back to your site [in your social postings]. Put social media icons in your footer not header. If it's in the header, it's easy for them to go off into social media land and forget why they're on your website to begin with."
6. Time of day influences content selection.
People prefer to consume hard news in the morning, and less demanding content in the evenings. "Rarely do media organizations take time of day and the cognitive load of their users into account when publishing content," the Times said. Spidell Publishing adheres to this by releasing their podcast, California Minute, every Sunday at 9 am.
7. People crave transparency.
Maybe because of fake news, more and more people want to know the how and why. "News consumers want to pull back the curtain to understand why a headline was written a certain way, or why a particular story was featured over another on a home page." That may be one reason why podcasts are so popular—you get more behind-the-scenes talk there.
8. People want more dynamic and nourishing social spaces.
People want spaces where they can truly connect with people, rather than passively follow people and engage in one-on-one and small group conversations. Listservs continue to be popular. "Our research participants told us that receiving a private reply to an Instagram story feels more meaningful than a like on a post.
9. Every space feels like a political space.
10. The most recent information is not always the most relevant.
An "emphasis on the latest information puts more weight on what's just been published and less weight on content that might help readers contextualize and make sense of an issue." In June, Jean Ellen Cowgill, global head of digital strategy and business development for Bloomberg Media and general manager of TicToc (now QuickTake) by Bloomberg, told us: People today are saying, "Help me make sense of it. Give me a kind of explainer, and give it to me in a way that is engaging, that fits into my life, that is quick, that I can check on my phone, and if it's a video, I can watch in 30 seconds to a minute but I come away feeling smarter... with a narrative that helps me make sense and contextualize what's going on."