|The April 7, 1934, Ottawa Citizen headline (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Postmedia Network Inc., Canada’s biggest English-language daily paper chain, recently launched several redesi— umm, actually, Wayne Parrish, Postmedia’s chief operating officer, would prefer you call them “reimaginations” instead. “We’ve tried to stay away from the ‘redesign’ term,” he said. “We agreed early on that these are not redesigns. They’re much more fundamental.”
According to Parrish, the overhaul had been in the works for two and a half years. The new Ottawa Citizen was rolled out first in May, and the made-over Montreal Gazette and Calgary Herald arrived in the fall. More in the Postmedia empire will follow in 2015, including papers in the recently-acquired Sun Media chain.
To begin this massive task, Postmedia reached out to 17,000 people across Canada and asked how they preferred consuming news media. When those results were tabulated, the company set about crafting different personas for each of its four platforms—print, tablet, Web and smartphone.
“This allowed each newsroom to think about their audiences specifically by platform,” Parrish said. “Smartphone users are from ages 18 to 28. Tablet users are from 35 to 49, and so on. We came up with a whole bunch of psychographic studies for Web and print.”
As a result of this revamping, readers will see different stories depending on what device or medium they’re reading the news on—meaning that a story on, say, the Montreal Gazette, might only be viewable on a tablet.
“We tried to stop thinking about how some people aren’t going to get certain stories—there is access to all four platforms, so users have full access, they just have to be willing to access it on whatever device it’s available on,” said Parrish, who says this target-marketing of the news has jacked up digital use numbers at the Citizen by 30 percent. Engagement numbers are up as well.
There have been changes in the newsrooms as well. Smaller photos. Shorter stories. The launching of tablet-exclusive magazines that readers get emailed each night at 6 p.m., just in time for second-screen experiences during prime time TV viewing.
There’s also been a push toward getting journalists to consider what platform their story would be best presented on. “We wanted to get our reporters and content producers thinking, when they go cover an event, is this story best for a phone, a newspaper, or tablet?” Parrish said. “We also need to think about what technology is coming up. What if Apple Watch is the next platform? What will our story formats on the watch look like? We need to respond journalistically to new evolving platforms.”
It’s a huge break from Postmedia’s digital past, an era Parrish said was marked by slow download times and clunky site design. “We have to be willing to bob and weave very quickly. All we’ve done here is, we’ve got our ponies in the starting gate, but the race is just beginning, and the ponies will have to change week by week and month by month.”
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