Reaching New Audiences
The Herald, a community newspaper featuring visually-driven stories known as Saturday Features
6 months ✽ 2019
Print newspaper subscriptions were declining faster than the digital product was growing
Build on the storytelling tradition to reach new audiences and create a sustainable digital workflow
Uncover opportunities to improve the story production process ✽ Assess customer awareness of digital product offering ✽ Understand customer reading habits ✽ Identify priority areas to improve the user experience and accessibility of the digital Saturday Feature
Newspaper Publisher ✽ Managing Editor ✽ News Editor ✽ Photojournalists ✽ Reporters
Service blueprint ✽ Service design strategy ✽ Weekly email newsletter ✽ Visual story template
Implemented solutions that made use of free tools to improve the newspaper's digital products, including the introduction of a mobile-friendly version of the Saturday Feature stories.
Measured a 254% increase in page views for Saturday Features, the main statistic used to entice potential advertisers.
The newspaper’s publisher saw an elevated Saturday Feature digital presentation as an opportunity for a new sponsorship package to generate more advertising revenue.
Community engagement and collaboration increased through strategic social media use and series that allowed readers to contribute to various aspects of storytelling.
I led the adoption of new mindsets for the journalists in how the Saturday Feature was created and shared.
A laptop showing a webpage surrounded with annotations reading: "Design treatment is the same as all online stories. Max image size: 600px. Text smaller than accessibility standards. Inconsistent with style guide. Photos pixelated on Retina displays. 5 advertisements." Emphasized in bold with all capitalized letters: "not mobile friendly"
💻 vs. 📰
A newspaper layout shows the front page with a large photo and headline. An annotation reads "design treatment is elevated to differentiate from other stories". A spread of two pages shows columns of story text, bold caption text, two smaller photos and one very large photo. Annotation reads "images of various sizes to create hierarchy and visual variety, including this 14 inch by 9 inch photo". A fourth page shows more story text and two photos of different sizes. Annotation reads "no advertisements".
our storytelling methods,
how we share stories,
& community involvement
🔎 Click to launch phase-by-phase view
Rather than just aiming to share the stories with the community, we wanted to create more of a two-way dialogue.
By partnering with schools and community groups over an extended period of time, we allowed our readers to produce editions of the Saturday Feature that shared their stories first-hand while learning about and adhering to journalism ethics.
Derailed due to the covid pandemic, the staff had started planning a number of reoccurring events to deepen our relationship with the community and give them more of a glimpse into our storytelling processes. Events included coffee with an editor — open conversations at a local cafe, photo walks in public spaces led by a Herald photographer, and presentations celebrating the year in review roundup of coverage.
We started to prioritize under-covered topics and communities. This included stories focused on race, religion, gender, LGBTQ+ identities, people with disabilities, immigrant communities, and more.
A typical Saturday Feature followed a linear narrative story line, through both the photos and the words. We challenged ourselves to think outside of the limits of the black and white printed format and use methods to change the ways we reported and presented stories to create more variety and appeal to more audiences.
The entire team involved in pitching and producing Saturday Features was trained on user experience and learned to think of both the digital and print experiences from the moment the story was conceived, rather than after it was complete.
The shift in mindset was most noticeable in how journalists pictured The Herald’s audience. Previously, we imagined older people reading their Saturday morning newspaper over coffee. Now, we were thinking of how people would come across the story on social media and scroll through it, experiencing photos interwoven with the words, accessible on their phone anywhere they were.
The time-tested production of the printed Saturday Feature was not altered, though sometimes we were tasked with translating a digital-first story into print layout, rather than the other way around.
Since editors worked Monday through Friday, we looked for solutions that let us prepare the stories on Friday to publish on Saturday.
On Facebook, the Saturday Features were previously shared on Monday afternoons, after the daily stories were shared. We switched to using Creator Studio to schedule the posts to publish on Saturday and saw increased engagement.
Previously, Saturday Features were rarely shared on Instagram. I started using Later and Link In Bio to schedule photos and the story link to post on Saturday morning. This helped the stories reach the broader photojournalism community, which made up part of our Instagram following.
I worked with our developer to create a newsletter that showcased only the Saturday Feature and could be scheduled to send on Saturday. This also meant a separate mailing list for those who did not want a daily email.
The Herald sent out a Daily Headlines email newsletter Monday through Friday. Previously, the Saturday Feature was grouped with local news in Monday’s email. After the introduction of the Saturday Feature newsletter, the Saturday Feature story was still included in Monday’s Daily Headlines newsletter, though now under its own heading to highlight it further.
I implemented the use of Adobe Spark (now known as Express) to create web pages that can be embedded on the Herald website and shared directly to social media. The page launched within a lightbox effect in the user’s browser, so they did not need to leave the Herald site to view the story.
The Spark pages are also mobile-friendly and display visuals well. I set up custom templates using The Herald’s preferred typefaces, so the web presentations felt consistent with the print editions. The tool is easy to use and requires no knowledge of coding, so anyone in the newsroom could create a Spark story, if needed.
Mindsets in Action
for New Audiences