Pat Long, head of news development at The Times and Sunday Times, today outlined the new approach his newspapers were taking to online news by following a digital editions strategy.
Rather than holding onto a traditional approach to publishing online news, Long said his team was mainly interested in the readers: how did they use the different devices? And how much time was spent with each product?
“None of our previous models were satisfying”, said Long. “Our old website wasn’t responsive and didn’t reflect the ways our users were using it. The website had a high bounce rate, people read one or two stories and left again.”
The architecture of the website was also very complicated with a few rarely updated areas, he added.
Rather than having a constant stream of updates and stories all day long, he said readers felt overwhelmed by the vast amount of info out there and actually preferred a complete package of news.
With the new editions model, he said, readers are able to finish reading up on news, which makes them feel up-to-date and without the fear that they may have missed out on stories. Readers also preferred to get the right story in full, he said, rather than quick short updates.
“We inherited this hybrid CNN-newspaper model, but that doesn’t necessarily mean our readers want it,” he added.
To satisfy needs of the readers, his papers had to completely rethink how the respective websites were built. Readers often came to the websites at certain moments during the day, so the sites restructured the new editions-based model around this routine.
A further issue that needed to be figured out was how to let readers know the editorial staff was working on topics when news was breaking.
“We don’t want to seem ignorant, of course, so we let our readers know via email, social media, and push notifications that a story will be published soon.”