6 Cool Products for Your Daily News

In a way, everything we read and listen that is new to us is News. In the era of information, we are submerged in the sea of news, on paper, in the email box, on TV, on our mobile. Everything is trying to grab our attention.

What are the most significant changes in News industry:

Moving from Print to Digital: Digital technology is hardly the disruptive force in print media—it is the driving force that shapes content creation and distribution. Hearst Magazines’ US digital operations account for more than 30% of overall US profitability. The New York Times Company has set a goal of doubling its total digital revenue, including advertising and subscriptions, to $800 million by 2020. The company announced the addition of 67,000 digital subscribers in the first quarter of 2016, bringing its total to 1.2 million

The P/L is Falling for the Traditional News Providers:While in print media, there is a cost associated with every issue (print and distribution). New York Times quarterly report suggested that the company spend around 200 million in printing and then around 700 million delivering the printed copies. While the digital news does not have any of such costs. But at the same time, the digital ad revenue also dropped significantly, according to the Newspaper Association of America (as reported by the Pew Research Center), print ad revenues have fallen from $44.9 billion in 2003 to just $16.4 billion in 2014, while digital ad revenues—$3.5 billion in 2014—have barely budged since 2006.

The Popularity of New Media Channels: we all feel that less people read the news now, but what we actually mean is that we are not reading news produced by the traditional media (New York Times; BBC etc) and from the traditional channels (TV, printed press etc); I read news from Observer, which is published by Observer Media; and also from New Republic, which  made the headline when it was acquired by Cheetah Mobile for US$57 million; it consolidates all major publishers’ articles in one app; 

Mass Customization of News: using machine learning to provide customized contents is not something new in the news industry, from when the consumer sign up, they are asked to choose what topics they care about and they only get relevant contents based on what they like; as they open each article, the software learns more about what the user likes to further refine the result;

More News are Read on Mobile and By Video: more news are read on the go, according to Pew Research,  As of early 2016, just two-in-ten U.S. adults often get news from print newspapers. This has fallen from 27% in 2013; while 66% gets their news on mobile

What does it Means in terms of News product design and development:

Users Looks for Contents that Fulfill their Diversified Need: knows what is going on in their neighborhood, their country and the world; know what happen on the topics they care (sports; gadgets; children education etc); find topics to talk about; make themselves happy. From “this is what I know” to “this is what you care”

News is No Longer the Only Content Available for user’s Spare Time: there used to be times when some of our time is dedicated to watching or reading news and there is not much else to read; now we read the news to kill time when we cannot do anything else (on transport; just wake up and still in bed; in the toilet etc); but at the same time, we can also play game, watch video, listen to music etc; 

The Need to Social Prevails the Need for Knowledge: to be honest, many of us could not care less about the war in Syria; or the poor children in Bangladesh; we read so we can talk about it, so we can share with others to talk about it together; with new media platforms, sharing is made easier than ever before; 

5 Interesting Products in the News Category:

今日头条




User Persona; 20-40 years old; males; live in tier-1 city in China; read news in their fragmented times; casual reading

Category: news aggregator

Competitive Advantage: personalized configuration; good content from news partners;

Business Model: targeted advertisements

Personalization: follow interested topics

Test Comments: the navigation is hidden on the right, page looks quite clean; the night model applies the grey out effect to all components, fits good for night reading; the whole app is very visual, all news is listed with at least one image, sometimes more than one image; TouTiao has 600+ million users in China with more than 60 million acticle daily users; the success of Toutiao has been achieved, in large part, by using machine learning to figure out users’ interests and tastes, and tailoring its offerings accordingly to get more clicks

Idea for improvement: replace the scroll bar on the top used to change topic with dropdown, there will be more space for more the topics on one screen and easier to reach; it is very hard to find the “add to collection” and “share” button hidden under the “…”. while there are still white space beside the text field at the button, suggest to move the more popular icons to the news detail page;

Flipboard 





User Persona; 20-40 years old 

Category: news aggregator

Competitive Advantage: self-generated contents; good content from news partners;

Business Model: targeted advertisements

Personalization: follow interested topics, companies and people

Test Comments: comparing to 今日头条, Flipboard articles are very lengthy, not exactly easy to read; it has a well-done sharing function that supports email, airdrop and all major social network

Idea for improvement: Flipboard is connected to all partner in the light way, it is not hosting any other’s content. When users click on the news, it will go to the corresponding page;

Twitter


User Persona; 15-29 years old; more female than male for teenagers while more men than women when they reach adulthood;  

Category: social media

Competitive Advantage: allows more 

Business Model: targeted advertisements

Personalization: follow interested companies and people

Test Comments: in the iTune store, Twitter is by far the most popular mobile app by download in the News category, by Aug 2016, it sends 500 million tweets through its 313 million active users per month; 79% of the users are based outside US; most of them from Brazil, Japan and Mexico.

User can send a 140 words tweet to the followers, with a photo, a GIF, a single section question (for survey) and location. They can follow companies, individuals to get tweets from them. 

Idea for improvement: Tweet aims to say and react quickly; while the majority of the contents now are not very “tweet” customized, what it means is that the article being retweet or tweet are often done for web, very lengthy or complex; the title and first imagines does not make sense; and even worse, the tweet message is often the same as the text of the shared article, which means only half of the text on a tweet page is useful; 

Reddit 


User Persona; according to Journalism, reddit users turn to be men, between the ages of 18 and 29, and identify themselves as liberal

Category: News & discussion

Competitive Advantage: focused ranking on hot, new, rising, controversial topics, clean design 

Business Model: targeted advertisements

Personalization: Nil

Test Comments: the overall layout resemble the early forum, comparing to all the other refined platforms, it looks old fashion; it is more “tweet” than tweet in the sense that all images on each ranking  are punchy and title meaningful; it does not allow following of an individual company or people, to an extent reflect its objective for unbiased view; 

Idea for improvement: make the site mobile responsive; the current ranking and position moved can be presented with different colors to distinguish them better; the arrow indicating a post has moved up or down should be colored to show it is moving up or down; 

BuzzFeed


User Persona; according to expanded ramblings, Buzzfeed users turn to be women, between the ages of 18 and 34, and from United States

Category: News & Blog

Competitive Advantage: original contents; celebrities 

Business Model: targeted advertisements; contents written for brands and merchants

Personalization: follow interested companies and people

Test Comments: BuzzFeed made it very clear with its listing view “we have awesome contents and you should share it”, and the post page crystal out sharing by putting the list of share button on both the top, the button and left side of it; it also encourage user reply in a great way by using single selection of text and GIF under the post;

Idea for improvement: mobile responsive site can help give a better experience on mobile; having the ability to filter the news by user demographics is an important criteria, one of the main functions for news is to find topics to talk about, and thus having such filter would help;

Some Interesting News Product to watch:

Amazon Echo


"Alexa, what's in the news?"

This is definitely one of the sexiest way to ask for news in 2016 and likely to be in 2017.

Just ask Alexa “what’s the news?” and she’ll read the headlines aloud to you. You can choose which news sources Alexa will read beforehand and you can also change which news sources you want through the Alexa app. It is still a piece of technology in its early days, a short trial shows it is very reliable to have Alexa start but quite a pain to get her to stop. And the source of the news Alexa can read from is limited to The Economist; BBs News and some other main channels. 

Next VR


NextVR is among the few VR companies that specialized in live-streaming and live-broadcasting virtual reality content shot with 180-degree camera. It has partnered with International Champion  Cup to bring the real, immersive experience to fans that cannot participant in the event.

Looking at the News industry, for any product, the objective remains the same: news fulfill the need to understand what is happening on the topics users care about and share with their circles to discuss and comment on it. The key differentiator of a consumer product in this industry win by:
  • Unique content not available from other providers;
  • Be relevant via understanding user preferences;
  • Tools to empower users to share the content and Use it in a meaningful way;
  • The ability to allow users to access across channel, location and even sense


News is a drive for transformation as it goes through the transformation itself. It empowers us to live better; be more relevant and fulfill our objectives. It is the best way to know the society’s sentiment and to identify communities and opinion leaders. What it tells may all be the past, while all that reads it see the future.

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