Design a new content platform for the weekday edition of The Times and The Sunday Times for reading on smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
Strategies for editorial content, digital products, advertising integration, online membership offers, and social sharing, as well as a separate four-times daily published digital edition.
Print readership and advertising revenues slashed. Newspapers falling behind to Twitter for breaking stories. Newsrooms cutting staff. Flicking through a newspaper in the past few years, those headlines might have led you to believe you were holding one of the last specimens of an endangered species.
But read the full story, and you’d learn that the death of newspapers, although widely reported, has been greatly exaggerated. Storied British broadsheet The Times and its sister weekend publication, The Sunday Times, have managed to stay ahead in this challenging climate: The papers have more than 400,000 subscribers and 170,000 digital subscribers. And they’re growing: the papers turned a pre-tax profit of £10.9m for owner News UK in the fiscal year to June 2015.
Wanting to build on this success, The Times’s owner News UK approached IDEO to explore how best to serve the content to where their readers naturally go: smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
The power of an edition has endured at The Times for more than 230 years. Our challenge is to update this concept for the digital age: to put readers first and cut through the babble.
John Witherow, Editor, The Times
IDEO’s research and design phase, including interviews with readers, journalists, editors, and marketers at News UK, unearthed four reading modes that people switch between: skimming, typified by glancing at a stream of tweets; dipping into stories, mirroring behavior on the paper; reading stories fully, like news websites; and learning, deeply exploring a topic, as readers do when referring to Wikipedia.
Readers, the team learned, chose The Times for its editorial opinion: a perspective that cuts through the overwhelming flood of information. They viewed the daily Times and weekend Sunday Times as one paper, despite the organizational distinction. And they were proud of their choice, valuing the papers’ consistency, trustworthiness, balance and authoritativeness. Readers wanted these qualities distilled in a digital edition, whether on a smartphone, tablet, or on the web.
Across platforms, the new Times balances visual consistency with flexibility to make the most of each device’s qualities.
Those insights led to strategic recommendations spanning digital products, editorial, advertising integration, online membership offers, and social sharing. And what might be considered a counter-intuitive publishing strategy: a separate digital edition. Eschewing the newspaper industry’s tendency to provide real-time rolling news, The Times is now published digitally four times every weekday, available across all platforms: overnight, 9am, noon and 5pm; overnight, noon and 6pm on weekends.
Regardless of the platform it’s read on, the new Times digital experience translates the same style and depth and breadth of writing as the print edition. The Times has developed an easier, more intuitive interface—and font—that reflects how the newspaper is structured. And readers can save articles for later reading, and look back through the last week’s issues.
More than 230 years after it was first published, the new Times translates the enduring principles of the paper’s success—well-informed news, analysis and commentary—to the fluid, fragmented reading behaviors of today, and tomorrow.