Recently, I was lucky enough to travel to the Society of News Design conference in Charlotte, N.C.
It was a fantastic experience for me; yes, I subscribe to a physical paper and I read the news so much that it’s probably negatively affecting my health and sanity. Journalism and news delivery are incredibly important professions, which has unfortunately become an interesting political flashpoint as of late. So it was humbling and exciting to listen to representatives of the New York Times talk about their digital evolution and the Washington Post talk about life after Bezos as well as NPR’s Deputy Creative Director, Daniel Newman, talk about Designing for Audio.
As an avid listener to NPR it was interesting to hear about their approach and their focus on the audio of the stories. When I’m at work and allowing myself to be distracted, I often read and glance through NPR pieces on their site rather than listen, I scroll past the big ‘play’ button without considering that this story was first intended to be listened to. What is now obvious is that their deference to the audio in the online article is both prominent but minimal, don’t forget you can listen. I learned about how often they A/B test experiences and how the design team is involved in news delivery, such as improving the verbal lead ins to the stories to avoid user drop off. I also learned about how NPR integrates seamlessly with local member stations around the country, and more about how this functions from a business perspective as well. In a typical design fashion, Daniel and his design team are involved throughout the organization in a wide variety of capacities, from user testing to advertising to app development and improvements.
Given the general trend in corporate transparency and the collaborative nature of design communities, NPR is documenting and sharing much of this work and so it also makes for good reading too, at their blog npr.design.
I really selfishly enjoyed how often and easy it was for Daniel to direct people to their blog, as in, “We wrote about this on our blog, npr.design.” While many of the other prominent corporate .design sites serve various functions, I appreciate the tiny help that .design provided to the NPR design team. Now, when Daniel or his colleague are giving a presentation like the one I saw in Charlotte, he can easily direct people to more information and a place to follow along, npr.design, rather than some long URL with multiple back-slashes off their main site.
It’s humbling to situate one’s work in an ecosystem. While I like think about how I’m involved in a big Internet shift, adding digital infrastructure to the domain name system, that practically means just a tiny thing for most people: a better name for their website. So our .design gives NPR a better home for their design team’s thoughts and articles and those designers are in turn helping deliver and improve journalism, from curiosities and novelties to local stories to breaking news coverage.