HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Dec. 18, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

Moving responsive design beyond screen size

“Newsrooms are going to start thinking about responsive in terms of tailoring experiences based on a reader’s context in the physical world.”

Imagine opening NPR’s app on your phone to read a story before heading to work. You glance at the clock and realize you’re running late, so you grab your keys and rush out the door. As you start walking, the app starts playing the audio story of the same piece you were reading — no tapping required.

katie-zhuNext year is going to bring Google Now to news: the right information through the right medium at the right time.

In 2014, newsrooms are going to reframe our understanding of “responsive design.” We’re going to see content move beyond simply responding to screen size and instead respond to reader context, adapting to behavior.

We’ve done an excellent job of optimizing text for mobile over the past few years. Responsive is the de facto standard for news consumption on the go — but what’s truly responsive? Shouldn’t it respond to whether I’m walking or sitting, reading during the morning or at night — maybe if I’m stressed or not?

Newsrooms are going to start thinking about responsive in terms of tailoring experiences based on a reader’s context in the physical world  —  we can no longer assume that just because a reader is using their phone that they’re on the go. We’ve seen the rise of second screen apps in journalism this year. And you know as well as I that sometimes it’s just too much effort to reach for your laptop when your phone is sitting right next to you on the couch.

We now have the technical means to gather data about how people are using their various devices. In 2014, news organizations will be doing more to leverage this data to inform how they serve content — in fact, we’ve already seen hints of this in 2013, just in a less automated way. The New York Times launched New York Today, which targets readers on their morning commute, giving them local news about weather, politics, business in a bursty editorial package.

The bottom line is this: We’ve always listened to our readers. But readers don’t necessarily know what they want. Using a phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer, we can gather realtime data about how people are using their device at a given point in time — we know if they are walking or lying down, we know the weather and their location — and use all this knowledge to decide when to serve what content to readers and through what medium.

Here’s the tablet news app I’m hoping for in 2014: something that detects when I’m lying down in bed (it knows my device orientation and, using the ambient light sensor, can detect it’s dark) and serves me the sort of video content that I never have time to watch during the day.

Newsrooms have the ability to understand something more about their users when they use their product on a phone. And I have no doubt that the brilliant minds in journalism will use this gained knowledge to provide better experiences in 2014. I’ll be waiting.

Katie Zhu is an engineer at Medium.

POSTED     Dec. 18, 2013, 10:02 a.m.
PART OF A SERIES     Predictions for Journalism 2014
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
The former chief content officer at NPR will be moving up I-95 to one of the most important digital positions at the Times.
Why Google is taking another shot at helping readers pay for news
Google Contributor is the latest tool the company has designed to help readers pay for what they read online. But its previous experiments in supporting paid content have had limited success.
In Canada, newspapers’ attempts to experiment with ebooks haven’t seen much success
A number of papers across the country started ebook programs in the early part of this decade, repurposing their archives or producing new work. They haven’t been the moneymakers some had hoped.
What to read next
718
tweets
Ken Doctor: The New York Times’ financials show the transition to digital accelerating
The numbers may look flat, but they contain a continuing set of ups and downs. Up next: executing on a year’s worth of launches.
540Here’s some remarkable new data on the power of chat apps like WhatsApp for sharing news stories
At least in certain contexts, WhatsApp is a truly major traffic driver — bigger even than Facebook. Should there be a WhatsApp button on your news site?
502Controlled chaos: As journalism and documentary film converge in digital, what lessons can they share?
Old and new media types from journalism, documentary, and technology backgrounds gathered at MIT to share practices and discuss mutual concerns.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Baristanet
Chicago Tribune
Facebook
The Seattle Times
Topix
Byliner
Lens
Tucson Citizen
La Nación
PBS
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
SeeClickFix