The Globe and Mail adapts to its readers and the new digital age

By Claire Barkholz

Jason Chiu, the deputy head of visual journalism at The Globe and Mail in Toronto, shed light at SNDNYC about why his data and design team switched to an audience-driven approach 18 months ago.

Some might call the switch a redesign, but Chiu can’t stand that term. “Redesign,” he said, implies change purely for aesthetic purpose or digital usability, but he would like to think of the revamp more as adapting to reader preferences, to help them get more out of their reading experience by designing the layout in a way that draws them in and doesn’t cause frustration or confusion.

This new audience-driven design sprouted from the idea that readers want to look at packaged story pieces.

When people come to The Globe for their news, Chiu said, they’re looking for specific topics, usually business-focused, and they don’t want to have to search and scroll for stories that relate to one another. And Chiu knows this because the Globe and Mail team also built a tool called Sophie, which consolidates the analytics, compiles it all into one place and generates a single score.

Sophie has allowed them to level the analytics playing field by creating a tool that everyone in the newsroom can use. This helps journalists know exactly what readers are looking at and when, which then enables them to produce more stories readers are interested in.

Not only did they create Sophie, they also have created numerous charting tools to make their continuous graphs easier, faster and better to look at. Building tools like these, that help with effectiveness and efficiency, is the 174-year-old newspaper’s secret to adapting with the times and to the ever-changing digital world, Chiu said, even if it’s not always easy.

“The editor always says, ‘Ruin the day, to make the week better, to make the month memorable.’”

And while doing whatever it takes seems to be working, Chiu said The Globe and Mail’s success through the years is also due to its determination to pay attention to the readers needs and wants.

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