Digital Publishing
4 mins read

Diverse habits of news consumers, from Bloomberg research

Bloomberg Media’s innovation department, BHIVE, recently revealed the results of a study into the habits of different types of news consumers. Here, we talk to Karen Johnson, head of design research for BHIVE at Bloomberg Media, about the research. 

Bloomberg BHIVE research ()
Illustrations by Dylan Greif for Bloomberg 

The latest round of research from the BHIVE team focussed on one important question: what motivates people to consume the news? Looking at consumer needs, Bloomberg began by defining three distinct groups:

– News chasers

– News connectors

– Opinion seekers

News chasers want to know about news first and prefer to have a glimpse of it rather than wait for the full story to unfold, while news connectors want to share news they find compelling with friends and colleagues. Opinion seekers see news as an important way to connect through thought leaders and want to understand why the news matters and will often be influenced by personalities.

Conducting more than 50 interviews and user tests, the study allowed BHIVE to provide a qualitative view of news consumption, adding depth and human insight to the data analysis it already employs. We asked Johnson what specifically promoted the research, and why the company decided to opt to conduct it in this way.

“Our profile research got started with the launch of BHIVE, says Karen Johnson, head of design research for BHIVE at Bloomberg Media. “We kick-started our work with a series of ‘sprints’ to help generate a body of ideas and user insights, fast. At the heart of our sprints was an emerging technology or engagement model (e.g. summarization, AR, gamification, etc.) that our team wanted to explore. Prototyping a real-life solution was the perfect approach to help us understand the “why” behind the “what” when it comes to user behaviours.”

“Each sprint culminated in a study where we’d conduct an in-depth interview with users about their news consumption habits and preferences, and then we put a prototype into their hands to see their preferences first-hand. This two-for-one approach helped us to quickly amass a stockpile of user-tested product solutions and insights about their news motivations and needs. It was a really efficient and valuable way to build momentum around our work.” 

Of course in an age of vast research choices, harvesting information to help publishers better improve the dialogue between both audiences and advertisers remains key. Johnson highlights how this sort of approach can help companies develop a more robust understanding of modern news-consumption habits.

“Data, big or small, is important to our work. Whenever we can, we start with quantitative data to better define an opportunity area or to unearth questions about user behaviour. Qualitative findings, in our experience, are a lot better at inspiring innovation on our team, especially when it comes to net-new solutions. Talking to users and building empathy with them helps us to rally around specific needs and pain points that we can design solutions around.” 

“For example, we landed on the idea for The Bulletin – the AI-powered news feed on our app – after learning that our users were looking for ways to quickly check their news in very short windows of time. We also knew from studies that people responded well to news experiences that gave them a sense of completion. Based on these insights our team was able to design a solution that’s become one of the most used features of our mobile app. This is something we wouldn’t have landed on with analytics alone.”

At a time when new subscription models and new content platforms are being explored more seriously by publishers, BHIVE’s latest round of research reminds us that enhancing and updating existing offerings can be just as important.

This segmentation certainly helps inform our approach to subscriptions. Right now we’re focused on using this segmentation to develop personas that can help our product teams step into the shoes of different users and subscribers. Our hope is to create actionable personas that provide insight into the behaviours, attitudes, and motivations of our users. Ultimately this could help inform a tiered subscription strategy, but right now we’re more focused on this research to help develop new product features and enhancements that are designed for our user.”  

“What we’ve learned through our 75+ hours of direct user research is that different personas have different preferences across many dimensions, from platforms, time of day, formats, as well as content.  We intend on deploying a test and learn strategy to validate some of these preferences by segment, but our goal is not to drastically change content formats or offerings, but to optimize the overall experience of our platforms for each user. With these segments we can focus on delivering utility to users such as, sending targeted push notifications to packaging content in way that saves them time.  

For further background on the BHIVE study click here.

By Jamie Gavin  @jaygavin

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