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Media innovation: Simplified article template leads to 200% increase in social sharing

BHIVE, Bloomberg Media’s innovation lab has designed an article template specifically for social media feeds. Initial tests have shown that it led to a 200% increase in sharing, significant reduction in bounce rates and increase in the likelihood of articles being read to the end.

“Break away from the ‘one-hit wonder’”

Karen Johnson, the Head of Design Research for BHIVE at Bloomberg Media, told Journalism.co.uk that a significant portion of social news consumption at Bloomberg happens on mobile. But a deep dive into analytics told them that most social news readers did not click to read full articles. Those who did, rarely read till the end.

By the time social readers reach an article, they have context. Whether it’s expert commentary via tweet or a joke riffing on the news on Reddit or Facebook, a good social post has usually stolen the punchline of a news article before the reader leaves his or her feed. As a result, social articles are less about reading a story from beginning to end as they are an exercise in corroborating a takeaway or opinion formed from within their social feed.

Karen Johnson, the Head of Design Research for BHIVE at Bloomberg Media

Johnson also stated in a Medium post, “Social visitors were likelier to be “one and dones” who came to the site once and did not return within a month.” To “break away from the ‘one-hit wonder’ phenomenon,” the BHIVE team launched a study of what social news audiences wanted from a mobile article experience.

Through analysis of quantitative data and interviews with readers from across the country, the team gained the following insights:

  • Prefer skimming: Readers prefer skimming through their social media feeds and are reluctant to click through to check out the full article. They appreciate content that offers them instant takeaways within the feed itself.

  • Looking for quick updates: Those who do click through want to get informed as quickly as possible, so any friction—from pop-up ads, slow load times or a cluttered interface—drives them back to the feed.

  • Hate redundancy: According to Johnson, “Savvy social news seekers hate nothing more than redundancy. The article experience begins in the social feed, so the copy — whether it’s in the social post, or the article page itself, should progressively tell the reader something new or different about a story every step of the way.”
  • Prefer sharing privately: The BHIVE team found that their social news audiences avoid putting too much information about their news preferences on public platforms. So rather than sharing articles publicly, they are more likely to do so through private groups and one-to-one conversations using text and chat platforms like WhatsApp and Slack.

“A lean user experience”

Armed with the insights, the team focused on creating a lean user experience. They quickly built prototypes, tested them with readers and refined them based on the feedback.

The result is a simplified article template that cuts out the clutter by making headline text and visual elements smaller, while removing non-essential text. “Our new design allows users to get to the story sooner — we’ve literally moved the first paragraph up from the bottom to the top of the mobile page view in some instances,” says Johnson.

They have also added a floating, thumb-friendly copy/link button to make it easier for users to share articles.

Here’s a before and after comparison of an article on Bloomberg’s mobile site:

Source: Medium

Improving “social-mobile web vital signs”

The new template was tested with 5% of Bloomberg’s audience. Although specific figures were not shared, Johnson says, it has “significantly decreased bounce rates.” There was a tripling in social shares, and readers coming from social feeds were “significantly more likely to read articles through to the end.”

She added, “The experiment has not only succeeded in improving our social-mobile web vital signs, making valuable information easier to see and share, but continues to validate our utility-based approach to user experience.”

The template will be released to all of Bloomberg’s mobile audience this spring.

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