Design research at the New York Times

The pressure to anticipate an audience’s needs and desires is intense—no longer only of concern to business sides of media organizations but a part of the editorial mission, writes Heather Chaplin in the Columbia Journalism Review. Certain newsrooms, including the Times’s, are turning to human-centered design practices in order to understand what readers want.

Chaplin spoke to Emily Goligoski, user experience research lead for the Consumer Insight Group at the Times, about why design research belongs in the newsroom and her efforts to get a more holistic view of readers using a human-centered design approach. Goligoski’s work is meant to complement other modes of research at the Times, such as data analytics and syndicated tools like comScore. What’s unusual about Goligoski’s role is that she conducts her work directly alongside editorial. “It’s really first of all to help them understand who their audiences are,” Goligoski said. “If you’re not doing audience research, you risk just taking shots in the dark.”

Goligoski’s main question was: What can we learn about what people need in breaking news moments? She then broke in down into three questions: What do readers seek most in breaking news moments? What role do devices play in shaping their news gathering decisions? How important is social media as a news discovery mechanism?

Read more about how newsrooms are incorporating design in Heather Chaplin’s new report, Guide to Journalism and Design, at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism.