Anna Coenen thank you for sharing insights on NYT’s recommendation approach. As a frequent user & a product mgr, I often find missed opportunities in the NYT app due to the reasons you mentioned — a vast amount of articles per day, geographies, topics etc. But there are some key fundamentals that are still overlooked by the app from a simple UX point of view — for e.g., your team could run parallel experiments to see if you can grow engagement & subscription-based on some UX suggestions here —
- “Today’s paper” with front-page news is hidden under a huge amount of categories in alphabetical order. With the number of digital tools users have access to, it would be easier (at times) to just go through what’s happening in the world based on why experts from NYT felt a certain article made the front page.
- Geography — states, doesn’t make total sense for a recommendation as the app might be surfacing content that doesn’t interest the user at all based on their daily or weekly needs. For e.g., I could be flying to California and would prefer to know about the fires instead of reading articles I read in the past week (local or nearer states). You must allow the user to pick news from their geography of interest on a random basis. If a user clicked on California, they are bound to see the top news of that region.
- Sections like — Most Popular, Saved for Later, Recently Viewed, Sunday Review, T magazine, Magazine, U.S., New York, Australia, Reader Center, Today’s Paper, Immersive (AR/VR), Lens: Visual Journalism demands its own UX outside of the “sections”. In fact, Sections are categories of news type and not for areas I mentioned here. “For You” section or app header requires a redesign that allows users to quickly pick — Most Popular, Saved for Later, Recently Viewed. Pick by Geography is needed in the design for Country or States. Almost every news app (Google, Apple & others) makes you pick interests (sections or categories) but that approach either pushes too many items of the same topic or none of at all. News by interest (sections or categories) is helpful based on how often user clicks-through certain categories. Today a user might be interested in Technology due to some new product launch but maybe in Science tomorrow when SpaceX is sending new rockets.
I agree that these are not easy problems to solve but NYT has hundreds of experts and original content based on truth and facts which can’t be easily replicated. So we can trust the digital experience of NYT in the same way we trusted the physical newspaper (and NYT team) as it guided us through this world.