Project Amplify: We asked people how they engage with Bloomberg news content. Here’s what we learned.
If you want to build a valuable product, start with getting to know the people you’re designing for. What do they like? What are they like? Understanding where your product fits into peoples’ day-to-day is key to making your product indispensable. To that end, Bloomberg Media launched Project Amplify, a user research initiative focused on sparking conversation between our audience and the teams charged with creating our various digital news products.
Amplify kicked off last month with a series of panel discussions focused on understanding what our most engaged users get out of their Bloomberg experience. We started with some burning questions: What motivates people to return to us on a daily basis? What are the services that inspire people to subscribe? How does Bloomberg, versus other news sources, fit into their lives?
Here are some of the takeaways that we found most interesting, and samples of our audience stories, which bring those trends to life:
1. Routines make it easy.
Stories break around the clock, but some of our most engaged news seekers say they carve out specific moments in their day to catch up on it all. For business professionals, news routines often revolve around key work moments: reading business headlines en route to work; searching for specific information about a topic or a company just before a big meeting; diving into end-of-day analysis as the markets close. For general news seekers, the habit-forming moments can be subtle: fielding direct links sent by friends via WhatsApp, a daily news podcast in the morning, skimming Twitter during downtimes in the workday. The lists go on. But from business news-seekers to general news enthusiasts, people who are really engaged with a particular brand create habits that can then be optimized through product design.
Stuart, 56, an independent portfolio advisor, wakes up at 4:45 a.m. daily and almost immediately tunes into Bloomberg Radio via XM satellite radio on the smart Sonos speaker in his bathroom. He calls this his “listen while shaving” routine, and it works for him because he’s found a way to seamlessly fold the news into his morning ritual. As Stuart moves through the day, going to the gym, Bloomberg tags along via his iPhone earbuds and to his iPad, which he reads as he works out. To someone who doesn’t need market-moving news, this might seem extreme, but it’s not for Stuart. Stuart makes decisions based on what’s happening in the market each day. Bloomberg offers him something the competition doesn’t — a seamless, reliable cross-platform news experience that keeps him posted from bell to bell, with analysis on what matters each step of the way.
It’s easier to stick with experiences that have a rhythm. News can create a drumbeat for audiences by delivering content in formats that are consistent and paced in a way that makes sense for the platform. In a very practical sense, that might look like a podcast with a commuter friendly length, or a UI structure that’s applied steadily to a video series, or a website’s many sections. Cues like these make it easier to jump in and build a habit around a news experience.
2. Loyalty doesn’t mean exclusivity.
We’ve asked a lot of people how they keep up on what’s happening in the world. It should come as no surprise that no one ever cites just a single source for their news and information. Our audience tends to keep a diverse news portfolio. Why? They’re looking for a holistic take on what’s happening in the world, and that means looking to as many sources as possible.
Gen, 32, is a Boston-based analyst for an international firm. She watches the global markets nearly all of her waking hours. Her go to sources: Bloomberg and a handful of news services in Asia, Europe and the U.S. For Gen, Bloomberg is a go-to because of our global perspective: “Most news sites in the US are primarily North America focused. I start with Bloomberg but then I will also go to the Bangkok Post and Straits Times, that way, to kind of pick up the news items that might not get any traction here.” Bloomberg is a “starting point” but it’s not her only news outlet — she goes often goes “deeper” into country- and region-specific news sources.
In a world of promiscuous news consumption, it pays to stand out. Gen, like so many of us, turns to a variety of sources for the news. But she reliably turns to Bloomberg for something she believes we do better than the rest: offering a big-picture look at global markets. There are countless things that our news experience is good at, but there are fewer things that make us different — finding the intersection between these two things is an important lens for thinking about news experiences. As a product team, knowing what you do uniquely better than the competition is a powerful lens for inspiring and prioritizing product features and innovations. Take for example, Bloomberg’s incorporation of smart data analysis into our suite of editorial products. BHIVE is currently collaborating with Bloomberg.com’s Graphics and Visual Data team on a new mobile web feature that dials up one of our unique differentiators — data journalism — but productizes this quality through a fun, insightful experience aimed at engaging our growing social-first audience (more on this project in our next post).
3. Be brief.
How people follow breaking stories varies tremendously. Is the news being consumed for personal pleasure? Is it a function of work? Something else? At Bloomberg, we are particularly interested in how news is consumed in the context of a demanding work day. Perhaps not surprisingly, we often hear that concise breaking news coverage is easier to follow, especially when you’re processing a developing story as part of your work.
Arun, 48, a Brooklyn-based attorney, follows Bloomberg mostly to keep abreast on what’s moving the market at a high level. His objective is simple: get to the point with what he’s reading, quickly. “One reason I like Bloomberg is that you’re very concise,” he told us in his panel. “You just get straight to the point without too much opinion or embellishing it with too much distraction, in my opinion. Bloomberg just really gets straight to it.” For Arun, this means he can quickly pull out what he needs to know in order to not miss a beat with his clients who are immersed in market-moving news all day.
When it comes to news, shorter is often better. Features like The Bulletin, and Bloomberg’s WhatsApp briefs help our news seekers follow what’s happening with efficient brevity. None of this is to say that news seekers like Arun don’t want long-form narrative accounts and smart analysis. But in the context of following breaking and market moving news during the work day, he doesn’t need to know every exacting detail. He wants the facts that matter, concisely.
4. News paints the picture, analysis gives it focus.
Stories that answer the why and the how of the news play an important role in helping people process and contextualize the raw facts of a news event. Whether it’s research-based analysis or expert-driven opinion, these pieces that go beyond breaking headlines are what help people to make sense of it all. These types of “think pieces” can go beyond the immediate news cycle. People are hungry for stories that help them to understand macro forces and their implications. They’re looking for inspiration and new ways of understanding the world around them.
Marshall, 41, a NYC real estate broker and self-described “news junkie,” looks to Bloomberg to help him see the world of business in a different light. In his words, Bloomberg’s coverage is the kind of news that gets him to think things like: “Wow, I never thought of that structure of that idea,” or ‘Wow, this guy’s really smart, look how he’s looking at this deal and analyzing it.’”
Analysis has a symbiotic relationship with breaking news. For many in our audience, analysis is the natural next step in the reporting process. Other times, the analysis is the story. As we look to ways to push our experience, it’s important to look beyond what’s breaking and to design for news needs as they evolve alongside the story, and extend beyond it.
5. There’s a job to be done.
As a service provider, our audience looks to us to help them get a particular job done. Depending on who that person is, the job can change. Some jobs stood out during our Amplify sessions: “sounding smart” in front of clients; taking the “drama” out of the news; making people “feel intelligent” — people look to us to meet a particular need that goes beyond simply staying updated on the news. Garnering insight and color around the choices people make and what they hope to accomplish (the job to be done) helps teams like ours cut through anonymized data and market insights that have been normalized and washed of context, color and stories of our audience.
For Ongun, 36, founder of a small NYC-based consultancy, the job to be done is pretty simple: “[Help me] to make decisions, to make better decisions. Also, to get ideas.” For Ongun, it’s a two-pronged job, he’s looking for ways to feel more confident in his daily real-time decision-making but he also needs a perspective on what’s ahead.
Thinking about the “jobs to be done” for any product offers a window into understanding how it delivers value. As a news experience team, we’re just starting to define these “jobs.” Sharpening our thinking and framing of these feels like a move in the right direction. As we do this, we hope to also think intentionally about the barriers and frictions that might get in the people who “hire” us.
Our first Amplify audience panel was launched in partnership with Bloomberg Digital’s product and subscription teams (thanks to Walker Fullerton, Jenny Halket, Marissa Zanetti-Crume, Will Dantlzer and LaToya Bowlah). This round revealed for us more questions than answers but we’re rolling the feedback into our 2019 roadmap and already framing new product explorations based on what we’ve learned.
We’d love to hear how our research resonates with you and your teams. Are you exploring similar questions? Have you sketched out jobs to be done? Tell us your stories, and maybe tell us soon: we launch our second Amplify study later this month. Round two will focus on loyalty and the Bloomberg Digital experience.
BHIVE is Bloomberg Media’s human-centered research and prototyping group. We make meaningful experiences that define the future of media.