On news products copying the UX of BigTech | The Humane Club Made with Humane Club
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I've 15 years of experience in media product & technology. By day, I work at a mainstream news site. Prior to this, I was a Knight Fellow with ICFJ.org and have co-founded two companies. All views expressed here are my personal opinions.
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I've 15 years of experience in media product & technology. By day, I work at a mainstream news site. Prior to this, I was a Knight Fellow with ICFJ.org and have co-founded two companies. All views expressed here are my personal opinions.

On news products copying the UX of BigTech

Published May 27, 2021
Updated Nov 28, 2021

BigTech’s news apps — Google Search, Google News, Facebook Newsfeed, Twitter, Microsoft News, Apple News — continue to consolidate direct access to Internet users. This loss of direct access to consumers is the biggest threat to news companies transitioning to subscription. What can news companies do?

I think the first thing should be… stop copying UX of BigTech.

Spotify, Medium, Twitter, Apple Podcasts, etc., are platforms. They give cookie-cutter user experiences in which any writer can fill up whatever content they have. Platforms are marketplaces that provide content creators tools and accumulate (and monetize) the attention of audiences.

When news companies mimic the UX of platforms, they miss out on one of their most significant competitive advantages. Unlike platforms, news companies produce their content and hence can tweak the UX of the product in response to the content created. 

To put it as a blunt question, what is the difference between reading news on your website versus on Apple News or Medium? 

So how do you change UX based on content type? In his book, “Show and Tell”, Dan Roam speaks about how presentations are of four different categories.

  • The first is a “report” where you are conveying the facts. For example, status meetings, financial updates, quarterly earning calls, etc. In media, these could also be Harsha Bhogle’s cricket commentary or a news broadcaster’s daily 9 pm run down of what happened today.
  • The second is an “explanation” where you are trying to teach the audience new abilities. This could be an academic paper, cooking show, or class lecture.
  • The third category of presentations is a “pitch”, where you take the audience through a story and convince them to take an action e.g. vote for them, buy a product, give a job, etc.
  • Finally, a TED talk inspires people to change their beliefs.

Can the user experience of ESPNCricInfo, TED Talks, Masterclass, and Shark Tank be the same? Yet, the videos of all of them in YouTube are served in the same user experience.

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