The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PG) had a stable subscriber base, but knew from market indicators that it was likely short-lived. We, as a group of five Carnegie Mellon students, were tasked with a service redesign of the PG, and in effect newspapers as a whole. Based on user research, we concluded that newspapers needed to differentiate themselves from the sea of available news sources, and could do so by becoming a “luxury”. To achieve this, we suggested a strategy of emphasizing the artisanal craft of the newspaper. Our process consisted of five phases: definition, discovery, synthesis, ideation and realization.
The first step we took was to identify the space in which the PG operated. This was primarily driven by background research, including talking to PG staff, researching the newspaper market, and looking at the history of the PG. In this phase, as well as the rest of the project, I was also able to draw from my background in journalism and newspapers to aid in the understanding of the problems at hand.
Having an idea of the space we’re exploring, we set out to talk to people throughout Pittsburgh to understand how and why they consume news. We employed a survey, contextual observations, and interviews of people across various demographics.
With a groundwork for our project established, we set out to further our knowledge of two focus areas: luxury and relevance. We had users complete “make kits”, including a collage of what they thought were images representing luxury and an exercise involving building an ideal front page from a set of possible headlines. We also sent out news journals, in which participants recorded their news habits for three days.
Research completed, we began solidifying the ideas that had been coming up throughout the process. These ideas, driven by the goal of differentiating the paper through luxury and relevance, included breaking the paper into distinct sections, each with a separate subscription, making web content personalized to each user, and increasing the quality of the physical print product.
Our final deliverable was a presentation to PG staff, in which we recommended our now refined ideas. Our recommendations included producing separate papers for each section; increasing the physical paper quality; building bonds between readers and staff through greater prominence of names, faces and easier access for direct communication; and a fully personalized web experience through recommendations of both stories and ads.