To build a valuable media product, first build a process that responds to an audience’s needs

This often means rebuilding your organisational culture to redefine your approach to revenue models, products, and most of all, audiences.

A team at Singapore Press Holdings pieces together users, their needs, and insights.
A team at Singapore Press Holdings pieces together users, their needs, and insights.

Redefining this approach was exactly what we set out to do in early 2019 when the Google News Initiative invited Splice to collaborate with them and Echos, the design thinking firm, to build and run Asia’s first design accelerator program for news and media companies in Asia. We called it the Google News Initiative Design Accelerator. Its goal? To build stronger media businesses.

As part of this program, GNIDA partnered with seven small, medium, and large media companies from seven countries across Asia Pacific.

We worked with Singapore Press Holdings (Singapore), READr (Taiwan), Metro TV (Indonesia), India Today (India), ACM (Australia), Malaysiakini (Malaysia), and Frontier (Myanmar).

The idea was to work with each organisation to foster a design thinking mindset. We also set out to help each org create and test a new product (one per partner) that could define a new audience, a new revenue model, a renewed organisational culture, and a product mindset.

The problem we set out to solve

The media business has traditionally been built around an advertising-led, content-first approach. The idea of building value has rarely, if ever, come from responding to our audiences — our users. It’s time to switch to a more user-centric approach, which means delivering media products that are valuable because they respond to the needs of a specific audience. This process also creates better value for stakeholders. 

Design thinking is a logical lens; it is purpose-built for shifting organisational mindsets in profound ways. Put your audience first, begin a continuous process of figuring out the issues they need addressed, and then build and test products that address them. It’s a process that has worked over and over again across industries.

The process

Once we had identified news and media orgs through a detailed application process, we structured the Accelerator around two immersive — and intensive — workshops: three days of an introductory design thinking experience to familiarise teams with the process, and five days of a full-blown design sprint to define an audience, identify a problem they faced, build a media prototype, test it in the wild with the audience, and iterate based on feedback. Both the design thinking experience and the sprint required that the news and media orgs dedicated cross-functional teams to full-day, hands-on deep work. Assumptions were challenged, myths were displaced, and a few minds were blown.

The prototypes

Several months later, we have all emerged tired, jet-lagged, but inspired from seven Post-it-ridden rooms around the continent. We have seven new prototypes that are well on their way to being real media products out in the world, ready to give their respective audiences a way towards education, or entertainment, or better decision-making. 

With our news and media partner teams, we are so excited to see how the relationships between these audiences and products grow and evolve, and how they can help build stronger media businesses.

The process continues and we have more work ahead of us. But an important part of the process is to make our experience and journey useful and relevant to anybody else seeking to build processes around user-centricity in their newsroom. 

We’re excited to present this playbook we’ve put together to document our journey. Use it, share it — let us know what you think. 

We can’t wait to see what you build.

Rishad Patel is a product and design professional. He is the co-founder of Splice Media. Follow Rishad Patel on Twitter.

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