LONDON: Young news consumers want content that they can expand, fast-forward, and that builds incrementally to the time they have, according to tests by the BBC.

The BBC, the UK’s publicly-owned broadcaster, has shared findings from the test of 12 new news story formats on smartphone to respond to the needs of younger (18-26-year-old) users, the first phase of its “Reinventing News Stories Project.”

Tristan Ferne, executive producer for the BBC’s Research & Development unit, wrote about the findings in a post on Medium. In a prior post, Ferne explored the language of new smartphone content formats extensively.

The team, formed of a multimedia journalist, a UX designer, a user researcher, and a developer worked to put together “a minimum viable BBC”, Fearne writes.

Insights on 18-26 news consumers

These users are interested in going deeper on a story, but want to skim first and then dig deeper when interested. The news is complex, so one of the roles for a story format, the research found, is to help the reader to understand complex stories; they want help forming opinions. Crucially, the team found that video had not killed text.

“There was an apparent preference for text, but it always depended on their context and the story. Limited mobile data plans, for example, meant video was consumed more at home”, Fearne writes.

What worked?

  • The Expander:
    This format, which will go into testing on the BBC’s site next month, will show yellow ellipses after a key term or event to avoid assuming too much knowledge from the reader. The user then clicks that ellipsis to pop out more key information.

  • The Incremental:
    “This prototype, Incremental, breaks a news story into sections and gives you the option to consume each chunk of information as either video, short text, long text or skip it”, Fearne writes.

    “Overall Incremental had the best user feedback from this round. We think it could be a kind of long-form by stealth  – a way of engaging people put off by long articles or lots of sidebars and related article links.”

  • Scrollable Video:
    In essence, this format allows users to fast-forward video by scrolling through captions. This allows people to jump around a piece of video in a similar way to text.

    “Participants talked about using it to skip to interesting bits or to review something they missed. They found it intuitive to use once they’d discovered the function.”

Sourced from the BBC; additional content by WARC staff