BHIVE, Bloomberg’s human-centred research and prototyping group launched in 2017 to understand what motivates news consumers.
The cross-functional team of designers, engineers, product developers and researchers work to build and test digital solutions that improve the news experience for Bloomberg's audience.
"We want to get a strong understanding of their practical news needs on a day-to-day basis and what their attitudes are towards the news," said Ambika Nigam, head of mobile apps, Bloomberg Media.
"It's important to see where is the intersection between user behaviour and things that can complement or grow our subscription business."
Emerging technologies, such as augmented reality, machine learning, audio/voice and virtual reality are explored by the team, along with different business models and platforms that may help journalists tell stories to more engaged audiences.
Karen Johnson, head of design research, Bloomberg Media explained that the team focus on asking specific, strong questions to audiences in what they call 'discovery sprints' to hone in on their audience's needs and behaviours.
We need to be understanding the 'why', and hammering away at those more intrinsic motivations that might get lost in data setsKaren Johnson, Bloomberg Media
"We do our fair share of interviews, but we like to do user testing as a way to put something new in front of them so we can learn from how they respond, and ask them more deeply about their habits and how they are engaging with the news," she said.
"There's so much quantitative data on where people are going, how they are using our site and how long they are staying on the site, but we love to practice qualitative research," she said.
"We need to be understanding the 'why', and hammering away at those more intrinsic motivations that might get lost in data sets."
Bloomberg's UX research lab has a one-sided mirror where BHIVE can conduct an interview on one side, with the other side occupied with staff from editorial, advertising and design teams who are able to listen in about how a user likes or dislikes certain products.
Their research has enabled them to develop a set of news user profiles, which give specific attributes to different consumers, helping them to focus their research questions around the needs of Bloomberg Media's audience.
In these profiles, a user is generally classified as either a 'News Chaser', someone who wants to be the first to know breaking news, a 'News Connector', who wants to share stories to connect with others, or an 'Opinion Seeker', who want to get perspectives that allow them to understand what is happening in the world.
"There's definitely overlap, and of course they are not mutually exclusive, but many of our users have a lens through which they primarily view the news," Nigam said.
The team at BHIVE do not just work with product and engineering teams alone, but collaborate with editorial staff early on in the process.
Focusing on user profiles has inspired the team, enabling them to bring effective ideas to the news outlet – the team's ultimate goal.
For example, the needs of a 'News Chasers' prompted them to launch The Bulletin last year, a new AI-powered mobile feature that allows readers to see the most important stories of the moment without having to click away from the home feed.
"Now we are a subscription business, that is our north star. All this research ensures our users are getting the most value out of our product and we help them discover what we have to offer," said Nigam.
Moving forward, BHIVE will be adding millennials to its design research agenda, looking at the unique professional needs of younger audiences, and testing prototypes for a better TicToc mobile and social video experience.
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