Hi there,

What do your editorial meetings look like? Do you shout ideas across the desk? Is there a meeting every morning where story ideas are gathered? Are these always useful brainstorming sessions?

User needs play a crucial role in this. During User Needs Labs, the intensive programme we organise with FT Strategies and currently involving nine media titles, we recently had a break-out session to observe how stories are developed. Using the User Needs Model 2.0, we asked each other questions to approach new perspectives with a particular focus.

This is really energising, inspiring approach, in our opinion. It’s as if you are giving a voice to your website visitors when discussing story ideas. It also helps you create story chains more easily, which are a series of follow-ups on one topic. This way, you have more control over what you write about each day and are less dependent on the news cycle—reacting to what happens.

Set your own agenda and create your own story chain. Below, you can see an example regarding elections. Challenge yourself. Can you come up with at least four story ideas in one minute, each targeting a different user need?

Keep training yourself in user needs

“Forget AI or even the internet… the biggest change in journalism in the last 30 years is that we now know what the audience does and wants.”

We may have shared this quote from journalism professor Charlie Beckett in this newsletter before, but in the context of creating story chains, it’s relevant once again. It was this that inspired us to create a playbook to help you articulate the needs of news consumers.

It has been downloaded hundreds of times in the first few months of this year. We haven’t highlighted it recently, but you can study it independently for free. If you couldn’t come up with four story ideas within a minute using the User Needs Model, be sure to download the playbook.

Does image testing work? Yes, it does

A little over six months after the introduction of image testing, we thought it would be interesting to examine its effects.

Just as we previously did with an article on headline testing, we looked at the Click Through Rate (CTR) and loyalty clicks—because you want people not just to click, but to read the piece as well.

The outcome isn’t very surprising, as the laws of logic dictate that testing headlines, intros, or images over a longer period always has a positive effect—since you have nothing to lose. The system stops the test if the original performs better than options B, C, or D.

Nevertheless, we came to an interesting insight: B often performs better than the original. Read all about it in the data study.

  • Dmitry Shishkin worked with smartocto on the User Needs Model 2.0, but he is now the CEO of publisher Ringier International. He shares his views on data-driven journalism in an interview with The Fix.
  • Sam Altman, the head of OpenAI, earns very little in his position as CEO. However, he has various other investments in tech companies that do business with OpenAI. The Wall Street Journal conducted an investigation into these conflicts of interest.
  • Over the past three years, a notable decline in social media referrals to news sites has presented a challenge for news companies in increasing their web traffic. Shiddhartha Das writes for INMA about this year's social media trends.
  • Is news still being consumed on social media? The answer is yes. Slightly more on X than on TikTok, but news plays a role on all platforms, as shown by the research reported by Pew Research.
  • Thousands of media outlets worldwide use the Associated Press. Now, it is trying to tap into other revenue streams, such as with a deal allowing OpenAI to use its texts to train models, as noted by the Press Gazette.

That’s all for now. In two weeks, there will be a new newsletter. If you have any questions or suggestions, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Meanwhile, we are still in the middle of the Feature Demo Weeks. Due to a technical issue, the webinar on smartocto.ai had to be postponed, so there’s ample time to sign up if you’d still like to attend. You will receive the webinars from the past weeks, allowing you to watch them at your convenience.

Best of luck with everything!

Team smartocto