Context: Project done as part of Communication Design, Fall 2016
Team: With MacKenzie Cherban
Dates: Sep to Oct 2016 (5 weeks)
Role: Research, Analysis Of Findings, Concept Development, Copy-writing
Skills: Communication Design, Copy-writing
Links: Buzzfeed Article
Target Audience & Goal
We decided to target millennial voters, between the ages of 18–35. To equip young voters with tools to look at the news they consume more critically and help them formulate their own opinions without being clouded by the bias of news outlets. As a result of this, we hoped that millennial voters would be able to make better informed decisions during the elections in November 2016.
Millenial voters make up 31%
of the electorate
This segment of the demographic also opened up interesting options in terms of the channels we can use to reach them. Given how many people use their Facebook news feed as a primary source for news, we felt the best way to reach our target audience was to create something that was easy-to-read and shareable, like a Buzzfeed article.
We analysed three news outlets assigned to us (MSNBC, ABC and BBC) to look closely at the news they presented and, more importantly, how they presented it. We also developed a mental model of the news outlets to help consolidate our findings.
Mental Model Of News Outlets
There were three key factors that shaped our mental models (shown below) of the news outlets: 1) website structure shown using wireframe of website; 2) scope of news shown using pie chart; and, 3) use of images shown using camera angle diagram.
Sources with a narrow scope provide readers
with just a snippet of current affairs.
We assigned colours to different news genres and highlighted the presence and density of these genres on the featured section of the homepage (shown as wireframes above). BBC’s featured news pulls from a range of different news topics — politics, world news, sports, science, technology, etc. ABC News’ featured section typically highlights an elections-related main story accompanied by a range of national news from topics, like sports, entertainment and community. MSNBC’s featured story is almost always on American politics and 80–90% of its top ten articles are political in nature too.
Website Structure affects the type of
news that is "pushed" to readers.
Websites like MSNBC, have a clear hierarchy that places most emphasis on a featured story. Whereas, BBC offers five featured stories to choose from. This aspect is represented with the pie charts that show the weightage given to each portion of the featured section on the main page.
Images communicate provide great insight
into news source's own point of view.
As images are often the first things readers see even before they read the articles, images often have the power to impact the lens through which they read the articles. We found that camera angles used to take photographs revealed a lot about news sources. For example, the photographs of Hilary Clinton on MSNBC were primarily close-up shots from a low camera angle and focused only on her. This made the photos of her appear more dramatic and portrayed her in a powerful and dignified light. The photos of Donald Trump, however, had the tendency to capture him either looking down, in the midst of speaking and/or with groups of other people in the frame. BBC and ABC News, however, took a more neutral approach to their images with photographs that were mostly taken head-on.
A study by Pew Research Centre suggests that, “those with consistently conservative political values are oriented around a single outlet — Fox News — to a much greater degree than those in any other ideological group”.
With the power to customize almost everything in today’s world, it’s very easy for people to be trapped in their own media bubble, not realising that the information they receive is skewed and that they’re only seeing a filtered portion of the news.
We decided to explore this further through an experiment of our own.
What if one of us only looked at news from a
single news source while the other looked
at multiple news sources for a week?
For five days we decided to look at our assigned news sources twice a day at 9AM and 9PM, and note down what we perceived to be the most important news and why, our emotion in one word and our mood from a scale of 1 to 5 (1 =negative and 5=positive).
As our target audience were young voters between the ages of 18 and 35 years, we decided to record our findings through a Buzzfeed comparison-style article.
4) Feedback & Validation
We tested our first iteration on members of the class for feedback and areas to improve. Some of the feedback we got was to co-relate the tips and results shown on the infographic, make important data like the mood tracker bigger and clearer, and use different colours for each person to distinguish results easily. We took their feedback into account and created the final version (above).