4 tips for adjusting to the tempo of digital news from veteran designer Mario Garcia

August 19, 2014

The key to telling stories in the digital age is remembering that the news cycle is propelled by two tempos that each require different strategies, veteran news designer Mario Garcia explained at TEDxPoynterInstitute Tuesday.

The tempos, which Garcia calls “24/7” and “curation,” are different from one another, but every news organization has to pay attention to both to fully serve its audience, Garcia said. He shared some tips, gleaned from four decades of design consulting with 700 news organizations, on how to manage the two storytelling modes. Here are some highlights:

1. Don’t rehash the background of the story

While Garcia consulted for Aftenposten, which he called the “NYT of Norway,” the paper started to replace long text-based stories full of outdated background information with small, compact updates. These “story segments,” as Garcia called them, allow news organizations to give their audiences quick, relevant bites of information without bogging them down with obsolete details.

2. Put out a curated edition while maintaining a continuous flow of news

Garcia began his talk by going over the old model of news delivery, where journalism would reach its audience in discrete packages at regular intervals, such as the morning paper and the evening news. Today the news landscape has changed, but these self-contained news packages are still important.
These curated digital editions, which include tablet magazines, are carefully crafted, edited and art directed products, Garcia said. To best serve the audience, news organizations must combine these with 24/7 breaking news (which Garcia calls “raw meat”).

3. Make your content available on the “media quartet”

Today’s news is presented on what Garcia calls a “media quartet” of platforms — print, tablet, phone and online. And the most important of these is the phone, Garcia explained, holding his aloft so the audience could see. The newsroom managers who try to push print exclusively on their audience are doomed, Garcia said. Rather, newsrooms should create content and make it available on their entire portfolio of platforms.

“You have to tell your audience ‘we report the news and you can consume the news on any of these platforms,'” Garcia said.

Garcia recommends that news organizations that want to prioritize newspapers should invest in their weekend editions, which he says will be more robust in the future.

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4. Bring every department in on planning meetings

Often, news organizations fail to include people from every department while making decisions, Garcia said. When he’s brought in for redesigns, some teams lack a representative from advertising and some are missing a representative from the development end. For news organizations to be successful, they need to bring in people with have a wide variety of skills while making decisions.