When we relaunched LAist.com in the spring of 2021, the re-imagined site had been many months in the making. We started the process with an intense focus on our audience, from making it easy for them to engage with us to considering how they consume news and information. Our goal was to create a reading experience that reflected Southern California. We did that in the use of colors, fonts and even background imagery to capture life here. Our homepage banner was designed to rotate with images created by local artists. We made sure to have Hearken embeds inviting reader questions on every page — with customized versions for each reporter. We prominently feature our answers to questions on the LAist homepage.
Examples of successful engagement efforts:
* The Brief: We know not everyone has time to read multiple 2,000 word news stories in their busy day. The Brief section of the site threads our daily content together to offer a quick and easy skim of headlines and article summaries. These bite-sized articles then direct the user to deeper context and dedicated article pages. Given that over 80% of our audience consumes LAist on mobile devices, it was essential to ensure that the site was “skimmable” but still contextual, and to allow users to access and see all of our day’s relevant content (“What you need to know today”) can be found in one dedicated place.
* Table of Contents: We re-conceived what a user-friendly table of contents would look like and applied that to deeper, longer articles. This has given users control of how they navigate our longer content but allows them to retain the article’s context. By making this possible within our new CMS we greatly expanded our ability to use this feature on stories.
* Real-time illustrations: With several talented illustrators on staff we’ve been able to live illustrate events like the Oscars, Super Bowl and even the primary elections.
* Transparency: As a national leader in the practice of engaged journalism, we have thought a lot about how we interact with our audiences and what we share about our practices. We have published our internal style guide Dialogue as well as our internal diversity report. And on breaking news, we include details about who is reporting and how we are covering the news.
* Regular analysis of reader questions: Our engagement team tracks themes in our questions and those inform our journalism, including in the questions we asked in our live conversations with candidates. We’re also part of the Hearken pilot on autocategorization for GNI.
And we’re also in the forefront of expanding engaged journalism to other newsrooms. Through a yearlong program in partnership with the American Press Institute, KPCC/LAist is working to equip more newsrooms in the public media system with the ability to practice engaged journalism and, we hope, make essential connections to revenue.