Built with digital and mobile in mind, our easy-to-read story format provides AP members quick access to breaking news and an additional option for customers to differentiate their coverage.
As weather forecasts called for a dire snowstorm to hit the Northeast with up to 2 feet of snow in January 2015, AP editors decided to test something new.
Instead of sticking with the typical long-form writethru about an event that hadn’t happened yet, they also started a running story with small – but quick – updates on airport closings, comments from government officials and other newsworthy tidbits as they occurred.
“For AP members who were very interested in the story, they could catch up with the latest developments in an easy-to-read format,” said Kristin Gazlay, who led the project.
Dubbed “The Latest,” the idea came about after she consulted market research and found that all of AP’s distinct customer segments prefer information that feels more immediate. Gazlay wasn’t surprised, as increasing numbers of consumers look at news on their mobile devices, specifically smartphones.
Bringing customers into the conversation
As the newsroom started using The Latest for additional stories, customer feedback suggested a few tweaks to the format.
“And after about two or three iterations, we hit the mark,” said Ken Romano, an AP product director.
Romano explained that the days of conducting a year’s worth of exploration and testing before a huge product launch are over – the industry simply moves too quickly. AP’s new strategy, therefore, is to push bite-sized prototypes to market as quickly as possible to get them in the hands of users.
Not every project succeeds. Some require a complete reboot; others, such as The Latest, require fine-tuning. While accelerated timing is a goal, it isn’t the main one.
“We want to make sure we’re engaging our customers in developing the products together,” Romano said. “We still verify that everything going out is accurate and fact-based, but there’s a way to experiment and bring users into the conversation, rather than just talking at them.”
“There’s a way to experiment and bring users into the conversation, rather than just talking at them.”
An insider’s perspective
The Latest delivers story developments faster and with an insider’s perspective. During the November terrorist attacks in Paris, it received close to the same number of page views on AP Mobile as the traditional text story, according to Gazlay.
“It confirmed to us that people want a vehicle to more easily keep up with the latest events on a big, breaking story,” she said. “And it’s also faster for us to get new developments out to consumers.
“We’re able to find a home for nuggets that maybe would never make their way into the main story, but help keep The Latest interesting and fresh.”
The Latest works well for digital and mobile platforms because of its ability to build upon itself as events unfold, and allows broadcasters to read updates directly on-air. It does not replace any existing formats, but rather provides an additional option for customers to differentiate their coverage.
“If you want to know what’s happening with a big story, The Latest is where you would go,” Gazlay said.
Jake is the publisher of Insights. He previously covered college sports as a reporter for The Associated Press and helped design its multi-year strategic plan.