At Axios, cross-functional collaboration and a focus on delivering the best possible news experience are key. Chief Design Officer Alexis Lloyd explains what else sets the start-up apart from other news organisations.
Axios, the media venture from Politico’s co-founders, turned one year old in January. In the time since its launch, it’s become a touted news source, focusing on topics such as politics, technology, business, or healthcare, while aiming to deliver more efficient user experiences.
“Axios is intended to help knowledgeable people get informed more easily by working with the way they engage with information online, rather than against it,” says Alexis Lloyd, Chief Design Officer at Axios.
Ahead of her appearance at the World News Media Congress in Estoril, Portugal, Lloyd, a former Creative Director of The New York Times R&D Lab, explains what sets Axios apart from other news organisations, and what she has learned from working in a collaborative environment bringing together design, journalism and tech.
WAN-IFRA: In setting up Axios, what lessons have you learned about the integration of good design, journalism and tech?
Alexis Lloyd: At Axios, both design and technology are part of executive leadership because we know that in order for a news organization to succeed today, it's not enough to simply do good journalism or even to create business strategies to support that journalism. You also need to design compelling products that work for your readers and to continually innovate technologically. That means making designers and technologists collaborators in processes across the organization, from journalism to product to business strategy.
Siloed organizations can't do the work that's needed for success in 2018 — open, cross-functional collaboration is key.
How does Axios’ approach to journalism differ format-wise?
Axios is intended to help knowledgeable people get informed more easily by working with the way they engage with information online, rather than against it. The format of most news experiences requires a lot of effort to discover and read the information that’s relevant to you.
Readers, presented with headlines and short teasers, are constantly encountering the "Do I care enough to click?" problem. Even if they do make the effort to change context, they then have to decide "Do I care enough to read?", when most news articles require anywhere from a few minutes to the better part of an hour to consume.
At Axios, we set out to fix both of these problems for our readers, in order to enable them to get informed intelligently, efficiently, and easily.
We worked to create an innovative short-form story format that synthesizes what happened and why it matters in around 200 words. We took inspiration from the ease of use of streaming social platforms and created a news experience that completely eliminates the click. Readers can scroll through a stream of stories and get the whole picture without ever having to change context, solving both the "Do I care enough to click?" and "Do I care enough to read?" problems.
You believe in a more holistic and integrated approach. How does this play out at Axios?
Design and tech are collaborators throughout the organization. In the newsroom, that means that we have visual journalists and developers collaborating on stories and editorial projects. On the product side, we collectively define product strategy, as well as designing and building Axios products, from our reader-facing products (like the website and newsletters) to publishing platforms used by both our journalists and external contributors. We also work closely with our business teams to make sure that we have the best design and technology solutions for our events, marketing, and more.
What key roles do you expect to see in newsrooms in 2020?
The news organizations that I see doing the most compelling work now are ones that integrate product thinking into every aspect of the company.
Increasingly, I think we're understanding that products shouldn’t be developed independently of the newsroom, but rather that editorial strategy and product strategy need to be closely aligned.
The key question for both product and editorial is always "How do we best serve our readers?" — how do we inform them through narratives and experiences that provide real value to them?
By 2020, I expect (and hope!) that we'll see this trend continue, with more roles that cut across editorial, product, design, and tech to create thoughtful and holistic solutions for readers. We can't effectively achieve our journalistic missions without considering the reader experience in its entirety.