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Case study: the Guardian's digital first strategy

This case study outlines the aims of the Guardian’s digital-first strategy. The publication was awarded Grand Prix at the second annual Online Media Awards.

In the past year the Guardian has pursued some impactful stories - including revealing that the News of the World hacked into Milly Dowler’s voicemail and it was at the frontline during the UK riots. It didn’t just want to deliver the news to its users in a timely and authoritative manner, but also harness everything technically and socially available to help tell the story, innovating on many levels.The Guardian’s aims were to:
  • Find new ways to cover stories: it used Twitter and BBM to report from the frontline during the UK riots and followed up with a wide-ranging research project in collaboration with LSE
  • Develop its Open journalism strategy: it launched the Open newslist and relaunched its books and music sites allowing users to review any album or book they choose
  • Uncover the data behind the news: it analysed the UK riots via court records exclusively obtained by the Guardian data team and published hundreds of datasets in open formats while encouraging its readers to visualise them
  • Enhance its content with engaging interactives: the Middle East path of protest timeline clearly demonstrates what happened, when and where in the 12 months following the Arab Spring
  • Innovate off-site as well as on: it launched a Facebook app and seven new mobile apps including the Guardian iPad and Kindle editions
  • Increase its readership internationally: it set up a satellite team in America which launched guardiannews. com, its US-facing site
  • Retain its sense of humour: its Royal Wedding coverage had a “Republican?” option that hid all of its Royal Wedding content
The Guardian introduced a digital first strategy that put the website at the heart of everything it does. In a difficult economic climate, it had to ensure that it made the most of the resources it had.It automated some section fronts and keyword pages so that editors could concentrate on the core content pages that users look at most – the articles, videos, live blogs and interactives. This enabled it to add rich packages of related multimedia content and spend time in comment threads, enhancing the reader experience and increasing engagement.The Guardian developed new live blogging tools, encouraged its correspondents to use Twitter for reporting (Paul Lewis’s remarkable riots coverage is a great example of this) and asked users to join in via its Open newslist and mutualised culture sites. It expanded its product and UX teams and streamlined its technical processes to ensure that projects were delivered on time and on budget.It divided its workflow between “fast” and “slow” news, ensuring that live and breaking updates arrive on the site as quickly as possible. Longer pieces that require more planning are handled by a dedicated team, thus ensuring that appropriate attention is paid to these projects and that they are presented in a style befitting their tone.As well as creating great content, the Guardian had to ensure that users could find it.It doubled its editorial SEO team and focused its publishing strategy to ensure it indexed well for all key events. It launched a highly successful Facebook app that reached new audiences (it has now been installed 7m times), who then shared the content with their friends, enabling the news site to reach even more people, and also drove traffic to its archive of content as well as current stories.Its design team has expanded on to many different platforms and it has introduced multi-variant testing so that it can learn more about how its users interact with the site and how small changes can make a big difference to engagement levels.

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