KPCC for iPad

Positioning Southern California's largest public radio station as a digital news leader in Los Angeles.

Product strategy, Product design

With the second-largest newsroom in Los Angeles and hundreds of articles published every week, KPCC needed a product that positioned it as a brand that delivers more than just great radio.

All of that increased digital coverage costs money, and one of KPCC’s strategic goals is to grow its base of members who support us because of our digital news service. Focusing on the tablet as a great device for reading, we wondered if we could build an app that would create daily reading habits with our loyal listening audience.

And since our loyal fans were most likely to seek out a KPCC native app, we wanted to find ways to deepen the emotional connection with KPCC, building increased loyalty that could drive membership.

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To jumpstart the project, we started with a two-day workshop led by the brilliant design team from Uncorked Studios, a digital product agency based in Portland. Working collaboratively with editorial, product and revenue stakeholders, we ran through intensive brainstorming and prioritization exercises.

The first UX sprint focused on key customer journeys where KPCC's app could fit into people's busy lives. Creating customer journey maps helped us to think beyond simple activities and user stories, exploring the emotional and psychological dimensions of their daily lives and interactions with our app.

We reached a point in the project where we had an abundance of ideas but lacked clarity. To hone in on a product that had the greatest chance of resonating with our audience, I ran an experiment to test four different elevator pitches and gather signals from our audience. You can read all about the experiment here.

KPCC for iPad landing page experiment

To run the experiment, I created four variations of a landing page for our iPad app, each with a distinct value proposition and feature set.

The results of our experiment pointed in the direction of a curated news experience, but also that our audiences expected to be able to consume KPCC audio on their tablets. We began to see more clearly that KPCC’s iPad app was a product that had to act as a bridge for our audience - affirming their love for us as a radio station while also becoming a part of their daily news reading habits.

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Now that we had a clear set of outcomes to design for, I began sketching and devising a structure for the app. Storyboards and wireframes gave way to polished designs. Along the way, I made the switch from Photoshop to Sketch and haven't looked back.

To get our users reading KPCC content every day, we created a new editorial feature, The Short List, delivering twice-daily curated editions of the day's news in the early morning and late afternoon. This was a rare opportunity for product to influence and shape editorial strategy. Bringing The Short List to life demanded a deep collaboration across design, engineering, and content.

We collectively imagined a news product with a different form and set of goals than our traditional coverage. Instead of long articles deeply investaging a single topic, we embraced short one-to-two paragraph summaries. Instead of only writing about the stories our newsroom covered, we curated stories from a range of trusted sources. Instead of an authoritative tone, we adopted a decidedly human voice. Instead of expediently selecting photo assets, we wanted to carefully choose images that were immersive and supported the emotional thrust of the story. Instead of building a curated homepage of things to click on, we wanted to create something that could be enjoyed just as much if it was skimmed as it was for those who dove deeper into each article.

Building a new editorial product from conception to execution was thrilling. We got to experiment with different content approaches, extend KPCC’s custom CMS to support new content models, and design for a very specific mode of news consumption.

Home screen

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KPCC for iPad is the first product to successfully switch KPCC's loyal listeners to readers. Users engage in reading nine times more often than listening, and read multiple stories per session. It also marked the first time KPCC’s newsroom launched a new editorial product (The Short List) hand-in-hand with a new digital product.

The app takes full advantage of iPad's canvas to show off the Short List's tightly curated sets of stories and beautiful photography. Users can select their favorite programs and have new episodes automatically added to their queue. Audio is surfaced throughout the app, making it easy to discover, queue and play radio segments and episodes.

KPCC for iPad is a product that our audience loves. It received 94% 5-star ratings in its first 30 days in the App Store, and more than half of active users use the app multiple times per day.