Aron Pilhofer: User Centered Design in the newsroom

18 Nov


Aron Pilhofer is the newly appointed executive director of digital for The Guardian newspaper (see my article on about his vision for Guardian Visuals). Before coming to the UK, Pilhofer was the New York Times’ associate managing editor for digital strategy. He is the guy that commissioned Snow Fall (proving the world that big newspapers were ready to invest in rich media factual narratives) and he is also a convinced believer that listening to the user is an essential skill for a digital storyteller – including journalists!

I first met Pilhofer a year ago at MozFest 2013 while he was leading a workshop with Knight Lab’s Miranda Mulligan on “incorporating design thinking into storytelling”, I then met him again in July 2014 teaching journalists about data journalism at The CIJ Investigative Journalism Conference, and we bumped into each other at MozFest 2014, while we were both participating to a workshop on how newspapers  can engage with their readership through social media…  Pilhofer is a man that works on the ground: he believes in educating journalists so that they adapt to the medium of the 21st century. His mission is to change the way journalists understand their role: as he says in this interview “you really have to start from the point of view of the readers and then work backwards – even if this is not part of the culture of most newspapers”.

I think Pilhofer’s point of view is particularly relevant to the UX Series. Digital journalists are digital storytellers. Even when their output is not something that we will call an i-doc, they still have to combine factual narrative and digital media. They have to combine their desire to tell a story with the desire of what their audience wants to know about it. Here is where user testing and user centered design comes in.

Pilhofer’s aim is to create a new breed of digital journalists and the fact that an established newspaper such as The Guardian wants this change in its newsroom says a lot about the future of factual storytelling…. When the giants start moving, the world spins faster!


NB: Find here the link to the SchoolBook  project that is mentioned in the interview. SchoolBook is a site dedicated to news, data and conversation about schools in New York City.

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  1. News from the newsroom: an interview with Aron Pilhofer - i-Docs - November 18, 2014

    […] – to use data analytics and user testing to understand what readers really want from their newspaper (for the UX side of things see another part of the interview with Pilhofer at my website […]

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