mX is overhauling its design and editorial strategy spurred by the results of the emma (Enhanced Media Metrics Australia) engagement metric.
The News Corp Australia commuter paper, which is distributed in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, launched a new logo and design in print this week and is set to officially launch its new editorial and digital experience later this month.
The new mX will include a travel section, a more structured news and entertainment layout, and a native hybrid app for mobile, tablet and desktop which would include live, dynamic editions of favourite sections such as Overheard.
Publisher Tamara Oppen said the changes sprang from findings from the emma engagement metric, launched last year, that revealed mX indexed highly in the “escape” and “entertainment” categories.
“We ran some focus groups late last year and found our readers turn to mX every afternoon to escape and be entertained,” Ms Oppen said. “The emma data reinforced what we’d known instinctively.
“We quizzed readers about the kind of content they wanted and this is what’s come out of that.
“We also really freshened up the look and feel with a stronger use of imagery and colour.”
The focus groups found that many readers turned to mX as their only source of news. “A lot of people have had a busy day at work, too much Facebook and BuzzFeed, and they want a quick update on what they’ve missed during the day,” Ms Oppen said.
In response, pages two and three will cover news and current affairs from the day and will be known as the “FOMO” spread, borrowing the colloquial acronym for “Fear of Missing Out”.
The “Daily Juice” section on pages four and five provide content that will “pick me up, entertain me, tell me what I need to do when I get home” including TV shows and movies to watch, music to listen to, games to play and places to eat.
“We found that readers loved the way mX taps into discovering bars and restaurants they don’t know,” Ms Oppen said.
The editorial changes are being brought in gradually in the lead-up to the official launch in two weeks.
A new one-page section, City Scene, showing readers where to catch arts and culture events around their city, launched this week, and a new travel section, Wanderlust, is to come.
The travel section sprang from findings through emma and reinforced through focus groups.
“Our audience is primarily city workers, they have above average incomes; they love to travel,” Ms Oppen said. “They often don’t have kids and have the time to get away, even if it’s just down to Melbourne.”
Wanderlust will tap into the “travel envy” phenomenon that has spread thanks to apps like Instagram – “the explosion of pictures…making them envious of being in Greece when it’s winter here” – and provide tips in the form of user-generated content in the style of Trip Advisor.
“We’ll say, next week we’re going to Japan, send us your photos and stories from there; we’ll curate the best in a really nicely designed layout.”
While some features such as the city map would be phased out now that most people use their smartphones to navigate, other mX mainstays would be preserved the way readers like them in print and brought into a new era of immediacy with the new mX app, Ms Oppen said.
“We learned a lot about the Talk section – everyone absolutely loves it,” she said.
“They don’t even call the section Talk, they know the micro brands like Vent Your Spleen, Lost In Love and Overheard, which is quite rare.
“Talk will be live on the app. At the moment you can SMS a message to the cute girl on the train and it will be published in the next day’s paper; on the new app, readers can have their messages published almost instantly.
“It’s very much a micro community that has evolved and developed and it makes absolute sense to move it onto a digital platform and let it go from there,” Ms Oppen said.
In print, there are plans to dedicate more pages to the Talk sections as well as “weird, quirky” news, and the power of print remained clear in responses from mX readers.
“The first design we presented we deliberately made it look more like the internet and they didn’t like it,” Ms Oppen said. “Readers say, ‘I’m on screens all day, the stories aren’t long enough; it doesn’t get me home’.
“Where we landed was not as extreme as what we originally planned – they want a fresh and modern design but they don’t want fluff, they want substance and stories.
“The printed word still has a real impact.”
Four brands will join mX as foundation partners. Jetstar has been announced as the Wanderlust travel partner while the others will be released in the coming weeks.
Commercially, the redesign aims reinforce mX as a digital, print and outdoor publication with a focus on audience and content – moving away from its original geographical focus.
Ms Oppen said mX was beginning to grow bigger than its connections across the rail network.
“People often saw us as just a commuter paper,” she said, “but now we’re very much a national, multiplatform masthead.”
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