Digital renewal at the ARA: much more than a new website
The newspaper completes a process to relaunch its online channels and provide a better service to its readers and subscribers
After applying several touches during the ten-year history of the ARA, the time had come to rethink the newspaper's digital window. The result is the new Ara.cat website, as well as some new apps, which go live this Sunday - therefore representing the newspaper's affirmation as a leader in innovation and design, always at the service of journalism.
The new website has three main sections. First, the front page with the topics of the day. There, the reader will find the in-depth articles worked on by the editorial staff during the day and also the opinion columns to complement the current affairs with a rich and plural analysis. The second block is Right Now, with up-to-the-minute updates on the events that are taking place in the current moment. It is the corner of immediacy, from which we can go deeper into the issues that are of interest to the reader who has come looking for a quick first reading of the news. Finally, the Discover block is home to the ARA's most relaxed journalism: the big issues, the extensive interviews, those proposals to accompany readers beyond the noise of the daily news.
"We are immersed in a change in the way in which we keep informed, and we want to innovate in the way we present information, adapting to the needs of each reader at all times", Esther Vera, director of the ARA, explains when talking about the changes in the new website. "The paper format is still alive and will coexist with the digital one, an online format that will allow for a friendlier, more innovative, more ordered and clearer consumption. A website where readers can easily find the information they are interested in at any given time, whether it be the rigourous immediacy the Right Now block, the information and the complete opinion of our website through its front page or the analysis pieces, or the reports and the restful reading that you will find when stepping through the Discover door. We continue to do the journalism we have always done with rigour, freedom and commitment, but we are making it available in a new, clearer and more useful way"
One of the ARA's mottos is classic journalism with new tools. This has meant, in this process, also reviewing all internal flows to ensure that the reader is at the centre of it all and is given depth, analysis, investigation, immediacy and rigor.
The subscriber, at the centre of it all
One of the singularities of the renewal process of the website is that it has been done from the bottom up. Managing Director Georgina Ferri stresses this: "Accepting change is the first step. And the essential thing is that this change should always involve all participants, from journalists to readers and subscribers. And if we really want to listen to their opinion, we must also encourage participation". During the year and a half in which the digital window has been redesigned, 50 workshops have been held with the newsroom and with readers and subscribers, which have included more than 150 face-to-face participants and 10,000 remote participants. As a result, a new participation system has been designed that allows for commenting on the entire news item or commenting on a selection of the text, responding to and evaluating other contributions, following and mentioning commentators... in short, creating a network and a community to enrich the newspaper through collective debate within the newspaper.
Since its inception, the ARA has defended the subscription model, based on the fact that the best way to ensure independence is to rely primarily on readers, who are the main source of income for the newspaper. The new website provides an even more comfortable experience for ARA's more than 40,000 subscribers, who can now find a profile page with more functionalities: the history of the content that has been saved for retrieval, comments, the signatures that they follow, and a control centre to manage and customize notifications.
On the other hand, and with the desire to make ARA journalism known to the maximum number of readers, the number of free articles per month for non-subscribers has been increased from 5 to 10. In order to access these contents, you must be registered.
The reader will perceive an evident change in the new website, but there is an invisible change that is decisive: the content manager has been completely renewed, so that it gains in versatility and can generate content with more attractive formats. In parallel, the ARA applications for iPhone and Android have also been renewed.
Regarding these changes, ARA's head of technology, Marc Camprodon, points out that the new website and the new content manager are not just new tools. "We are talking about the construction of a new digital culture, it is not done overnight. The key is to see the needs of the large areas of the newspaper in order to be aligned with our readers". In fact, for Ferri, the objective "was not to have the best abstract tool, but the tool that best adapts to our way of working".
This idea of transversality is also reinforced by the design part. "It's not just a question of making a new website", designer and digital art director Ricard Marfà explains. "It's a whole new visual identity that is more attractive and coherent with what we explain and how we want to explain it. With this, we can offer an improved experience adapted to different channels, devices, and use. In short, it is about putting design at the service of a more orderly and dynamic information".
Therefore, the new website is not just an aesthetic change, or an improvement in information architecture. The transformation has taken place on a much deeper level, since it is rooted in the newspaper's content production processes. "The work on innovation also extends to how we show advertising in the newspaper", Marketing Director Pablo Casals says. "We have opted for a non-intrusive integrated model, which favours reading without lessening the visibility of our advertisers. A model in which everyone wins: more comfort for our readers and more efficiency for our advertisers".