PA Media has no shortage of content. But in 2019, the London-based media company was concerned that not all its content was reaching the right customers. Each week, the national news agency for UK and Ireland provides some 1 million words, 3,000 pictures, 500 videos, and more than 100 graphics for media and digital brands around the world — and that’s just on an average week.
During meetings with customers, it became apparent some users often weren’t aware of all the content being produced — or didn’t realise they had access to certain content. So the news agency set out to make it easier for customers to find and use the content that was most useful to them.
That led to PA Explore, a platform Editor-in-Chief Peter Clifton said provides each user with a personalised experience.
“Every user has an individual login, so they can make the Explore platform fit their needs,” he said. That customisation takes several approaches: Users can pin a search on the left-hand side of the site, and the search will automatically update.
“So, it effectively gives them an always-on view of everything PA has written about that subject, updating in real-time,” Clifton said. “A user can have as many pinned searches as they wish.”
Readers also can set up e-mail notifications, so they’ll receive an email whenever PA publishes something on a subject they have specified. And the site’s set views for News, Sport, City, and Entertainment can be tailored to focus on particular topics.
“A user can also search for anything they wish on PA Now, and that new view will constantly update with new information about that subject.”
Building a wire service for tomorrow
To create a platform that would take it into the future, the editorial and product teams talked to customers about how they interacted with PA content. Once the teams created a solution, “we went back to customers to describe what we were planning and to make sure we were addressing their issues.”
The result is a visually appealing, easy-to-use platform that has three key sections: Create, Now, and Ready.
Create “is effectively our wire services,” Clifton said. It brings all the content assets together in one place and allows users to search and download content. Every journalist has their own login, so they can tailor the experience of the wires to reflect their editorial needs and preferences.
In building a platform that would satisfy customers, Clifton said the team relied heavily on feedback from current users, which included giving a small group of customers early access to the prototype.
“Then our editorial team and product and design teams held several workshops to think through the best solutions. This took time, and we were referring back to customers on a regular basis to sense-check our thinking.”
The COVID bump
The platform was ready to roll out at the beginning of 2020 and was expected to be done gradually throughout the year. But the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the timeline. By mid-year, all of PA’s customers and journalists had moved onto the new Explore platform.
Feedback on the platform has been overwhelmingly positive, and the company’s monitoring tools showed more PA content was consumed by customers in 2020 than any previous year. The team will continue adding features to keep it relevant for users, Clifton said.
“It is vital the product continues to evolve,” he said. “We don’t want to forget it and then realise it has fallen out of date in a few years’ time. So we will continue to look at how we can offer more choice around tailoring the experience, further improvements to the diary functionality, and ramping up the way we communicate our live news planning to customers.”