“From Designing Boxes to Designing Algorithms: How Programming the News Has Evolved at the New York Times”

Every pixel on a news site represents a choice. Those pixels can be used to inform or delight you, to sell you jewelry, or encourage you to subscribe. Each of those goals, in turn, maps back to different departments within a news organization with competing goals. So how do we decide what to show you? Not long ago we solved this through design. Our screens were divided up into a tapestry of stakeholders with space carved out for advertising, marketing and the different news desks. A complicated negotiation set out the initial layout and then each group could fill in their boxes independently. As our screens and attention have shrunk to the confines of a single scrolling experience on a phone, we can’t rely on design alone. Instead, our editors, advertisers, marketers and engineers must collaborate to encode their intentions into what to show each user in each moment by marrying user experience testing outcomes with design principles, all ruled by the editorial judgment signature to The New York Times. This talk will look at both the New York Times Homescreen and Story page as two case studies of how moving to a single-track experience changed the way we work.

Brian Hamman is a Vice President of Engineering at the New York Times, where he is responsible for all user facing technology across the web and mobile apps. Brian has spent over a decade leading interactive teams in the newsroom and engineering teams in the product organization. He has seen the Times go from separate web and print buildings into one; separate web and print newsrooms into one; and, most recently, separate web and mobile homepages into one.