Client Success Stories: Reveal from the Center for Investigative Journalism

Discover how Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting leverages the editorial experience design power of Setka Editor to wow and retain readers.

Michael Grant

Formerly User Experience Design Editor at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, now a teaching fellow at the Google News Lab

— Setka Editor is an incredibly accessible tool for publishers that are interested in presentation and want to empower designers – or even non-designers – to do more with visual storytelling.

 

Client

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting


Team

Audio/Video staff + two full-time designers


Audience

Broad and diverse


Daily Visitors

30,000


Monthly Visitors

Mobile 46% – 4.81 Desktop 45% – 6.36 Tablet 8% – 6.6


Setka Editor Stats

Scroll-depth – 95-98%

Average time spent on-page – 5 minutes or more

About Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting

For over 40 years, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) has been “telling stories that change laws and lives.” Founded in 1977 as the first nonprofit investigative journalism organization in the United States, CIR is still one of the country’s most credible and respected media organizations.

“Our award-winning journalists hold the powerful accountable and reveal government fraud and waste of taxpayer funds, human rights violations, environmental degradation and threats to public safety. We consistently shine a bright light on injustice and protect the most vulnerable in our society.”

A recipient of News Emmy awards, a George Foster Peabody Award, a Webby, and many others, Reveal has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012, 2013 and 2018, an Academy Award nominee in 2018, and the honoree of the 2012 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

How did Reveal find out about Setka Editor?

Michael Grant

Formerly User Experience Design Editor at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, now a teaching fellow at the Google News Lab

“One of my colleagues from the Stanford [JSK] Fellowship put me in touch with the Setka team, who clarified that, as opposed to be being a standard page builder, their tool was really about designing actual article layouts. That really interested me, and after seeing a demo with all the features, I knew I’d come back to it in future use. Reveal runs on WordPress, so when I landed there, I decided to try our hand at using Setka Editor for our storytelling.”

Engaging, Standout Long-Reads

“When we have time to really think about presentation, we turn to Setka Editor to achieve it.”

Like any busy newsroom, the Reveal team runs on tight deadlines and quick story turnovers. But with their focus on investigative journalism, bigger pieces can take anywhere from a couple of months to a year to produce.

“Long-form, deep investigations present us with the richest visual opportunities to really consider presentation, art direction, photography, graphics, and compiling that all into a story form that really resonates with readers.”

To make the most impressive visual impact, the team decided to try Setka. Their Setka Editor-powered piece was called “The Happiest Cats on Earth” – an in-depth look at a colony of feral cats living on Disneyland property – and the public health threat that they pose. Then there’s “Inside Hate Groups on Facebook,” an article that weaves in design elements inspired by the social network to guide readers through the story.

“There’s a little bit of learning curve,” says Michael, “but we definitely see Setka Editor’s value and are using it in-house. It’s allowing us to respond to visual requests from the newsroom a lot more quickly. And when we have time to really think about presentation, we turn to Setka to achieve it.”

With “Caregivers and Takers” – a long-form investigation that takes a deep dive into the exploitative world of elderly care professionals – they’ve done just that.

Read on to hear about the Setka Editor experience, in the words of Reveal’s former User Experience Design Editor, now a teaching fellow at the Google New Lab Michael Grant.

 
 

The Content Challenge

“We’re starting to explore other kinds of story forms that might narrate and tell a tale in a different way.”

Often times we have quick-turn pieces that need to go up right away, so there isn’t time to really consider the presentation. But when we have at least a week or two before publication, my designer and I are definitely thinking about the design.

Because we’re an investigative shop and we ship a lot of words, we haven’t been very experimental with our story layouts. Before we can get to a place where we’re really doing that kind of work, I think our writers and editors have a lot to learn in terms of how to formulate their stories so we can try something that goes beyond your standard article on a visual level.

I’m pretty familiar with CMS management tools and, generally speaking, a lot of publishers. We have these systems that allow us to place stories on different pages, and curate various articles, but beyond that it becomes really difficult and complicated to actually apply great-looking design to an article itself.

Setka Editor’s Solution

“The Setka Editor interface has been really great at optimizing our workflow so that we can hit deadlines.”

We’re always looking for ways to play off of the grid, so it’s been great to be able to apply it and use it strategically while figuring out how it looks when building in other elements. In the Caregivers package, we wanted to open up with something that was very untraditional. Scrollytelling is beginning to catch on, so we wanted to lead with that and into the Setka Editor grid.

As far as the components themselves, it’s really useful to be able to break from one long string of text into a bigger asset – and one that doesn’t require heavy lifting. It’s very powerful to be able to do these kinds of tasks in an interface as opposed to searching through lines of code to figure out how to reposition a <div>, or a <section>, or something like that.

Michael’s Favorite Features:


1.

Instant Preview


I really like being able to instantly see our layouts in desktop and mobile views. You hit Setka Editor’s preview button, and they’re both there – that’s been really useful.


2.

Embed


We also really like the embed tool. If you have some kind of custom HTML or JS, you can throw it there and quickly and easily control the spacing between elements. That’s been been super helpful for us.


3.

Templates


We’re now looking at how we might build a small library of different story forms or different designs that are ready to go. We see that as being a powerful affordance of the Setka Editor plugin, so templating is a big deal.

Setka Editor is an incredibly accessible tool for publishers that are interested in presentation and want to empower designers – or even their non-designers – who want to do more with visual storytelling. It really helps avoid having to code so you can build the presentation and layout of a story the way you envision. And once we’ve established the videos, photos, and graphics, we can really lean on Setka Editor to help us deliver those visuals in our long-form stories.

Design Impact

We saw some incredible success in the first week of engagement on the Caregiver story, with 95-98% scroll-depth. We may not have gotten it in front of a whole lot of people – but time spent on that story was five minutes or better on average. That tells us a lot about the value that was there, with presentation being a key factor in motivating people to really read and scroll through.

Once you know how to use Setka Editor’s tools, any publisher can be pretty dangerous with them. I encourage editorial teams to try it out and see what they come up with.

What’s Next

We’re starting to get into developing templates. That’s the next frontier for us – to have these types of layouts in Setka Editor that are just ready to go, along with styles we can apply to any page.

We also have a redesign coming up, which will give us lots of room to explore further aspects of the user experience and our website. We’re focusing on how we appeal to donors, convert users into subscribers, and encourage recurring subscriptions — and design is a big part of it all.

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