Redesigning a KQED institution for younger audiences

In 2015, The California Report turned 20 years old, but its audience is nearly twice that age. The staff had a lot of ‘a-ha moments’ about why that might be, when I initiated a human-centered effort to help the show reach younger audiences.

Instead of looking at existing audience surveys, which the show had done, the first thing we did was go to City College of San Francisco. That’s where thousands of people The California Report hoped to reach spent their days.

Through empathy interviews and observation, we learned that a lot of young adults struggle to relate to “issues” and “news,” preferring conversations with people about shared experiences.

It was also clear that audio – The California Report’s strength – was a medium of choice for young adults, as earphones were everywhere.

Actionable insights included realizing that not a single staff member was a millennial, leading us to bring in younger people to lead brainstorms. We also realized that news organizations are so focused on accuracy, that it’s difficult to embrace risks, share work in progress, or fail forward. 

As a result, we designed small prototypes that wouldn’t jeopardize the show’s credibility. After seeing that it was safe to experiment, the staff embraced the process of rapid trial and learning (not error) on air.

Of course, since this is a radio show, you can listen to one millennial’s feedback on before and after.