The Brilliant Way the New York Times Uses Interactive Content
September 21, 2017 | Kaleigh Moore
Want to know an interesting fact?
In 2013, the most popular story published by the New York Times wasn’t a story at all.
It was an interactive assessment.
What’s more: It was published on December 21, just 11 days before the end of the year. In 11 days, this piece of interactive content got more clicks than any other piece the publication put out all year long.
That’s kind of mind-boggling, don’t you think? It certainly speaks to the engagement power of interactive content. The Times has taken note: They’ve made interactive content a regular part of their publishing strategy online.
Let’s dive into some other examples, look at their overall interactive content strategy, and find some patterns within their approach.
7 Examples of Interactive Content from New York Times
First up: Let’s look at a few different examples of interactive content the Times has put out recently and see if we can find some common themes.
1. Dialect Interactive Quiz
Here’s the assessment we mentioned earlier that was the most popular piece of content in 2013 (and third most in 2014). The assessment, made by Josh Katz and Wilson Andrews, looks into the different dialects around the US.
The assessment opens with a curiosity gap and entices the reader to find out what their dialect says about where he or she is from. Copy is minimal, and the interactive assessment is displayed right below.
There aren’t any flashy design elements that distract from the content – it’s actually fairly basic.
Also note: The participant also gets an idea of how much is left from the ‘Question 1 of 25’ indicator right at the top.
2. How Well Do You Know the World? Interactive Quiz
This interactive quiz makes good use of the publication’s existing content by turning an article (Places to Go 2017) into an interactive experience. Once the user clicks ‘begin’, they are asked questions about pictures, places, and topics that were featured in the original article.
Design-wise, this quiz is a lot more advanced than the previous example.
On the opening screen, the globe background moves to create a visually stimulating experience. Photographs are the main feature, and CTA buttons move the participant along. Again, though, text is minimal, and the motivator behind the quiz is to let the user test his or her knowledge – a challenge many readers can’t resist.
3. What Kind of Sleeper Are You? Quiz
This illustrated interactive quiz lets users learn more about their sleeping habits in a quick, 10-question assessment. Behaviors are the focal point here, and users have to select answers are most relevant to their own habits.
Design elements are again minimal (noticing a pattern here?), but what’s different about this example is that the only non-text features within this quiz are simple, limited-color drawings that give the quiz a cohesive look and feel.
No photos, no Flash elements.
4. How to Stay Safe in the Great Outdoors Assessment
Published during the warm weather months, this quiz tapped into the fact that more readers would be going outdoors. With what could be life-saving information, users of this assessment get to learn safety facts in an interactive format.
Notice that this interactive content again puts existing materials to good use – photos from staff photographers accompany each question.
5. Copy Edit This! Quiz
Can anyone resist a skills test challenge? It’s hard, that’s for sure. This editing quiz taps into that competitive spirit with a text-based quiz that lets users try their hand at copy editing.
No design elements here – text is the central focus. However, notice that the instructions for this interactive challenge is highlighted.
6. Climate Change Quiz
Here we see another knowledge test within the context of climate change. Pulling from past articles, this quiz sets up a great opportunity for participants to continue the forward momentum and click through to read more once the quiz is completed.
Jody Barton created custom illustrations that add some visual cues to the questions asked along the way.
7. How Smart a Traveler Are You?
For readers interested in the Travel section of the New York Times, this quiz is right on the mark. Who doesn’t want to find out how much they know about one of their favorite topics?
Not only does this quiz create an engaging experience, but it also promotes the publication’s travel-related content in an interactive environment.
Strengths and Patterns within NYT’s Interactive Content
With these seven examples fresh in your mind, let’s go over some of the common themes that run through all of them as well as their strengths as interactive content.
When looking at NYT interactive content, we can see:
The design is simple. None of these have flashy graphics or are bogged down by text. Simplicity keeps the clutter at a minimum so there are no distractions to the path toward action. Most choose either icons for graphics of photography and stick with just one of them.
It leverages a curiosity gap or presents a challenge. Whether it’s testing knowledge or enticing the reader to close an information gap, there’s always a click-worthy angle associated with the material.
It helps the user learn more about him/herself. People love to learn about themselves. That’s why we so often see quizzes like ‘Which Disney Character Are You?’ circulating on social media channels. But the same interest applies for more serious subjects. So even if you’re working in data security, buyers want to learn what they individually need.
It’s largely data visualization. Much of the time, these interactive pieces are just a different way to package existing data in a visually engaging format. It’s not likely this material was created from scratch.
Progress bars let users know how much is left to complete. Letting users see where they’re at in the completion process lets them know how much is left and reigns in short attention spans.
It closes with additional related content. Each of these quizzes closes with ‘read more’ links with related articles, making it easy for readers to discover additional content and to engage further with the brand.
Regular publishing. NYT didn’t just produce their language-geography assessment in 2013 and then call it quits. They started incorporating interactive experiences as part of their regular publications, repurposing research and media they already had and adding a dimension to it.
Overall, each of these interactive pieces of content goes beyond the mere article format and offers something more engaging to the readers coming to the NYT site. It’s a successful strategy: Quizzes like these are highly shareable on social media and organically boost traffic through online word-of-mouth sharing.
What B2B Marketers Can Learn
So what can B2B marketers learn from the New York Times’s approach to interactive content?
For starters, B2B teams should take note of this approach and start integrating interactive experiences to keep up with audience expectations. As more and more publications and brands with mass-reach start tying in these types of content, it’s only a matter of time before it’s the norm rather than the exception.
Brands should also be thinking about how back-end user data can be leveraged. By experimenting with interactive content (think quizzes, assessments, videos with questions, calculators, etc.), brands can boost lead gen efforts and learn more about their audiences at the same time. As responses are collected, this is data that can be analyzed for patterns and trends – and it can help improve lead scoring efforts, too.
Lastly, it’s important to consider how interactive content can help grow on-going communications via email opt-ins. While the NYT might not be requesting an email address before or after their content, they are usually included somewhere on the page as a pop-up.
B2B marketers can integrate a short opt-in form within the completion process (For example: enter your email address to get your results!) at the end of a quiz or assessment.
Take Note: Make Interactive Content Part of Your Strategy
Does this mean you rush into cranking out a new interactive quiz each week? No. But it does mean that it’s time to seriously consider where interactive, engaging experiences should exist within your content marketing strategy. It’s not a “one and done” type campaign, but rather a full integrated throughout your content stages.
If the New York Times is finding that their audience responds well to this type of content, yours is probably next.