Richmond Times Dispatch - Circle  

This work was part of a live client project for Richmond Times Dispatch

A local newspaper dictated by the locals.

We made a 100-year-old local paper a trusted news source that millennials in Richmond were willing to pay for. We did so by making the process of consuming local news go from being passive and controlled by the newsroom to becoming more active by putting the local community at the heart of it.

Brand Strategy | Service Design | User Experience Strategy


  • Interviewed Richmond natives to learn about the role of local news in their lives  

  • Created a survey that helped us understand what was lacking in the paper 

  • Social Listening to find out the kind of news sources people like to quote in conversations 

  • Subscribed to investigative journalism and solution journalism based newspapers 

  • I used these findings to define the problem and inform ideation, prototyping, and user testing.


The death of the bundled model has endangered local news 

Before the internet, local newspapers survived on a bundled model, with public-interest stories packaged alongside lifestyle topics like sports, weather, entertainment, etc. 

But the internet broke this bundle apart making it easy for digital businesses to capture the most actively sought out part of the paper i.e, lifestyle offerings. 

Local news we actively seek 

Local news we come across 

  • Events & Entertainment

  • Sports 

  • Weather 

People get this news for free

  • Crime 

  • City Government Policies 

  • Environment

Why are people are not willing to pay just for this? 


The news isn't connecting because it's not representating

I don’t find the news to find any real value. There’s always a lot of “Mark and Tina of Chesterfield saw a black bear crossing the road near Pocahontas state park.
- Scott, 31
Too often, it seems that all the local news presents is (a) breaking news from somewhere in Idaho (speeding car, crash, robbery, etc.) or (b) lots of “heartwarming” nonsense.
- Susan, 28

The newsroom controls all the reporting making the whole process of local news consumption passive. 

Readers consume RTD news via newspaper, website, or social media
Reporting controlled & decided by RTD newsroom
Readers are informed about issues in the community 
Informed about problems but feel powerless
Left with unanswered questions
News does not relate so they forget about it


How might we make the process of local news consumption more active? 


An arm of the Richmond Times-Dispatch that consists of a circle of community members who will be given the opportunity to make sure their voices are heard in local reporting. 

The Circle will also focus on reporting not just the problems in the community but also possible solutions, giving people the complete story.

The Pillars

Big Picture Reporting 

Providing multiple perspectives and reporting on solutions from other areas with similar issues

Membership vs Subscription

Build a community of like-minded individuals and turn readers into ambassadors

Community Engagement

Empowering the community to decide what's going to be reported





  • Topics selected by the people are covered for a period of 3-4 months.
  • This ensures that people get multiple perspectives and it also encourages people to follow the news and not forget about it once consumed. 


  • People feel like they are part of a community. 
  • We treat this like a membership and not a subscription. 
  • They are made aware of the benefits of solution-based journalism over regular journalism.


  • People are given a chance to vote on the kind of topics they want us to report. 
  • They get two stickers that they can place on their favorite topics and are given reminders when the results come in making the whole process more interactive and engaging.


My minor was actually in media studies + journalism. This is cool because it pushes action. It feels like it’s flipping traditional journalism on its head.
- Cameron, 26
It makes me feel empowered, and not just because of the aesthetics. The language and individuality made me feel heard and made me feel like a part of something greater
- Brian, 33


Measuring Recall

Measure how many of the headlines were the users able to either generally recall or completely recall?
Tasks | RTD
  1. Read the headlines of the top stories

  2. Visit the ‘About’ page

  3. Find how one might submit an idea

  4. Recall top headlines

Score: 2 / 4

Tasks | The Circle 
  1. Introduce to the Circle’s Home page

  2. Read Solutions Journalism process

  3. Complete story selection process

  4. Recall top headlines

Score: 4 / 4


Short Term

  1. Time spent on article 
  2. Article shares
  3. Engagement 
  4. Information recall

Long Term

  1. Increase in subscribers 
  2. Policy changes 
  3. Resource allocation changes 
  4. Organic funding
  5. Community happiness index


Marnie Abraham, (Co-Strategist)
Joe Mrava, XD
Lauryn Goodlett, XD 


Social Listening
Category/ Competitor Study
Survey Design
Brand Audi
Deck Narrative 
Product Experience Ideation 
Client Presentation