Online news publications often choose to fill a niche. For STAT, this niche is the medical industry.
The thing that made STAT different from its competitors, according to an article in the Columbia Journalism Review, is that it intends to appeal to mass audiences- not just readers in the medical and science industries.
Boston Globe Media produces STAT, which was launched in 2015, according to their website. In 2017, it won the “General Excellence in Online Journalism, Small Newsroom” award from the Online News Association.
Jennifer Keefe, the product designer at STAT, says she was brought into the company about six months after it officially launched.
“Before I came on board, STAT had worked with a design agency to develop the design and aesthetic of the site” said Keefe. “About six months after the site launched, I was hired to replace the agency.”
This wasn’t necessarily an easy switch. Keefe had to take some previously completed tasks and change them.
“Taking over for the agency with the assumption that the STAT brand had already been defined and established was a challenge,” said Keefe. I ended up revamping it, which lead to the site redesign
When she joined, Keefe thought there hadn’t been enough done to enhance the personal brand of STAT.
“Defining the brand is, in my opinion, the most important thing to consider when launching a new product,” said Keefe. “Establishing the brand identity ensures visual consistency, across your site, but also within any marketing materials that are produced. And with a consistent brand, you start to develop trust and loyalty with your customers.”
Keefe said developing a relationship with these customers is one of the hardest parts of having a new organization, even with connections to an already well-known publication.
“Most of your users don't know you yet. This is where brand consistency really plays a role in developing brand recognition,” said Keefe. “Being affiliated with the Boston Globe has helped get our name out there, so we do have that to our advantage.”
The main architect of STAT is Rick Berke, the executive editor. Before taking on this project, he was the Executive Editor of Politico, according to his LinkedIn page.
Since its start, STAT has expanded to include correspondents and reporters in cities around the US.
Erin Mershon, STAT’s senior Washington correspondent, didn’t join the team until after it was already established.
“I'm relatively new to STAT and I won't be able to speak to the creation, development or growth of STAT,” said Mershon in an email.
Even with the creation of these new roles, there’s still some departments that are lacking.
“Another challenge I face is working with a limited number of developers. There are a lot of things on the site that I'd like to improve, for example, but I'm restricted by our developer resources,” said Keefe.
But that doesn’t stop Keefe from trying to find creative ways to keep innovating the site.
“To overcome this, I started getting more involved in the development process myself,” said Keefe. “I started taking on smaller projects that I could code on my own.”
Keefe has played a key role in the growth and development of STAT. Her experiences are an example of how important product design and branding are in establishing a new digital publication.
“What you see today on www.statnews.com is not the same design and aesthetic that STAT originally launched with,” said Keefe. “Establishing the STAT brand continues to be a challenge- a fun one though.”