Star Touch

Challenges

One of the biggest challenges in journalism is getting editors and reporters to think visually. This was one of my objectives in Canada’s largest newspaper newsroom.

• How can you help reluctant journalists get excited about digital media and get them onboard?

• How can you attract talented designers to join a newsroom where there’s no design culture?

• How can you assess and hire a large creative team and skilled digital editors to work on an unknown product?

My major challenge was to find a recipe for all these questions, build the product and lead a successful digital transition.

News Experience

Star Touch stories are fully interactive, allowing readers to explore fact boxes, photo galleries, maps, videos, audio clips and other surprise elements with just a tap, swipe – or touch – of a finger.

How We Did It

Everyone has a their own recipe for success.

Mine is a mixture of:
Passion + Determination + Talents + Expertise + Communication + Collaboration + Great Execution + Big-Picture Thinking + Deadline Management + Flexibility + Strategy + Creativity + Empathy + Short Meetings + Mentoring + Listening + Discipline + Delegating + Trusting + Giving Feedback + Motivation + Amazing People + and again a lot of Empathy.

Results

In collaboration with La Presse and Nuglif, we launched Toronto Star Touch for tablets on September 15, 2015. This was the culmination of months of planning, hard work and very long nights.

Awards

Project of the Year by the National Newspaper Awards, 2015

Merit for Presentation by the National Newspaper Awards, 2015

Silver Award in Best Digital Initiative by the Digital Publishing Awards, 2016

Gold for Best Multi-Platform by the Digital Publishing Awards, 2016

Digital Design Award of Excellence by the SND Digital, USA 2017

3rd place, Best Brand Awareness Campaign by the INMA Global Media Congress, New York, 2017

Watch a quick demo of Star Touch

Achievements

Under my leadership, the $24-million digital news app Toronto Star Touch was built within a 9-month period and launched on September 15, 2015. Later, it was ranked the #1 News iPad app and the #17 new app in Apple’s top 20 of 2015 in Apple Store Canada. The app reached 275,000 downloads; with an average 30,000 openings per day; and a 35 minute-engagement time.

Then in fall 2016, I created the 3rd brand campaign, which resulted in a 20% increase in readership and won the 3rd place for Best Brand Awareness Campaign at INMA World Congress in New York City in 2017.

But what I’m most proud of is building the digital design department at the Star — in my opinion one of the most talented teams in the business.

TV Interview

This is my interview in French on national television in Canada. It was during a special Toronto Business week.

Business Newscast: RDI ÉCONOMIE / Host: Gérald Fillion
Rencontre avec Fadi Yaacoub, l’architecte du «Star Touch», 8 octobre 2015, à 18:30

Le Star Touch est au Toronto Star ce que La Presse Plus est à La Presse. C’est la nouvelle application du Toronto Star disponible depuis quelques semaines sur tablette. L’homme derrière le Star Touch vient de Montréal, il s’appelle Fadi Yaacoub.

Fall 2016 Brand Awareness Campaign

Overview of this campaign: Grow Toronto Star Touch user base; and increase retention and frequency of usage of Toronto Star Touch on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

Results for this campaign

Daily Users: up 20% vs pre-campaign period
Weekly Users: up 10% vs pre-campaign period
Monthly users: up 17% vs pre-campaign period
Downloads: up 17% during campaign period
Monthly retention: up 6% for iOS devices vs pre-campaign period
Monthly retention: up 7% for Android devices vs pre-campaign period

Campaign Fall 2016
Art Director: Taylor Shute
Creative Director: Marwan Chahine
Production: Toronto Star Touch Creative Studio
Executive Creative Director: Fadi Yaacoub

Selected covers

Kudos to the Star Touch team!

I would like to thank everyone who worked on my team:

Design manager: Paolo Zinatelli.
Art directors: Taylor Shute, Danyal Fallah, Bradley Reinhardt and Adam Taylor.
Designers: Mishelle Menzies, Jose Ongpin, Jae Yang, Sara Plavsic, Henwick Yiu, Olusegun Adebajo, Michele Vincini, Boen Jiang, Aaron Berge, Marina Botter, David Schnitman, Shelly Jameer, Andy Kolenberg, Edward Chu, Lea Kaplan, Chi Deng, Anthony Capano, Sana Sheikh, Xuefei Ji, David Caterini, Janine Wong, Anya Bogatch, Derek Ma, Weiwei Sun, Tim Schjins, Sanjay Pinnock, Jen O’Dowd, Adam Oliver and Lisa Mancini.

Digital Producers & Copy Editors: Frank Butty, David Washburn, Brian Liu, Sarah Del Giallo, George Achi, Allendria Brunjes, Scott Rennie, Sahar Fatima, Ed Tubb, Mark Teo, Chris Hanna, Andrea MacDonald, Robert Gibson, Andrew Bates, Tara Deschamps, David Kates, Eric Stober, Tanis Fowler, Mallika Viegas, Chelsea Maclachlan, Lina Toyoda, Marcel Vander Wier, Kelsey Wright, Daniel Bitonti, Tomas Hachard, Swati Bhatt Vyas, Robin Grant, Courtney Greenberg, Nicole Riva, Ali Zafar, Romi Levine, Jarrett Churchill, Stacey McLeod, Dawn Cuthbertson, Perry King and Kerri Breen.

And a big thank you to everyone I worked with on this product: photographers, visual specialists, illustrators, the IT team, the analytics team, the HR team, guardians of the editions, the creative studio, marketers, journalists, editors, managers, executives and consultants — whether in house, in Toronto or in Montreal.

And finally, I’d like to give special thanks to Toronto Star editor-in-chief Michael Cooke, along with Dianne De Fenoyl, Sharon Dean, Irene Gentle, Lynne Munro, Robin Honderich, Rick Laiken and Amit Shilton – my A-team!

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