Offline Engagement Strategies with THE CITY

Audience Engagement, Research, Design

I worked with NYC-based local nonprofit newsroom THE CITY to develop offline strategies to deliver their work to new readers. We aimed to address the challenge of meeting new audience members who don’t spend much time online, but could greatly benefit from THE CITY’s explanatory and service journalism. I collaborated with associate editor Rachel Holliday Smith, chief product officer Scott Klein, audience engagement producer Diana Riojas, news apps developer Sam Rabiyah and former director of audience and engagement Zainab Shah.

After working on this project for a year, I compiled my findings into a guidebook for local newsrooms to do their own physical delivery experiments with their service journalism.

I also put together a pack of resources for THE CITY to use going forward with these experiments, including design templates, project ideas and a troubleshooting checklist. 

This project was featured in NiemanLab

The complete guidebook can be found here.


We conducted three experiments, distributing service journalism to different locations in New York City using postcards and flyers. We targeted areas based on topic and information needs and built our strategies around those needs. 

1. Rent Map

We used the USPS’s marketing services to deliver THE CITY’s rent stabilization map tool, an interactive tool they built showing where rent stabilized apartments in New York City were disappearing. We located a specific area with a high concentration of deregulated units, and sent postcards promoting the map tool to every address on the USPS mail route that passed through the area. We found that postcard recipients were more likely to visit the interactive rent map and were also more likely to visit other parts of THE CITY’s website.

2. Heat Postcard

We delivered THE CITY’s guide to getting heat fixed in an NYC apartment. We used 311 call data to located the NYC ZIP codes with the most heat-related complaints per person, and sent postcards to a mail route in one of those areas. We also built a survey that would only be shown to readers who accessed the story through the postcard, and were able to hear from one woman who was empowered to contact her landlord about the broken heat after reading the card. 

3. Property Records Flyer

We used libraries as sites to deliver THE CITY’s guide to looking through NYC property records. We chose libraries because we believed their mission to promote research skills would align well with a guide that taught readers how to access public records. I hand-delivered flyers to libraries in four of NYC’s boroughs. We found flyers to be an effective, low-cost, replicable option for delivering service journalism in-person, and also found that librarians were interested in collaborating with THE CITY.