The Mario Blog
Digital Transformation: no newsroom is too small to attempt it

It is perhaps the most important decision a newsroom will make today to ensure that its product will remain viable, essential and alive. I am enjoying my conversations with newsrooms around the globe on this subject and the excitement and challenges making the move to digital present.

I think that the days of “digital first” strategies are, in the words of some of my grandchildren, so “15 minutes ago.” Not that a strategy that prioritizes digital has become passé. But, in my experience, many newsroom executives have adopted a “digital first” philosophy in abstract terms.  In reality, there is no digital first strategy in place. The moment you sit down in one of the news meetings, you realize that, in spite of the “digital first” via word of mouth, the organization is still planning “tomorrow’s newspaper”, or “next week’s magazine”.

My work today centers almost entirely on digital transformations.  Yes, design is still an important part of it, but it is secondary to presenting strategies and offering solutions that allow for a newsroom to start on the journey to a true multiplatform environment.  And it all begins with a workshop to draft a manifesto that outlines and clarifies a philosophy for how two important topics will be addressed:

  1. The notion of frequency.
  2. How a story flows.

Those are the two main themes that can propel a newsroom into a total and successful digital transformation, or perhaps keep it from advancing—-staying as a print centric operation.

The notion of frequency—Perhaps the most difficult mind set to change in a newsroom is that the team is NOT working on tomorrow morning’s newspaper, or next week’s magazine: that it is a 24/7 cycle in which one updates stories constantly, reports what one has on the story and moves the story along.

How a story flows— This is related to the point made above: journalists who are still filing ONE story and then wait for the next day to update are not thinking in terms of a digital strategy. The story is updated sometimes as often as every 15 or 30 minutes.

For this to happen, the newsroom must have what I call a “sheriff” or traffic cop who directs the flow of the story.

However, in spite of the challenges, it is fascinating to go thru the process of digital transformation in these organizations, and that is the centerpiece of all my projects at the moment, and for the past 18 months.  It is a different type of training, quite removed from what WE all were doing in the 90s, and even in the early 2000s.
The learning curve is high and the changes in storytelling, technology, newsroom strategy, etc. are fast and furious.
The audience’s habits and how they consume information is also another topic that is part of the workshops and that we must keep up with. Not to mention monetization strategies, so important for the survival of these media organizations.
Then there is the human element, which is key to an effective transformation: in every newsroom, there are those who are not capable  to adapt to change, who simply can’t deal with the changes. I see it all the time: either because they are set in their ways, or because they romance print and can’t imagine the brand of their dear newspaper or magazine as a digital offering.
The good news, however, is that, in most cases, the majority joins with gusto–a win win situation for all.

Every newsroom can make the switch to digital transformation

Yet, it is not difficult, nor impossible, for a newsroom of any size to accomplish a smooth transition to a digital operation where the brand works well across platforms.

My workshops are based on a true method of accomplishing such transformation, starting with the manifesto and moving on to simulated situations for how a breaking news story is handled across platforms over a period of time, to a full workshop on visual storytelling (how we tell stories for mobile devices), to the design strategy that extends the brand across platforms. I derive great satisfaction seeing how quickly newsrooms assume the new roles, begin to think in terms of various platforms and continue to respect print, but not as the protagonist.

Now, there are two articles related to the subject that I recommend to those of you seriously considering a digital transformation for your newsroom:

This one is about the changes taking place at the Swiss newspaper Les Temps, under the leadership of a young editor:


The other one is an interview with Joanne Lipman,, Chief Content Officer of Gannett, and Editor in Chief USA TODAY , with whom I worked in a redesign of The Wall Street Journal: 

Media People: USA Today’s Joanne Lipman


Ideas we like

Take a look here at these new feature, Of Interest: Noteworthy Facts from Today’s Paper, added to The New York Times’ Pages 2-3: these are highlights (mostly facts and interesting information) that is drawn from stories appearing elsewhere in the newspaper. We may not read the entire story about these highlights, but I found them to be of interest and good conversation starters. Indeed, they are also good teasers to promote the stories accompanying them. Clever.



Our digital transformation workshops

If you would like to find out more about our workshops for digital transformation, email me:

I will be happy to answer your questions and provide more information. Our workshops are offered in both English and Spanish.


Digital Media North America



This two-day event, organized jointly by WAN-IFRA and the News Media Alliance (NMA), will provide a unique opportunity for North American news media executives to hear and discuss digital revenue strategyfrom the world’s most advanced media companies.

I will be one of the speakers for this conference in New York City.


Finalists in the Digital Media contest 2017



Mario’s Speaking Engagements

Oct. 19, WAN IFRA Digital Media North America, New York City

Nov. 16-19, WAN IFRA Latin America, Buenos Aires, Argentina



TheMarioBlog post #2715



Blog Post01.23.2018—1am
The new FT campaign
Blog Post01.22.2018—1am
Are we using better photos today?
Blog Post01.19.2018—1am
The challenge of that fold
Blog Post01.18.2018—1am
The Washington Post: another profitable year
Blog Post01.17.2018—1am
Did I really read that much?
Blog Post01.15.2018—4am
The Guardian changes more than just the format
Blog Post—1am
Are vulgar words now part of a journalist’s styleguide?
Blog Post01.12.2018—4pm
The new New York Times campaign
Blog Post01.11.2018—1am
The good news about paying for content
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Prof. Miguel Urabayen (1926-2018): Tribute to a grand maestro
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Fire & Fury: Here’s a cover that tells more of the story
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End of print edition for Montreal’s La Presse
Blog Post01.07.2018—11am
Happy New Year…..I am back, sort of
Blog Post12.19.2017—10am
My prediction for 2018: we will write, edit & design for mobile
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Best wishes for the holiday season!
Blog Post12.12.2017—1am
Every year should be year of the audience
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The Post Most: curated content as easy as 1-2-3
Blog Post12.08.2017—1am
The power of a comic
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Those European ePapers Continue Growing
Blog Post12.06.2017—1am
Journalism students and print (not a romance)
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The nuances of using ragged right type
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Monocle’s habit-forming daily briefing
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2018: More digital everything, more of the Trump factor
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That time of the year to think what next
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Apple goes romantic
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E-mail newsletters can be a real seductive hook
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An e-newsletter with visual appeal
Blog Post11.21.2017—1am
So 2017 was really NOT the year of video……
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The New York Times: the Spanish weekly
Blog Post11.17.2017—5am
Paywalls, storytelling highlight Latin American conference
Blog Post11.15.2017—5am
In Argentina: the hot topic is “paywalls”
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The NY Times’ Jobs Classified: Really?
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At The New York Times: a kids section on Sunday
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“I read it on Facebook.”
Blog Post11.09.2017—12am
The flow of a breaking new story in the mobile era
Blog Post11.08.2017—12am
When content hits the spot
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When hierarchy makes a statement
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When the advertising wraps around
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New Hebrew fonts from Typotheque
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Favorite branding logos? No surprises
Contact us with speaking requests, questions or to discuss a project.