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:
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.
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:
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.
If you would like to find out more about our workshops for digital transformation, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
I will be happy to answer your questions and provide more information. Our workshops are offered in both English and Spanish.
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.
Oct. 19, WAN IFRA Digital Media North America, New York City
Nov. 16-19, WAN IFRA Latin America, Buenos Aires, Argentina