This Table Stake is about changing the basic rhythms of publishing and a successful transformation results in a newsroom with a fundamentally different feel and even look. One way of envisioning success is to contrast the ‘as is’ current state with the desired future state in a “From/To” depiction.
Here is an illustrative set of From > To statements for a newsroom transforming to continuous digital publishing:
|Our newsroom doesn’t really come to life until about 11 am or later
|Our physical newsroom is alive (at least in pockets) from early in the morning until evening
Our virtual newsroom is alive nearly 24/7 using Slack channels (or equivalent) and Twitter, checking traffic, and watching trending.
|Our newsroom becomes increasingly animated as print deadlines approach
|Our newsroom is most animated when …
… seeing an important story doing exceptionally well in-market
… developing a trending story in real-time
… collaborating in small groups on how to shape a story or write a headline that really engages an audience.
|Our editorial meetings consist mainly of list recitations and discussion of when stories will be ready
|Our editorial meetings are energized by discussions and idea generation of how to deliver a selection of stories with effective digital headlines that will engage audiences at the times throughout the day those audiences show up – along with real time debriefing of what’s working and what’s not.
|Shifting attention and resources to digital is seen as necessarily diminishing the print product
|A mindset of “digital first and print later and better” drives how we work to better serve audiences across all platforms.
|The print product is produced according to well established print practices
|Print production is informed and invigorated by the audience insights and the flow of story versioning from digital-first publishing
|Print is the platform that drives workflows and publication timing for digital platforms
|Print is another very important platform with its own production workflows, roles and skills, apart from and not affecting digital publication.
|The timing of the digital posting of many stories is driven by traditional print considerations, priorities and assumptions.
|Digital publication for all stories is based on data about audience usage patterns and understanding of their daily life rhythms and needs of the moment.
|Roles and skills
|Most of our reporters hand off their stories for digital publication and consider their work done.
|All of our reporters think about when to publish and how to promote their stories, actively watch their story traffic, and look for ways to build on and boost audience engagement.
|Audience development is something of a separate function whose staff get involved after reporters finish stories.
|Audience development staff are at the very center of our newsroom, working side by side with reporters and editors in a “digital hub,” and contribute to and/or lead editorial discussions
|Our reporters work largely by themselves and with their editor in developing and writing stories.
|Our reporters/producers collaborate actively with others across the newsroom on developing story angles, shaping digital and social headlines, watching traffic, and enhancing, re-versioning and promoting the stories as they develop.
|Workflows & technology
|Stories move first through a print workflow and then on to a digital workflow
|Workflows are digital first with print workflows curating from digital content in ways that make the print stories better.
|Extra steps, hand-offs and staff time are required to produce and publish a digital story because we lack basic digital skills across the newsroom.
|Everyone in our newsroom can produce and publish a complete digital post (i.e. text, photo, headline, tags, basic video and embeds) without help from specialists
|Our workflows are shaped largely by the limitations, peculiarities and work arounds of our CMS.
|Our workflows are shaped by the steps needed to create engaging stories and publish them at the right time for audiences.
|We spend too much unproductive time doing routine digital production tasks because of technology limitations and lack of tools
|Our workflows are simplified and accelerated by technology and tools, allowing us time to focus on better content and audience engagement.
|We do not have a clear technology architecture or strategy, leaving our newsroom frustrated by CMS limitations
|Our technology architecture and strategy balances addressing needed fundamental changes with pragmatic workarounds and other solutions that get the most out the existing limited CMS while avoiding the illusion of a ‘perfect’ CMS.
Crafting your own set of From > To statements is valuable to both crystalize your thinking and communicate needed changes to others across the newsroom. It’s a qualitative way of confirming where you are now versus what success looks like once everything is in place and working right. (Developing the quantitative definition of success is addressed in Section 7 of this chapter.)
Start by tailoring and adding to the statements in the version above – or, even do your own from/to’s from scratch. Develop a first draft by yourself, with a colleague or small group. Once you have a draft, share, test and refine it with expanding circles of people across the newsroom. The value of the From > To’s arise from discussing, debating, shaping and internalizing each statement. It’s a first step in engaging others in the work to be done.
To develop your own From > To statements for this Table Stake, consider these questions:
- What do you observe now in your newsroom (“From”) that is most indicative of the gaps you have in the flow of your digital publishing – the ones that irk you every time you see or think of them? Then what do you imagine observing in your newsroom (“To”) that would be tangible evidence – real proof to a colleague at another newsroom – that you’ve transformed your digital publishing practices?
- For the “To” side of the statements, what new inputs are needed in terms of skills, roles, workflows and technology? What new outputs arise in terms of what’s published? What new outcomes happen in terms of audience traffic and engagement as well as newsroom confidence and spirit?