Multimedia strategy focuses on editorial technology

by Dieter Haerens        

Mediafin’s own integrated multichannel strategy, called “Multi Media Editor,” is built on editorial and technological tools, making the digital-print synergy almost effortless.

Click the image to view a larger versionMediafin is the publisher of the Belgian business daily newspapers, De Tijd and L’Echo. After acquiring, restructuring, and bringing the two formerly independent newspapers into one integrated company in late 2005, Mediafin started implementing a multimedia strategy throughout the company. 

This strategy involved selling that proposition as such in the readers’ market (which accounts for 45% of total revenues) and the advertising market (55% of total revenues). Most importantly, though, it involved making it happen in the media product itself. 

As a bit of background, Mediafin was created at the end of 2005 in a joint venture (50/50) by Belgian media groups De Persgroep and Rossel. From 2007 to 2011, Mediafin consistently generated around €52 million in revenues and €10 million in operational profit.

Printed versions of both newspapers reach about 190,000 daily readers, and digital readership (through Web sites, mobile sites, and apps) hits about 210,000 a day. Print circulation is 85% subscription-based, and more than 90% of digital readers are recurrent on almost a daily basis (with a very strong complementary use between different channels).

In May 2010, Mediafin started a subscription-based, paid-content strategy online, capitalising on all of the mentioned efforts aiming to create, deliver, market, and monetise multimedia products. In 2011, De Tijd was the strongest growing daily (up 3.9% in paid circulation) in the Dutch-speaking part of the country, fueled by a strong growth of digital subscriptions (up 300%). Its counterpart, L’Echo, was the only newspaper growing (up 1.2%) in a declining Walloon newspaper market.

Mediafin’s new strategy required focused investments in the editorial organisation and in technology leveraging the editorial content. The readership, as I mentioned, has a multimedia DNA, and the product has to deliver that. Getting your editorial staff really thinking and acting in a multimedia way and making the right choices for the most appropriate channels requires the right mindset. This mindset must be triggered by a well-planned change process on the floor. But one also has to provide people with the right tools to make it happen in every day work.

So, while creating a multimedia newsroom with a different organisational scheme, implementing a Web-first policy for news, and adapting the newspaper (both printed and digital) to an even more “what’s next” product, Mediafin also invested in a multimedia editing tool that allows us to create, manage, and publish cross-channel content from within a single Web-based user interface.

In 2009, after closely evaluating available solutions on the market and benchmarking them to the requirements of the integrated newsroom, Mediafin decided to build rather than buy the best-fit application. This turned out to be the best business decision from many sides of the business, including the financial angle. 

Our Multi Media Editor is the technological result of an intense, co-development process between the newsroom and IT. MME is a Web-based solution that can be used anywhere, online, mobile, and SMS alerting, and it is perfectly integrated with the print editorial system (Quark). It is built as a single-user interface for editing, which is still used by print layout teams of both newspapers. Yet journalists now only use this one application for multi-channel publishing, managing, and editing texts and attached assets (video, URLs, stock information, pictures, archived files, social content, etc.). MME can be connected to any content management system, should that be necessary in the future.

This provides editors who must switch to multichannel publishing the tools to do so. And it’s working — 90% of writing journalists now work for all channels (print and digital) and switch fluidly between news pieces of their story for mobile and Web to in-depth pieces they are working on for the newspaper. And this, without having to open two or three different applications and copying and pasting text.

Moreover, new types of content become possible, such as live coverage (really, second by second) on our Web sites during important financial market happenings from that one single interface.

Looking back on what was delivered to the newsroom, MME really was and is one of many driving elements in a change process aiming to give readers what they want: truly multimedia and multichannel content.

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