Customer changes drive CMS, cultural changes at Mediahuis

By Ernst Poulsen

Copenhagen, Denmark


When you roll out a new CMS in a media company, the challenge is not only a tech challenge, according to Change Director Ezra Eeman from Mediahuis in Belgium.

“It’s about changing everything from the way journalist’s write, the work processes, and especially about changing the way everyone understands how consumer habits have changed,” he said INMA’s Media Innovation Week in Copenhagen last week. “When our customers change, we also have had to rethink how we operate, organise, and especially share tools and knowledge between departments.”

Mediahuis has grown to four times its original size in just eight years. What used to be a Belgian media company now scales 32 brands, reaching 10 million daily users in five countries.

Fortunately this has also given the company the scale to improve its technological platforms — across all brands.

It’s not just a CMS — it’s change at all levels

The aim is to change, upgrade, and simplify CMS platforms across the entire company.

A company-wise CMS upgrade is key to the transformation journey at Mediahuis.
A company-wise CMS upgrade is key to the transformation journey at Mediahuis.

“It may be that we focus on technology, but the job really is much more about changing workflow. It’s about writing for the mobile reader first — and then later find out how we export that content in an efficient workflow for the newspaper afterwards.”

This actually means that in most cases, articles will be written in the CMS and then exported to a newspaper system afterwards — something that used to be unthinkable in many media houses just a few years ago. For the same reasons, the organisational changes are pretty comprehensive.

“Whatever change you have in mind, you must remember that people only look at it from their own level,” Eeman said. “But we’re not just rolling out a CMS. We need a much more holistic approach.”

Start with the user

Eeman emphasised the most important that lesson is the change in user needs and user behaviour.

“More than half of all readers use their mobile as primary device to consume news, and naturally we need to have that in mind when we produce our content. We shouldn’t think of a story as one big item, but as a number of elements that can be kicked around.”

Mediahuis focuses on user needs and user behaviour.
Mediahuis focuses on user needs and user behaviour.

He pointed to a few examples:

“An infographic designed for broadsheet pages doesn’t make sense at all when viewed on a small screen. It needs to be produced and presented in a completely different way. Also, when most of our subscribers consume news during the day on their mobile phone, it doesn’t make sense to have a production set-up which was aimed at a deadline for the printing press.”

A bit of skin in the game

Mediahuis has started rolling out the new CMS in Luxembourg and various media brands in the Netherlands will be next.

But the preparation for this roll-out has been long, and in the beginning it had very little to do with technology.

“There’s a tendency with projects like this to try to recreate the workflow people already have. But we started with an important and fundamental question: What do we really want to achieve?”

Let users test drive your CMS

As the changes in Mediahuis are so profound and reach across so many editorial brands and even across five countries, Eeman stressed it is imperative to allow for feedback and changing things as they are being developed: “They have to feel that they are shaping these tools.”

Modern IT systems are usually developed using an “agile”-development method, which allows for change along the way.

“We really work closely with people from all parts of the organisation and allow time for feedback and changes,” Eeman said. “It’s important to give enough people the keys for the new car (CMS) so they can test drive it ahead of time.”

Change the narrative

Normally people who work with technology have titles like IT director, project manager, or an editorial title. But Eeman’s title is change director, and his focus is heavily on the impact technology has on all the different processes.

A common narrative throughout the company on the future is helpful.
A common narrative throughout the company on the future is helpful.

Therefore, he is working on bridging the challenges in all the different media entities and countries — but also the different layers in the organisations.  

“It’s important to install a common narrative and understanding across all of the company,” he said. “When people understand how customers connect with our products, they will understand we need to work in new ways and even write articles in a new format.”

You can find more coverage from Media Inovation Week is sponsored by ArcXPFT StrategiesGoogle News InitiativeMeta, and Piano — here. Others sponsors include AptitudeChartbeatflowplayersmartoctoStibo DXUnited Robots, and Zephr.

About Ernst Poulsen

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