News media transformation in 5 key action points

By Sabrina Passos

Group RBS (Zero Hora)

Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil


Focus on strategy. Put the user at the center of your decisions. Create original products or services to increase engagement. Constantly improve the experience, inside and outside the organisation. Let excellence drive motivation.

To some extent, all those phrases have already been mantras or indicated a pathway for modern organizations or companies in transformation, regardless of whether they offer products or services (and, if they were not, heads up).

Success is contingent on several different values and attributes.
Success is contingent on several different values and attributes.

But the great problem is not to ignore these ideas, which I affectionately call the 5 Es of transformation.” The problem is to treat them in isolation and not understand them as part of an ecosystem where, if one does not work, the others also tend to fail.

The metaphor of the ecosystem is not in vain. The interrelationships among organisms determine permanence, and this is exactly how companies and their processes should work. It is very common that business ecosystems, with a focus on the digital world or not, are limited to the areas that have always existed: aristocratic floors, traditional hierarchies, exclusive technology systems in each area, and vertical organisation organograms or charts. These isolated ecosystems are neither sustainable nor balanced. And, isolated, they contribute to the collapse of the others.

They need not only to form a perfect and self-sufficient ecosystem, but also influence the development of the others. If the strategy is unclear and not reflected in the user experience, it is mistaken. Without empathy, or without putting yourself in the users’ place during their consumption journey and points of contact with the brand, product, or service, it is impossible to have any effective action on their engagement.

That is why modern organisations and those in search of transformation need to clarify the layers of that ecosystem. This should be based on strategy, empathy, experience, engagement, and excellence, and shared with everyone with clarity and transparency.

1. Strategy (“estratégia” in Portuguese): Strategy is the heart of the ecosystem and needs to be clear to all internal and external stakeholders. It should be reflected in shared and measurable KPIs and OKRs, product development actions, marketing campaigns, and even tools (the CMS or paywall systems cannot break the strategy).

2. Empathy: Putting yourself in the others’ shoes to understand their actions and relationships does not only solve our interpersonal problems. It must be key to all decision-making, from that more focused on the users’ objective experience, with a new button or product feature, to understanding the journey for proper, respectful, and effective distribution and promotion. Empathy should be a discipline and goes beyond user interface design.

3. Experience: Allowing us to be in the users’ shoes makes it possible to map the points of friction and constantly improve on them in a systematic way. In the case of media companies, it has to do with the site’s loading speed, for example, but also with news editing and adequate production of the content (almost always original) within the newsrooms. 

It involves developers and journalists in the same proportion, hand-in-hand, in addition to defining core competencies for all teams. Today, user experience discipline is usually in the hands of an isolated group. And isolation leads to error.

4. Engagement: More than a KPI, which shows the importance of a product or service in the users’ life, it is necessary to measure the satisfaction level of those engaged at the risk of losing them in the first storm (or error 404). 

Being more empathetic and focusing on the experience that goes beyond beautiful screens, we guarantee a differentiated place in the users’ menu of essential options. We will not be unique, it is true, but this combination can give us a better, though unconscious, index in the matrix that measures the levels of importance and satisfaction of our users. Keeping track of the engaged, with consumption profile data and constant assessment, is a path of no return.

5. Excellence: Having a clear strategy and putting yourself in the users’ shoes to create products, services, content, and better experiences will only generate sustainable engagement if, at the same time, there is focus on excellence. And by excellence, I mean going far beyond what is just functional and easy. 

It seeks constant improvement, at all levels. It is understanding that to fail is part of the process in pursuing excellence, in addition to testing, launching, testing again, being paranoid by feedback, changing direction, and being constantly alert to the evolutions beyond the organisation’s walls. The world happens out there, and it happens quickly.

The 5Es can multiply in others within each organisation and translate in infinite ways, represented by other letters and definitions within the ecosystem of each. What is important is not to disassociate them or create an insulation cord between them and understand they only evolve with investment (in people, time, money, and resources). They depend on each other and the quality of this relationship of interdependence will determine success. Or extinction.

About Sabrina Passos

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