There’s increasing chatter across the media industry on the future of the integrated newsroom. Can one newsroom operate multiple platforms effectively and profitably?
With revenue growth on one side struggling to keep pace with declines on the other, it’s a conundrum that has newsroom managers grappling with organisational charts and seating plans, questioning whether they have it right or face serious adjustments.
An industry in constant flux demands regular introspection. We are not immune at the Herald Sun, adjusting and experimenting with our newsroom constantly. We’ve run focused newsroom trials, tested a myriad of digital storytelling tools, and so on.
Experience suggests this challenge, for us at least, might be more a matter of adjusting the model than dumping one for the other. What to adjust — what to do much less of, and much more of — is where our focus lies.
For better or worse, here’s how we might look to approach it.
We have a partly integrated newsroom in Melbourne. The engine in our newsroom — the journalists and photographers — are expected to contribute content for both print and digital platforms.
This is a particular strength for us. The most popular writers with our print audience translate strongly across to our digital audience.
When major news breaks locally, our reporting and photographic team swings into action with speed and skill. The full strength of the newsroom drives our digital coverage and gives us a distinct advantage.
The original journalism that a print news cycle allows also gives our digital offering depth, separating us from the virus of “news” brands built on pilfering everyone else’s content, plundering Reddit, and angling stories around Twitter fallout.
But this model is not without challenges.
Content creators constantly grapple with the demands of deadlines across both platforms and the different journalism styles that are sometimes demanded.
Our digital readers are different to our print readers. They are younger. They have a different education and wealth level. They have entirely different consumption habits.
Meeting the demands of both is a challenge that requires us to look very closely at the content we are creating, when we are creating it, and what translates from one audience to the next.
It’s becoming clearer not all content makes the transition, and content written specifically for the digital platform is highly valuable.
It is also time for content decision makers to look at how they make decisions around what the digital component of a story looks like. The days of the digital solution to a print story being rich multi-media are mostly over. The switch to mobile changed the article page. Video, pictures, and words are now king.
And just “shooting video” to go with every story is not the solution to chasing those video dollars. Videos need to be exciting, contextual, and fit-for-platform.
An area that needs sharp focus is around the distribution of content. What part does Apple News now play? What does content distribution look like in an age of bots? How do we best use social media to drive revenue, engagement, and new audiences?
Freeing up the digital specialists from the pressures of production to focus more on content creation and off-platform publishing is a direction we have been heading in. It could be we need to move faster.
Whatever adjustments we make next, there might be merit in continuing with elements of the integrated newsroom.