Overview of this campaign
At the beginning of 2015, our editorial business - while flourishing - was still far too oriented towards print, despite our best efforts to focus on digital. The demands of print production for 63 daily metropolitan, regional and weekly community newspapers were sucking the oxygen out of the newsrooms, and providing a barrier to infusing a true culture of innovation and experimentation.
Of more than 600 journalists around the country, less than half were occupied by creating journalism (photos stories, videos etc.). The majority were employed in either newsroom management or (mostly print) production tasks.
Our national website Stuff.co.nz was doing very well, but growth in audience and revenue was constrained because it was run by a small digital team, often going cap-in-hand to get digital story coverage from around the group. Stuff was seen as the internal enemy - our own website snatching readers away from the most profitable area of the business, print. We were still operating in local silos, not harnessing the power of our national footprint and collective news power.
The challenge we set ourselves was how to address this imbalance and develop new forms of journalism, storytelling and interaction with our communities across platforms while maintaining and producing a very profitable print portfolio.
It was time to stop and reset the newsrooms, to rewire them and finally break that undertow.
We wanted to create a culture of innovation and permission to experiment. We needed to remove as many process and print-focussed tasks and roles as possible, to rebuild our newsrooms around audiences not products, to give our journalists an environment and structure where they were free to focus on the story, not the platform, and could innovate and experiment with new storytelling formats where they saw fit.
Out of this need came the News Rewired project, which over the course of a year would see us totally up-end everything we do, build our Modern Newsroom, and ring fence and minimise print requirements to a remarkable degree.
Results for this campaign
Among the key results:
- Restructure of entire editorial leadership structure, newsroom roles and work practices from the top down. Staff work across platforms in specialised topic areas rather than for specific products
- 300% increase overnight in the number of digital stories following the rollout of a new editorial platform
- Introduction of new editorial workflow and work practices geared towards the audience, story and the right platform
- Staff-led experimentation leading to successful new products, e.g. our interns developed, launched and created our Snapchat approach
- Print production roles for the entire 63-paper portfolio minimised from 25% + to less than 7%. By mid-2016 this will be closer to 3.5%, or less than 25 roles, nationwide
- Digital revenue has surged well ahead of the market. Print subscriptions are strong. Membership is growing sharply
- Single design applied for each tier of newspapers (communities, metropolitan, regional dailies)
- Ad shapes reduced by 70% - making it simpler for advertising customers and to facilitate editorial templating
- 80% of editorial pagination now templated
- Non-local content produced once and duplicated across every paper
- Acquisition of a stake in Neighbourly - a hyper-local social digital platform - which is a new “community” approach for our newsrooms to engage with and serve their very local audiences.
We distributed hundreds of new iPhones for journalists’ in-field work. Our Quality First curriculum has given them the skills to be “publish ready”; to push content straight to any audience if required. In five months, we recorded almost 2000 training attendances.
After implementing News Rewired, Stuff became New Zealand’s #1 website - not just number one news site, but the number one domestic site of any kind. We’re now in the same neighbourhood as Google and Facebook for traffic, and have left all other media sites far behind. We believe this is a unique position anywhere in the world.
Our staff are more engaged, happier and more productive. They feel free to innovate and try stuff, and our audiences - and shareholders - are reaping the rewards.