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Organisational types of newsrooms in a media convergent environment

June 25, 2008D. SchantinLeave a commentGo to comments

The last few years have seen publishing houses all over the world begin to adapt their editorial products, services, infrastructure and IT. The catalyst for this transformation is the rapidly changing needs of a once traditional print audience who are now moving towards the new opportunities of the digital world. More and more, editorial departments consider digital channels as important as the print medium. Newspaper brands now offer audio and video stories on their websites or via mobile services and push interactive services such as blogs and discussion forums. These changes and diversification of products and services inevitably have an impact on workflows, roles and structures in an editorial department. In order to achieve the goal to offer new products and services, a wide range of organisational concepts and strategies were conceived by editorial management. Some of these concepts were the incremental next step of a process of evolutionary development. Others followed a more radical approach to changing every inch of how their newsroom operates. Looking at the organisational concepts that have been realised in editorial departments, we can see three main structural types: The first type, lets call it Newsroom 1.0 or the multiple media newsroom, provides dedicated editorial resources for each platform that is serviced by the publishing houses. This results in separate editorial units for the print edition and for the online site. The low-cost version would be one or a few editors who take the copy of the print edition, possibly rewrite the copy and put it on the website. This can happen either before the story was published in the print edition or after the newspaper has hit the stands. On the other side of the spectrum there is a fully equipped editorial department with online reporters and online editors who do their own research and content generation and run the web site as more or less as a separate channel from the printed edition. These kinds of online editorial operation can be either part of the print editorial or sometimes even a separate company with its own P&L. No matter what shape this type has, the responsibility for the print and the online channel are divided between different people with often an editor for the printed edition and an online editor. The content generation, editing and production is by and large divided between the print and the online world. This structure can be seen at the Austrian national newspaper sterreich which was launched in September 2006 and sold in August 2007 about 167.000 copies per day. sterreich was set up from the beginning as a brand that equally uses print and digital as channels to publish their content.

Newsroom at Oesterreich in Austria Looking at the structure of the newsroom, sterreich has a very innovative newsroom layout in terms of putting all editorial resources in an open office space environment. The editorial decision makers are located in the

middle of the newsroom the different sections such as news, business and sport as well as online, are placed with their editorial and production staff around the centre news desk. According to this concept the print and online journalists are working in the same environment and the online editor is part of the newsdesk team, but, in general, print journalists dont directly generate content for the digital channels of sterreich. Other examples of newspaper operations that follow basically the same editorial concept, but with different newsroom structures, are the Guardian in UK, der Standard in Austria, Klner Stadtanzeiger in Germany, Aftonbladet and Norrkping Tidningar in Sweden, Verdens Gang in Norway and many others around the globe. The second type, that can be distinguished, Newsroom 2.0 or the cross media newsroom, works on the principle that the content gatherers generate the content for all channels served by the editorial department. There are different responsibilities for each channel, but the different sections (news, sport, features etc.) generate the content for print and online and also provide other formats such as video for the web or audio and also provide input for Web-TV or Radio. In 2003 Nordjyske Stiftstidende, a regional daily newspaper in Denmark with a circulation of about 75.000 copies, reorganised their editorial department and transformed it from a paper centric traditional operation into a modern multi media publishing. Today, a daily paid-for and a free newspaper, a TV programme for online and cable and two radio programmes are produced out of one editorial department.

Newsroom at Nordjyske The picture you can see depicts the structure of the Superdesk at Nordjyske Stiftstidende. For each channel there is a responsible editor who sits on the Superdesk. Additionally the picture editor is located at the superdesk as well as a spare desk for special occasions. The content is generated by what is known as content groups, similar to the different sections of a newspaper. An additional though crucial role can be found on this Superdesk; the Media conductor. The media conductor role is carried out in a rota system by one person from a team of five people. Three people of this team are part of the chief editorial team. This media conductor is responsible for the total output of the editorial department on print, online, radio and TV. He primarily handles the discussions between the different channel responsible editors in terms of priorisation of channels and the decision, what content goes when and where. Finally he is some kind of referee who balances the different and potentially conflicting request that are issued by each channel to the different content groups. Nordjyske Stiftstidende was one of the pioneers in implementing a radical change in the newsroom and is very successful in terms of expanding their total reach among their audience and monetising the different platforms.

An other example of a similar newroom concept is the Financial Times in UK, which introduced the changes over a period of a few years. The third type, Newsroom 3.0 or the integrated newsroom, aims to provide content on multiple channels by integrating the complete news flow across print and digital media from the planning to the production. In this type, there is no single responsible person for each channel. The responsibility for the coverage of stories across print and digital channels is with the section head. Therefore, there is no online department as in type 1 or an online editor as in type 2. This concept follows the premise that the topic owner knows best how a story should be built up well timed across the different channels by using the appropriate format. There is no us and them between the different channels and no conflict between different people or teams regarding where to break a story for instance. The story owner decides what aspect of a story is told on which channel with a certain format. In 2006, the Telegraph Group (London) started a comprehensive programme to transform editorial into a media operation that generates and produces content for print and various digital media. The Telegraph group publishes a national quality broadsheet with a circulation of about 880.000 copies, Sunday paper with a circulation of about 670.000 copies and a series of magazines. Since the beginning of 2007 the daily and weekend newspaper as well as the online site with web-TV and podcasts are planned and produced in one newsroom which is around 6.500 m. The former solely print journalists contribute actively to the Telegraph community site and blogs and the social network platform services are expanded continuously.

Newsroom Daily Telegraph The picture you can see here shows the structural concept that has been realised at the Daily Telegraph in London. In the centre is what is known as a news hub and the sections heads with their editorial and production teams are located around the news hub on spokes. An exception is news production which has a dedicated spoke at the news hub. The digital spoke on the upper left takes care of the technical aspect of the online site, the content is mainly generated in the different sections by the journalists. Nottingham Evening Post, part of the Northcliffe Media Group in UK, started recently a smaller version of this concept. If we recall the physical layout of all the examples and types, it is apparent that they look very similar or even quite identical. There is a central desk in the middle where the decision makers are placed and meet up at conferences and during the day. The different content groups or sections are located physically as close as possible to the Newsdesk, But even if the physical layout is very similar in all three cases, the workflows and roles are completely different and therefore the whole newsroom works in a completely different way. At sterreich there is a dedicated online department, the print journalists are by and large not involved in the digital world. The news flows for print and digital content are more or less separated.

Nordjyse Stiftidende uses a kind of news market, where on one side sit the responsible editors for each platform who own space in the paper and the online site and time for video and audio content. On the other side there are the content gatherers, the sections, who provide content for the different platforms. And at the Daily Telegraph the sections heads as topic specialists are responsible for the output on all channels. The sections produce content for print and online and use the formats audio and video for their story telling. All these newsrooms have, to varying degrees, found out that it is imperative to see that the physical layout is just one piece of the jigsaw and that only building a central news desk is by far not sufficient to become a newsroom that works in a platform agnostic way that provides content for print and digital channels. The leverage to utilise the potentials of all the print and digital tools lies in the new ways of working with the workflows, the roles and responsibilities, the skills and, above all, in the mindset and attitude of the entire staff. This is what makes the real difference. As it was shown with these examples, this new way of working can be completely different from organisation to organisation, even if the layout of the newsroom might look. The changes which need be accomplished by the newspaper publishing houses in order to keep reaching their existing audience and to reach new target groups, are not primarily a question of infrastructure, newsroom layout or working environment. The main area of change needs to happen in the head of the people. Digital media and new formats are an endless repertoire of tools for print journalists to tell stories in a compelling way. As soon as the attitude of an editorial department follows a story teller with new tools mentality, the other changes in workflows, structures and environment are a logical consequence of that.