News organisations are based in newsroom like trains stop at train stations. But do we really need our old-fashioned offices with the management systems from the industrial age? And how should a modern news business be organised as our belts are getting ever tighter?
That was the proposition discussed on a panel at the latest of Journalism.co.uk’s News:Rewired conferences in London on Thursday, featuring the thoughts of execs from Norwegian newspaper VG, Reed Business Information and Sky News.
The panel was chaired by Marcus Warren, editor of Telegraph.co.uk, one of the UK’s and indeed the world’s leading news sites. The Telegraph re-wrote the rulebook in 2006 by designing and moving into an integrated print-and-online newsroom and radically changing and downsizing its workforce.
But here are the thoughts of the panel.
VG’s social media rule – it’s not optional
Norwegian paper Verdens Gang (VG) found out the hard way what would happen if their newsroom was bombed in the murderous bomb attack in Oslo. Helje Solberg, executive editor, spoke of how the paper decamped to a local hotel to put a paper out and update its website. (VG staff still suffer flashbacks of the day and post-traumatic stress, she added)
But VG’s distributed network approach doesn’t focus on the physical print product but on the extending the brand – and for journalists, getting involved in social media isenot optional. Incidentally VG makes NOK1.9 billion, or £211 million a year (release).
– So in summary: the paper has 452,468 fans on Facebook and staff are told to spend 10 percent of their working day on social media. “That’s how all journalists have to work today – they have to be multi-skilled and get involved in social media. That’s why we don’t have community managers, not least at yet,” Solberg says.
– Instead of focusing on one parent brand, the VG has found success from launching Facebook pages for sub-brands and, unusually for a news publisher, from launching subject and theme-based pages, based around the kind of thing that readers might be interested in like “sport”.
RBI re-inventing the modern distributed newsroom
A very insightful talk from RBI’s head of editorial development Karl Schneider, who walked us through how the company organises its editorial resources. instead of the age-old editor-sectionheads-reporters structure, RBI has beat reporters (some times beat editors) expected to multi-task and report live online on what’s happening in their patch.
– Alongside that, the rise of the of the online producer has meant that these reporters have someone technologically savvy enough to work with them in telling stories digitally, whether the best reporting method is maps, data visualisations, video or something else.
– Plus, why make this stuff difficult? Schneider explained that RBI has developed the equivalent of “plug and play” editorial software that simplifies web publishing and makes things like re-working front pages and article pages far quicker than calling your developers every ten minutes. Or as Karl puts it: “Why do we need developers to change our website but not our magazine?”
Sky News’s continuous deadline
Lastly James Weeks explained a little about how Sky manages resources across online, TV and mobile, specifically its acclaimed iPad app.