Below are 4 main take aways from NY Times Innovation Report with regard to strengthening the newsroom.
1. Create a newsroom strategy team that would:
- Track the media landscape: technology and reader behavior, as well as competition.
- Track and share the most important work being done inside the building.
- Help masthead both create and communicate a clear newsroom digital priority list: what are we trying to achieve? How many people will be required, how will we measure success? What can we learn from competitors? How do we get better over time?
- Create the vetting process for ideas. What are the ground rules for deciding whats’ worth doing? What are our goals?
- Provide conceptual help, structure and guidance to experiments launched at the desk level, allowing more producers, editors and reporters to innovate and learn.
- Work with desks to foster innovation
- design and launch desk level experiments
- communicate the results back to the newsroom
- Map a strategy to make the newsroom a truly digital-first organization
- Be composed of people with the following skills:
- background in journalism, technology, UX, product, and analytics
- strong leader
- permanent & rotational positions
2. Hire the best digital talent
We must change our mindset from hiring people “to continue the legacy we’ve established” to hiring people “to shake things up”. We need more reporters and editors with an intuitive sense of how to write for the web, and interest in experimenting with mobile and social storytelling, a proficiency with data, a desire to engage with readers on and off our site, and nuanced understanding of the shifting competitive landscape.
We also must find ways to develop and empower our existing digital talent so that they can help shape strategy. The complaints from digital staffers in our newsroom are, by now, familiar to our leadership: they feel their expertise isn’t put to good use, have few growth opportunities and believe their bosses do not understand their skills. Sitting together with developers: prototypes are created in an afternoon, not a month. The developers understand the process because they are involved. Developers are not order-takers.
You can’t take new talent and put them in old structures where they are second-class citizens. That is not a real change. You must change the structure of power. We need makers, who build tools to streamline our newsgathering; entrepreneurs, who know what it takes to launch new digital efforts; reader advocates, who ensure that we are designing useful products that meet our subscribers’ changing needs; and zeitgeist watchers, who have a sixth sense for the shifting technology and behavior.
3. De-emphasize print
The newsroom should begin a intensive review of its print traditions and digital needs – and create a road map for the difficult transition ahead. Digital-first means the top priority is producing the best possible digital report, free from the constraints of the newspaper. The last step is repackaging the best of that digital report for the next day’s paper. We aim ambitious stories for Sunday because it is our largest print readership, but weekends are the slowest online.
4. Assess the newsroom’s digital needs
Five areas that warrant more investment: strategy, analytics, product, platforms, and audience development.
- Strategy: Create a newsroom strategy team that would apprise the masthead of changing reader behavior and strategy shifts by new and traditional competitors.
- Product: Hire and empower more product editors to help develop reader-facing products for the website, mobile apps, email, video and community platforms, as well as the reader-facing features of cross-platform products, such as breaking news and personalization.
- Platforms: Identify successful one-off projects that could be turned into replicable templates.
- Audience development: Focus on growing audience and keeping the existing readers on our site longer. The content needs a newsroom-driven promotion strategy ahead of and just after publication.
- Analytics: there are no metrics, targets, no goals to hit and no period of re-evaluation after the launch. This ought to change. Analytics skills are needed in many parts of the newsroom, including for top-level strategy as well as desk-level decision-making.