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alfa Media Partner customer day

Wed, 2009-05-20 16:59 — Brian Veseling

Article ID:
10121

OPEN HOUSE

More than 30 people – customers, potential customers and guests – followed the initiation of alfa Media Partner to visit their headquarters in Rödermark, Germany. Whereas the previous customer day was dedicated to the advertising business, this time the focus of the lectures and discussions was on newsrooms.

After some words of welcome from Rainer Lang and Jens Emmerich (both alfa Media Partner), Harald Löffler (IFRA GmbH & Co. KG) opened the lectures with a presentation on “Strategies for Multimedia Newsrooms.”

Starting out from statistics about media use and audience behaviour, as well as reach during the course of the day via various publishing channels, the demands on modern cross-medial newsrooms were outlined and the different stages of newsroom organisation in accordance with the Newsplex concept described. Case studies from the Telegraph Media Group (TMG), London, Nordjyske Medier (Aalborg, Denmark) and Verdens Gang (Oslo, Norway) completed the presentation.

Last but not least, attention was called to the various IFRA Special Reports and IFRA “Where News?” reports on the topics of media convergence, newsroom organisation and change management. 

The second opening lecture was given by Uwe Ralf Heer (chief editor Heilbronner Stimme; see also interview). The Heilbronner Stimme is a regional newspaper with complete editorial staff that has deliberately concentrated on regional content. “Every newspaper is different, must recognise its strengths and find its special own way”, says Uwe Heer. Visits were paid to several restructured newsrooms, but the Heilbronner Stimme was not attracted by “unutterable open plan workplaces”.

Creativity also needs quiet areas and full concentration. The heart of the newsrooms is formed by two central newsdesks for the main product and local desks for planning and production across all channels. So as to avoid bringing forth “editorial slaves”, the desks are manned in a rotating process. Three “genuine” reporters – professional journalists – research exclusive material on location, working also with a video camera. Stimme.TV already records 60,000 to 80,000 video retrievals per month – and still rising.

“Everyone is not yet convinced of the cross-media strategy,” says Uwe Heer, “but that is not a question of age.” For the first time in the history of the publishing house, the revenues from distribution exceed those from advertising, something that calls for some adjustment. Even if it is not yet possible to cover costs in the online sector, it is vital to occupy niches before others do.

The introductory lectures were followed by a lively discussion of the pros and contras of a policy of Online First, with the pros managing to gain the upper hand by a very slight degree. The need to change seems to be acknowledged everywhere, it is in fact just a matter of how to go about it. Should there be a radical cut in the newsroom organisation? In contrast to the English-speaking regions where there continues to be a sequential workflow with a bottleneck at the so-called “sub-editor” stage, print newsrooms in Germany already work in a highly integrated way and have largely optimised their processes by working in parallel.

This does not make it easier for systems suppliers such as alfa Media: on the one hand the aim is to work as long as possible in a media-neutral way, on the other hand many journalists do not want to leave their accustomed environment, beginning with the article layout. This “media break” can still be seen in the interaction between the alfa MediaSuite and the NewsSuite, but it is undoubtedly only a matter of time until both products seamlessly integrate.

Hubert Hesse, alfa Media development manager, more or less filled the afternoon with an impressive presentation of the alfa MediaSuite. alfa began at a relatively late stage to adapt to cross-media media production, the result seems extremely promising and alfa need not fear comparison with the competition by any means. Although some functions are still absent, e.g. version control, every effort is being made to find a solution.

The flexibly adaptable inheritance rules for an individually optimised workflow and the search engine-optimised indexing term assignment into which the journalist can simply and efficiently intervene, e.g. for a multi-level adaptation of the relevance of the criteria, are interesting functions. With this, alfa is paying due heed to the growing importance of metadata for all content elements in relation to storing and archiving.

The semantical analysis of the text can justifiably be referred to as the first of the “Web 3.0” elements. People, places, companies as well as other elements are recognised and can automatically be given links to features or websites, geographical information or stock prices.

A “quality indicator”, such as has been known to date more from cockpit displays of Business Intelligence tools, shows at a glance the “semantical quality” of the text. Now perhaps still a gimmick, but especially in the online area a fast overview of browsing and reading behaviours is welcomed. Space limitations prevent a detailed description of the individual functions and statistics of alfa PortalSuite.

The close interlocking with the MediaSuite that permits rapid corrections as well as content and display optimisation is a clear objective of the alfa developers.

Like other systems manufacturers, alfa Media Partner uses this type of event as a platform both to inform about its products and development advances as well as a way to benefit from the exchange of information with the customers. This is an important instrument to better understand customer requirements and translate them into innovative products.

By Harald Löffler, Research Manager, BU Editorial, Advertising and General Management, IFRA GmbH & Co. KG

 

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