What comes after the media-integrated newsroom?
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Today, media-integrated newsrooms are viewed as an accepted solution for meeting the challenges of the digital media in connection with the printed newspaper. However, because the majority of newsrooms continue to view the print product as either the only or most important carrier of information, it will be a while before the new ways of thinking and working are part of the average newsroom’s DNA.
By Dietmar Schantin
As newsrooms redefine and "rewire" their strategies and operations, changes in society and technology continue. This raises two questions: What do newsrooms have to consider to keep a step ahead, and what comes after the media-integrated newsroom?
To answer these questions, one must first consider how society is changing in the 21st century. Even casual observers can see that three specific areas – virtualisation, mobilisation and individualisation – are experiencing explosive growth in many countries.
Virtualisation points to the growing importance of virtual communities, such as Facebook, that are used by millions each day and are redefining how people socialise and share information.
Mobilisation in the sense of permanent, mobile, broadband and wireless connection to the "global network" points to the ever-expanding use and diversification of the mobile phone and other mobile devices.
At the same time, both virtualisation and mobilisation help promote individualisation. The possibilities that arise for each media user and the infinite range of information, communication and entertainment offerings increase the demands, especially on media operations.
Virtualisation and mobilisation already allow the move from a mono-medium distributor of content to a media-integrated communication business.
However, many news publishers are only beginning to work out how best to handle individualisation. While various departments try to reach their target audiences as effectively as possible, the topics mix often continues to be uncoordinated, or the target group is not considered in a cross-topic way.
One example is RSS feeds, which are offered for topics such as sport, international news or business. This is one channel being used for one topic. Taking RSS to the next level would be target audience-oriented feeds comprising a mix of topics from different sections (e.g. information from all sections for working mothers with children).
A media brand often has four to six distinctive and partially overlapping segments of the general public that are large enough, and therefore relevant enough, for both the newsroom and advertisers.
Although these target groups are still too large for members to be addressed individually, knowing more about them is an important factor in efforts to address content more effectively via print or digital media. Consequently, a clear orientation of the editorial planning and decision-making processes towards target audiences complies with the trend towards individualisation.
A media-integrated newsroom that generates wholly platform-independent contents is the prerequisite for carrying out a target audience-oriented approach. In this model, the responsibility for the content on the individual channels lies with the section heads who, together with their team, decide which topics are covered and in what form.
Following the principle of clear responsibility and ownership, in a further step "segment editors" or "target-audience editors" can be integrated into the team of section heads and chief editor. These segment editors are responsible for the individual segments and create specific products and services for their target groups. This can be, for example, supplements or entire titles with integrated digital and print components.
Also new, cross-media products with their own brand can be realised with this concept. Microsites, RSS feeds or newsletters that draw on the editorial content can be generated simply and quickly.
This "target audience-oriented newsroom" combines the advantages of a media-integrated newsroom with those of a target audience-specific content control that caters to the interests and needs of specific segments.
However, an absence of target-audience orientation remains in many newsrooms because no one is responsible for individual segments. Customer segments and their needs are often either unknown or seen in vague demographic terms.
In view of societal trends, a far more stringent orientation towards the public is essential for content providers. Overcoming mental and physical barriers between platforms was the first step. The next step is to combine topics from various sections to form target audience-specific multimedia information and entertainment packages.
Dietmar Schantin is IFRA's Group Director for Editorial, Advertising and General Management.
Schantin joined IFRA in 2001 and has since helped to expand IFRA‘s activities, not only geographically but also strategically. Among many projects, he played a major role in shifting IFRA‘s focus to also include the business and strategic aspects of publishing. He has worked with numerous news publishing companies in their reorganisation and integration efforts including the U.K.’s Telegraph Media Group (See related story in July issue of IFRA Magazine beginning on page 12).