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WAN 2007

Integrating the online & print news operations

I’ve never liked the word convergence. Integration is much better. Some great speakers spoke on this topic from the New York Times, Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax) and The Telegraph (UK). This is about the PRODUCTION of news. And why are media companies restructuring the production of news? Well it’s really about the audience — the audience is accessing content on a variety of platforms, and they don’t care how they get it. I guess it’s also about efficiencies and preventing overlap of resources.

Jonathan Landman, Deputy Managing Editor of the NY Times: Spoke about his experience involving combining two separate buildings housing the online and print departments. Now they do integration of online, print and multimedia at the conception stage of the story, not after the story. He mentioned that everyone in the new integrated newsroom is involved in each other’s work in a more direct way… and while they don’t expect reporters to write code, or coders to write stories — the more each understands about each other’s job, the better the work will be. They have just established a “Web anchor man” (NY Times goes CNN).

Will Lewis, Editor of the Daily Telegraph… is a pioneer of integration with the “hub and spoke” layout of their offices. Many major media organisations have visited the Telegraph to learn, including Mike van Niekerk from the SMH.com.au and our own Ray Hartley of the Sunday Times. But Lewis, himself, has travelled widely to the US and to Europe to understand and learn about the new converged models. The Telegraph has a combined online and print audience of 8.6-million.

Their motto is: “Give our consumers what they want, when, and in the form they want it”. They don’t really care where their content appears as long as it is of a high quality which the Telegraph has become known for.

Will mentioned that after integration, the Telegraph had a vitality and an energy that it didn’t have before.

“We care as passionately about our website as our newspaper.”

Mike Van Niekerk is the editor in chief of Fairfax digital which publishes the SMH.com.au and theage.com.au. These websites have always been personal favourites of mine. He says that Fairfax Digital, the publisher, profitably runs news and classifieds online, contributing “double digit figures” to the company.

SMH.com.au and theage.com.au has a combined monthly traffic of 8-million unique browsers. He says that classified revenue will vanish entirely in print. He says the newsroom must re-configure its processes, layout and culture. Mike’s company also adapted the now-famous “hub & spoke” layout drawing from the Telegraph experience. The whole point of it is to make interaction easier between print and online and the multimedia journalists and staff in general. Mike’s organisation gave some of their reporters what looks like IMATE/HTC 3G phones to allow them to report live from the scene and post directly to the site CMS, but also take photos and videos for the website.

Here is a roadmap he presented towards integration:

1. Regular communication with staff
2. Find champions in your organisation that are enthusiastic and embrace technology and change (Give them a laptop and a high-end PDA/phone to begin multimedia reporting and live reporting from the scene).
3. Your newsroom leaders should be enthusiastic and exemplary leaders
4. Provide handouts on how to think web… invite local & overseas speakers and experts to inspire your colleagues
5. Invest in training
6. Bring in change management specialists (if your budget allows for it)

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