Boost synergies in a multi-title newsroom
Today’s economic situation demands that news publishing houses must work as efficiently as possible. For medium to large publishing companies producing several titles and brands on print and/or digital, far greater efficiency can be achieved through the establishment of a newsroom where, to a large extent, a group of journalists creates content that can be used across all titles and brands.
A smaller group of top journalists can be kept separate with each working for just one title, perhaps in areas such as politics or sports so that each brand retains its unique characteristics or “DNA.” In addition, the content judgement and selection process is a crucial component of a title’s DNA, so there is a need for a brand-responsible editor and perhaps a small group of additional editors for each title to set the tone of the given publication.
In most other areas, however, multi-title publishing houses can utilise synergies among their various titles, which have traditionally employed multiple people covering the same topic areas. Likewise, each title usually has several editors processing the same wire stories.
With all of this in mind, the question then becomes: How far can we go? How far should we go? Essentially, there are four basic models a publisher can choose, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.
The first, let’s call it the “separated model,” is that everything is kept as it is. Each brand has its own editor in chief and teams of journalists. The advantage is that all of your editorial forces work for one brand. They have a clear focus on the brand, and the editor in chief has control over the whole editorial process and resources. The disadvantages are there is likely to be double-work being done across titles, and the editor in chief can’t easily access specialists from the other titles. This is the traditional model used by most publishers.
The second possibility is the “semi-pooled model,” where parts of the sections are pooled, but a few key people in each section are still dedicated to the individual titles. The advantages here are that you can utilise the pooling effect, and because of the pool, the overall staff size available to any one title is larger. At the same time, the identity of each title can be maintained by keeping those dedicated key people. The disadvantage is that it can be tricky to define the title’s identity and, consequently, to find out who the key people are to create that identity. And, since it is a matrix organisational structure, it is often a challenge to manage it. Finding the right mixture of pooling and dedicated allocation is a balancing act and unique to the publisher and its brands. A few newspapers in the U.K. and Switzerland are working on implementing a semi-pooled model.
The third possibility is a pooled model where more or less everyone is working for all titles. Here, the advantage is that you have the most resources, and the synergies are used in the best possible way. The disadvantage is there is a danger of the titles becoming too similar and losing the individual DNA. This model has been effectively implemented by Germany’s Welt Gruppe, and Denmark’s Nordjyske Medier has taken this approach since 2003.
The fourth and final model is a mixed version of the above three models on different sections. For example, the sports section is fully pooled whereas the politics section is completely separated and financial news is semi-pooled.
It should be obvious that multi-title publishing houses must move away from the separated model to one that uses at least some degree of pooling. The traditional method is simply too expensive. However, as with newsroom integration, there is not a one-size-fits-all model that can or should be adopted by everyone. Ultimately, which model or version of models a publisher decides to embrace needs to be based on what is best for its audiences.