A tool for a quick newsroom convergence check-up and benchmarking
Often when we ask newsroom executives around the world “Is your newsroom operation working in an integrated way and are your journalists telling stories across platforms,” the reply is “Yes, of course. We are fully integrated, and everyone is working across media.”
However, after asking a few additional questions, we find out the reality is often more along the lines of “We want to be integrated,” or that “Our print journalists don’t write for online, but they all sit in the same room.” So it seems that a lot of publishers want to be modern, embracing the digital world and think and work in an integrated way, but in truth most newsrooms still have a ways to go before they really are.
Pit Gottschalk, former editor-in-chief of the German newspaper “SportBild”, and now Head of CEO’s Newspaper Office at Axel Springer AG, developed an evaluation and measurement concept that uses the Newsplex’s “three types of newsrooms” (please see this blog entry for more information about newsroom 1.0 to 3.0) to describe the convergence and integration level of an editorial operation.
The concept is based on an analysis of the cross-referencing strategy between the different channels and the analysis of the newsroom organisation. The analysis of the cross-referencing strategy deals with the “front-end,” or the “audience flow,” of the editorial operation. How good is cross-referencing between the different platforms and cross promoting? What kind of cross promotion is done? There are more than 20 different categories of cross-references and the analysis looks at the quantity and the type of those.
The analysis of the newsroom organisation, on the other hand, focuses on four significant aspects in an organisation: culture, tasks, people and systems. To evaluate the degree of integration and convergence in the “back-end,” or the “work flow,” a questionnaire is used to understand those four aspects. This questionnaire covers topics such as journalistic practice, newsroom management, working organisation and convergence.
Looking closer at the “back-end” and the four organisational aspects, the first component deals with “culture.” What is the culture of the newsroom in terms of media integration? This takes into consideration the whole behaviour pattern, the thought pattern, the belief system, and the shared values. Does the newsroom believe in media convergence? Is there a vibe of “Digital is part of our future,” or is it “The Internet is bad and needs to be banned”? This area also includes the organisation’s informal culture.
The second part is “tasks.” These are simply the roles, the job descriptions, the responsibilities in the newsroom, and they are different in these three different systems. Here is a simple example: In newsroom 1.0, a journalist is only responsible for writing a story for the paper, whereas in 3.0 it would be to tell the story across different platforms and to write different versions, or to build the print version upon the online version.
The third component is “people.” Here, the analysis examines the areas of skills and knowledge. Are the journalists capable of thinking across media? Many print journalists traditionally focus only on words and pictures, but are they also capable of thinking in terms of moving pictures to determine the best way to tell a story?
The fourth and final area is “structure and systems.” The systems are not solely the technical systems, but also the management systems and include the processes and organisational structures as well as the leadership and the management of incentive systems for example. Are there incentive systems in place where the journalist benefits from the fact that he is a multiple-media journalist?
The evaluation results in a “CTPS factor,” which lies between 0 and 100 percent and describes the status on the path between newsroom 1.0 and newsroom 3.0.
Combining the quality of the cross promotion strategy at the “front-end,” and the status of the four aspects of organisation in the “back-end,” provides an indication of how far we are on this path between total separation and integration.
A transformation process from a separated, or traditional, newsroom to an integrated one is an overwhelming experience. There are hundreds of issues that have to be taken into consideration. A structured analysis helps publishers to focus on specific areas. For the newsroom executives it is easier to define the points of action for the newsroom and to say, for example, “We need to focus on skills. The culture is right, but we don’t have the people who can do it, so we have to educate them,” or “The workflows are not right yet because we are still focusing too much on the print workflows.” And re-checking later allows for progress to be measured.
Finally, it’s great to benchmark the organisation with others to learn from them. This has already taken place for 59 newspapers in Germany in 2010. The benchmarking network was of course anonymous, but the data can be used to see where other publishers, which are for example of a similar size, are on the “road to integration.”
If you want to get your newsroom convergence check-up, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.