The Newsroom of the Future Will Be Flexible, Flat and Focused

There’s no question that the way people consume and share news has evolved with online, mobile and video now being the main platforms for consumption. Publishers have acted quickly to try and adapt to the demand. Legacy publishers like The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have both issued internal reports called 2020 and WSJ2020 respectively, that outline how they will adapt to a changing marketplace to capture new users, subscriptions, and traffic from new sources.

This brings up the question – will legacy publishers always be a step behind more nimble, new media publishers that were built for the way people consume content today? We are already seeing some new publishers ‘pivot’ to new business models and make cuts to the editorial side of the newsroom as video has become one of the surest ways to attract ad dollars.

Will legacy publishers always be a step behind more nimble, new media publishers that were built for the way people consume content today?

The focus on video is not the only change. We are already seeing publishers try out new advancements in social, AR and VR and it appears that new outlets that have been designed for digital may have a leg up on legacy media brands for the newer technologies. Just taking a side-by-side comparison shows major differences – (i) new media leans towards a contributor model with a smaller, full-time staff while old media continues to employ more well-seasoned journalists; (ii) reach for new media is focused on social and mobile while traditional platforms focus on brand traffic; (iii) new media tends to utilize more multimedia content strategies while longer form text remains the dominant vehicle for old media.

We have also seen differences in how the newsroom itself is set up. Layers of editorial continue to disappear as the speed to publish increases. Writers now need to wear many hats – writer, researcher, copyeditor and social media manager, as each reporter is responsible for expanding the reach of their capabilities. With this change, the role of the editor also becomes diminished, with many publishers, including legacy media brands, acknowledging that the changes will lead to fewer editors in the future.

Increasingly, publishers need to be focused not just on the bottom line but the topline as well. More so now than ever before, publishers are tasked with not just creating the best content, but also how to use technology and tools to expand the reach and views of each article, some even moving to 3.0 compensation models where the author shares in the upside (and downside) on consumption.  In addition, the design of the experience cannot be an afterthought as the best content in the world will be ignored if it is presented on a cluttered and hard-to-read platform.

Lastly, many in the newsroom need to rethink how editorial and sales teams work in parallel. In the past, content teams and sales/marketing teams were seen as Church vs. State with clearly defined roles and separation. Today, content teams are becoming more integral to the sales process given the market shift into programmatic and the need for more integrated and creative solutions. After all, as long as you’re creating interesting, credible content – whether for a brand or for journalistic reasons – consumers will be open to engaging with it. This is the new norm expected amongst advertisers and this shift will only help publishers stay relevant and if executed properly, more profitable.

New technologies, priorities and industry consolidation have turned the newsroom into a constant state of flux. Publishers that can keep an eye to the future, while staying true to their journalistic integrities and strengths will continue to keep their head above water and be prepared for whatever new changes and technologies the future has in store.

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