Digital planning was necessary for the brilliant execution of the Herald-Tribune’s joint investigative work: “Insane. Invisible. In Danger.” Editors and reporters from the Sarasota newsroom and the Tampa Bay Times paint a picture using the power of the Web to help readers experience the problems in Florida’s mental institutions.

Videos show the violence (with warnings of graphic content). Charts map the results of budget cuts. And a police report highlights results from an autopsy. 

For a big investigative project, of course digital planning is a part of the process. You can read more about how the project came together from Herald-Tribune Editor Bill Church.

But how much are newsrooms planning for everyday stories? Are we thinking of digital layers that go beyond a photo gallery or video? And are we examining analytics to time our best content to recirculate when our audience is likely to be on our website or on social media?

This past year as part of GateHouse Media’s digital transformation work with some of our newsrooms we took digital planning to a new level.

First, we integrated digital and print planning into a single spreadsheet. Reporters were responsible for inputting budget lines, deadlines, the time a story would be posted, the time it would go on social media and the multimedia content that was planned. Here’s an example of the spreadsheet used by Rockford Register Star.

rrstar planning doc
Click to enlarge

The beauty of a spreadsheet is that you can sort to see your digital flow or your social media flow. And if you have a gap when you know people will be looking, you can be strategic about bringing your best content back out to the homepage or posting again with a different photo on Facebook.

Second, newsrooms focused on digital and especially analytic trends in the morning meeting. Our editors start the day asking how they can build on content that is doing well. We have had success, for example, with our newsrooms looking for user-generated content to supplement a hot story. Cape Cod Times knows readers love all things shark and spotted an expert’s video of a shark and seal encounter. Because of their relationship with the expert, they were able to get permission to use it.

Third, editors in some of our newsrooms have set weekly goals for digital layers, which reminds everyone to think about how to enhance their online content. They track the goals vs. what is produced.

Newsrooms are in a constant state of adjusting to news of the day, and naturally their digital offerings are affected by what happens. But the ones doing the best work consistently are planning every day to enhance stories online to keep readers engaged with the news.


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