Digital transformation

What does a digital newsroom actually look like?

newsroom analytics
Fall River Herald News staff looks at a screen displaying analytics in the newsroom.

Everyone in newsrooms gets that we are supposed to be more digitally focused. But how can you tell if your newsroom is really digitally focused? Most of us still have to put out newspapers along with our digital responsibilities. Some specific characteristics paint a clear picture of a true digital newsroom, and you can check to see how close your newsroom is.

First, let me tell you how this list came about. Three people on GateHouse Media’s News & Interactive team who work closely with newsrooms on digital brainstormed this list and then refined it. Here’s the group:

Chris Biondi, senior director of digital development

Penny Riordan, director of digital content partnerships

Me, senior director of content

The list we came up with isn’t just a wish list. These qualities are absolutely imperative because more than ever readers are finding us online, on social media, on their phones. I’ve heard forward-looking editors at all levels of our organizations say: Print is easy. We can do print in our sleep. We know what we’re doing with print. So, let’s wake up to our digital potential. Does this look like your newsroom?

  1. You think of things like video or interactive graphics or how quickly something needs to be posted as you begin reporting on a story.
  2. You include a digital editor when you begin talking about a project to help with brainstorming.
  3. Your morning meeting is dedicated to digital. You talk about building on stories that are rocking analytics.
  4. What should you cover? Analytics can help you learn what readers want and get you talking about how to give them more of what they want or how to save an important story that’s floundering.
  5. Everyone in your newsroom pitches in on digital.
  6. When a digital editor talks, everyone listens.
  7. Your top editor and your mid-level editors are great on social media.
  8. Everyone is checking out what’s on your mobile site or app to see just what a reader sees.
  9. People are talking about analytics and content throughout the day, every day.
  10. Your newsroom is super excited about trying out new ways to tell stories and new ways to find readers. You believe in experimenting.
  11. You are all over social media and comments. You answer questions, respond to comments and learn from what your readers are talking about online.
  12. You think: How can we get more people to read our stories online and really spend time with them? You think it’s fun to grow your audience and to see if you can do better than last month or last year.
  13. You see GateHouse as a partner, so you kick things around with us when you have an idea or you want to learn.

I hope you saw your newsroom in this list. We built it based on all of the best practices we see in newsrooms. Not every newsroom has mastered all of these, and we know our transition is a work in progress. But the work is worthwhile. And while this transition is of utmost importance, the possibilities of digital really can be fun.

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