It’s been a year filled with learnings in all sorts of areas in newsrooms. The movement in data, more usage of video and the continued evolution of mobile has taught us all a lot. We have to take those learnings and understand how to evolve to the next level in all of those areas.
Here is a look at five key areas and the lessons I learned for the future for each of them:
- Video: This year, we gave more than 60 newspapers a video technology called Tout that allows them to create video on the scene and upload it right there. It’s been a game changer. Video volume has taken off, and reporters are embracing the idea that their jobs aren’t just to capture words but emotion and motion. It’s been powerful. We’ll be rolling it across more of our newspapers early next year.
The lesson: Put more tools in the hands of reporters that they can use as part of the reporting process, and magic can happen.
- Enterprise: I saw no shortage of enterprise journalism this year. You can see this section on our website where there are tons of examples of it, and every time I turned around this year there was another paper doing something big. Resources aren’t what they were but there still seems to be a very significant focus on producing journalism that matters. I heard newsroom after newsroom say they had to make choices on what to cover. Some succeeded with that and others didn’t. The ones that figured that out are giving readers a meatier product.
The lesson: Stop doing everything under the sun and focus on the stuff that really matters — the stuff that carries the most weight with readers. You can’t be everything to everybody. Stop trying. Do the big stuff.
- Social media tone: News organizations started realizing that social media isn’t about just throwing your content on a different platform — rather, they worked to perfect their tone. And they saw some pretty incredible engagement. Newspapers that treated their social media accounts like the top stories section on their desktop sites were probably pretty disappointed with the engagement.
The lesson: You have to carve out a social media leadership role in your newsroom. Someone has to own it. Even in a small newsroom, if that’s not a full-time position, that’s OK. Just make sure someone who understands tone and messaging to a social media audience is running your strategy, and what’s getting pushed out is done in a two-way conversational approach.
- Analytics: 2015 will go down for me as the year our newsrooms really began to understand and own their analytics. The roll out of Parse.ly, a real-time analytics tool, was huge for GateHouse. Newsrooms used the data to inform coverage. They used it to guide their planning meetings, and they changed their planning meetings to be very digitally focused or coverage focused, opposed to 1A focused. It was the starting point of moving our news organizations to data-oriented operations that use research and analytics to understand their audience.
The lesson: While progress has been made, the data has to reach the reporter level, and they have to understand how to organize their pitches and weekly budgets with what they are seeing. Key digital editors are using the data, but the next level is filtering within reporting ranks. I want to hear a reporter reference data in a story pitch. That’s the next level.
- Mobile: If you aren’t thinking about mobile, you’re not alive: Mobile is overtaking desktop. It’s happening everywhere. And if you aren’t taking steps to understand what your audience is interested in on mobile and thinking about how your content needs to change to connect with that audience, you’re in trouble. Desktop feeds are not the wave of the future. The future is looking at the story you are covering and then deciding the format makes the most sense. That might be a list, a Q&A, a narrative, a list of just numbers or a list of just quotes. But as we think about how readers digest content on mobile, we absolutely can’t just feed desktop stories over. We have to get proactive. And we have to think about a reader’s mobile experience. Every day. With every story.
The lesson: Have a champion in your newsroom who understands mobile and starts spreading the gospel on mobile audience. We have to think about how the mobile reader will consume a story. Picking the right format has to have the mobile reader at the forefront. But a champion in the newsroom who presses that point — both on the content approach and the tools we are using — is critical.