In modern digital news operations, editors need to be successful

The tension between newsrooms and business departments in media houses is everywhere, wherever you go in the world. It’s something to be discussed, criticized, fought, and is generally part of news media culture.

But in the evolving digital world, this poses a threat to both editorial and financial sustainability unless the newsroom and the business side find new ways to work together without compromising editorial independence and missing out on growth opportunities. To enhance cross-departmental cooperation without threatening the newsroom, editors-in-chief have a greater role to play.

In traditional media houses, different departments – newsroom, sales, IT, product development, marketing, management – ​​often operate in silos and focus primarily on the goals of their narrow area.

But in a digitally driven, audience-focused company, this separation can make it difficult to determine who is responsible for reader or user satisfaction and thus for the overall success of the company. Is the editorial team creating the best content possible? The sales department that takes care of the sale and delivery of paper and digital products? Marketing that explains why a product is worth buying? The IT that makes the app and website work? Ad Sales Find the right advertisers for your content?

Customers (i.e. readers and users) are not interested in this division of labor. They want a quality product delivered on time to their front door, smartphone, desktop or mailbox. It must be easy to use and available at all times without interruption. Naturally, you should keep them reliably informed of anything interesting.

None of this is a problem if the departments work side by side. But in many companies the opposite is true. Editors complain that their great content isn’t being sold properly by the sales team, or ad sales are ruining everything, or IT and product development have created an app that limits the ability to tell a great story in an engaging way.

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Complaints can go both ways. The distributor complains that the content cannot be sold. Ad Sales complains that the editorial team does not have content planning that would help address advertisers ahead of time. Product development, which is often not equipped with the necessary journalistic knowledge, complains about the lack of clear requirements.

Results? It is a backward-looking ping-pong game of blame and jurisdictional disputes.

In digital news operations, it is important – and much easier than in print newspapers – to take care of the entire customer “lifecycle”: acquiring new customers through social media, newsletters and other channels; Convert them into paying customers with individualized premium content and simple ordering processes; And keep them in the long term and sell them for other products.

Today, everything is supported by technical tools and can be done on a screen. But who does these jobs?

Most editors do not yet feel responsible for most of these activities. But creating relevant and interesting content is only part of success. If potential customers don’t know what content is available, even the best stories will get lost in the digital world. If the product isn’t easy to use or the ordering process doesn’t go smoothly, great stories won’t be able to overcome customer frustration. If customers do not immediately understand the benefit of the offer, they will cancel their subscriptions.

Therefore, the editorial team must learn to embrace new specializations that have traditionally existed in other areas of the company. This includes product development, digital distribution targeting article-level acquisition and conversion, subscription stabilization, and editorial marketing, which includes not just journalism, but data analysis and audience intelligence. All these processes lead to a new journalistic strategy.

Focusing solely on editing is no longer enough. Changing the culture to reach this understanding must be driven by an editor who believes there is nothing wrong with making money and that commercial concerns do not threaten the independence of the newsroom.

In fact, this understanding can enhance independence by enhancing the sustainability of the news process. Taking more responsibility for market success does not hurt journalism. On the contrary, it increases quality.

Dietmar Schanten is a digital media strategist who has helped transform the editorial and business operations of media brands around the world.

We meet again next week!

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(tags for translation) Newsrooms, clients

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