It’s a simple question: What should news organizations stop doing, today, immediately, to make more time for innovation?
And it’s a simple answer: News organizations should stop pretending like it’s the pre-Internet days. Most news organizations are still legacy-first. Newspapers still care more about the print edition than the Web edition. Beats are still centered around making content for print edition.
The same goes for broadcast. Even the best news organizations often have separate Web staffs that produce editorial content for the Web product. But that makes no sense.
Why have two staffs to produce editorial content, when most employees could be creating content that works on multiple platforms? That’s what I mean by rethinking staff resources.
It’s simply a matter of making employees and content work for us. Duplication of work is a great way to stifle innovation, because most news organizations are under a tremendous budget crunch and can’t afford to waste resources like that.
It’s easier to go from Web-first to print than the other way around. Why? Because the Web is incredibly flexible.
It can do all sorts of content incredibly well. Print, for instance, can only do writing, and photos to an extent, well. And print even has major limitations on written content that the Web doesn’t have (arbitrary story lengths, anyone?).
Let’s take the example of a beat reporter. Some beat reporters have begun blogging, but their blogs are often treated as one more thing to do. That’s hardly a way to promote innovative content. In fact, one-more-thing syndrome is a good way to promote staff burnout.
Rather, a blog should be the heart of a beat reporters arsenal — not the 15-inch story. Any time a nugget of information comes in, a beat reporter should blog about it (or post to Twitter or both). As news comes in a blogger can either add to his original post or make a new post.
Twitter updates take seconds to write, but make fantastic notes for longer written pieces later on. This keeps readers updated and interested.
At the end of the day, when the dust has settled, it will be a lot easier to put together a 15-inch story. A beat reporter will already have notes (Twitter is great for this) and several post of content to work with.
But imagine the reverse scenario. A beat reporter concentrates on producing copy for the print edition first. This means no meaningful content will be posted until a story is completed for the print edition (or stories). This also means the story may be an aribitrary length to fit print needs — not the story’s needs. Many beat reporters who operate like this will occasionally dump smaller news items into their blogs.
When people ask “how can we make more time for innovation,” it’s really more about using time more wisely than about making more time. Think about it. Blogging and Twitter are naturally mobile friendly, which saves us even more time while reaching an even broader audience.
That’s another bird killed with the same stone. Any good blog has at least one RSS feed (if not multiple ones for comments and sometimes categories). Google Reader is a fantastic (and free) mobile RSS reader. Without doing any extra work your content is already mobile friendly.
And I don’t have to explain how ridiculously mobile friendly Twitter is. So, now a beat reporter isn’t actually doing any extra work, but he is hitting the Web and mobile with full force. And because of the way blogging and Twitter work, it’s extremely easy to make a print story from all writing that has already been done.
We need to make our content work for us. This means making our content smarter and rethinking how we us staff resources in news organizations.