Saturday, August 29, 2015

For Transition to Digital-First, It Takes a Calendar

Calendar in The Orion's content-management system, Camayak
Probably the most difficult obstacle to moving student (and other) newsrooms from a focus on print to an emphasis on publishing to the Web and mobile platforms is the fear of missing the newsroom's only hard deadline: when PDFs have to be sent to the printer.

This is less difficult in daily newsrooms, which are used to daily deadlines, but even there I see my hometown paper, the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis, posting most of its stories in the morning, long after the print edition in which they appear has gone to press.

Of course, it's possible to train readers to look for stories at a certain time of day or week, but I think most of the audience wants to know what's happening as or just after it's happened -- while it's still news. Keeping a home page fresh and up to date is the mark of a publication that's figured out how to be digital-first.

How do they do it?

I think the best way is by establishing daily deadlines (hourly deadlines for dailies) that regularly and relentlessly push stories onto the website. The Orion has a great tool for that: the calendar function in Camayak, its content-management system.

Camayak can be set up so every story assignment has a deadline. Editors can easily assign one or more stories to each day of the week, ensuring has a totally different home page at least every day. Managing editors can tell at a glance which sections are holding content for print and not producing a steady stream of content to the website. And everyone on staff can see which stories are missing or late: they're tagged in red.

Breaking news, of course, can't be produced on a schedule and shouldn't be. Those stories should be tweeted as they happen and a brief version posted to the web as soon as possible, maybe even from the scene. A longer version of the story offering context and more reporting can be posted later.

But what about that pesky print deadline?

As I told our editor-in-chief, Risa Johnson, last week, the print newspaper will take care of itself if one story from each section is posted to the web every day. Seven stories times six sections (including photo) will provide more than enough copy and art to fill the paper.

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