Back to the future: Newsroom 2.0

Back to the future: Newsroom 2.0

When the history of content marketing in Australia is written, particularly the chapters on content marketing in government, this week will feature. 

Mumbrella, the respected news service for the communications industry, carried a revealing story about the future of Tourism Australia (TA) communication.

TA is a leader in Australian government content marketing. User generated content, powerful imagery, consistent publishing, great stories, responsiveness and a sense of humour have been rolled into a comprehensive multi-channel (online and offline) platform with a massive audience.

The TA website answers every question imaginable.

Research, events, a news service, media relations, visiting journalist programs, image and video libraries, industry partnerships and a strategy all with the bullseye of influencing ‘experience seekers’, neatly segmented to reflect differences in nationalities, are the backbone of the content.

Their social channels are also heaving. The numbers speak for themselves;

  • 6,224,408 followers on Facebook who routinely like, share and comment in the tens of thousands
  • 58,700 twitter followers
  • 1,455,138 followers on Google+ who have viewed content 42,577,683 times
  • 985,000 followers on Instagram
  • 20,476 You Tube subscribers
  • One could only guess at the column centimetres and radio and TV airtime generated by their globally dispersed PR team

It’s a beast, and it’s only going to get bigger and get better.

The Mumbrella article reported that they are about to launch real time content marketing with the introduction of a ‘newsroom’ to service an upgraded website that has a greater capacity to publish multi-media content.

The outgoing TA marketing chief Nick Baker said the ‘newsroom’ will be staffed by journalists. He also said they would source content from existing publishers and freelancers. He forecasts that this service will “expand massively” in the future.

Now I know many of you who read this blog won’t be surprised by the development, but it is significant.

This shift to a ‘newsroom’ approach to communication is the future.

There are a number of examples in the private sector (Telstra and Commbank) and you can track back almost a decade to the efforts of Department of Immigration under the leadership of Andrew Metcalfe and Sandi Logan, for demonstrations of the earlier adopters. However this is the latest Federal Government agency to describe its approach to communication in this way.

The article didn’t go into any depth about how the TA ‘newsroom’ would work beyond employing journalists and sourcing journalistic content, but if they do adopt the culture and practice of a traditional newsroom, it will be a formalisation of an approach to real time content marketing.

Why? Because that’s how newsrooms work.

Journalists work to identify the most interesting stories for their audience and report on them as quickly as possible. The editors help with the story selection, graphic artists help with design, the photo desk identifies the right image and the video editors put the moving images together in a package that is both appealing and timely.

News is ‘new’ and it has a tempo about it. In the digital age, that tempo has picked up dramatically as citizens and consumers are more demanding in feeding their obsession with content.

If TA are to build a proper ‘newsroom’ they will need to build the practices, processes and culture of a newsroom and learn to react quickly. As information starts to flow increasingly faster with broadband technology improving, organisations will need to move faster to be seen, heard and understood by the audiences they are seeking to influence and engage.

Newspapers are a good example of organisations who have had to adapt their practice.

Previously when the paper version was king and the website was secondary, publishing times were in the late afternoon and they were settled. Now you can see newspapers respond very quickly. They have adopted the practices of the radio newsrooms and can now turn news and information around very quickly. You still have to be accurate and relevant, but there is a need for speed.

So in my view the opportunity for TA in adopting a ‘newsroom’ approach is much larger than just sourcing content. If they adopt all elements of a newsroom practice with the audience they already have, they will make a serious dent in the universe.

This trend should also give heart to all of the journalists who are currently being ‘displaced’ in traditional media businesses. The opportunity to report hard news is diminishing but the opportunity to tell stories isn’t.

Every government agency, every brand, every not for profit and every NGO, need to adopt a ‘newsroom’ based approach to communication if they are to make the most of the opportunity to publish on their own platforms. The skills of a journalist have never been more valuable.

Contrast that with our friends in the advertising world. The article would have contributed to a further sense of chaos and need for reinvention. In a week where the future of the Australian television broadcast channel, Channel Ten, looks increasingly terminal Nick Baker’s message for his advertising agencies was clear.

“We want to be partners with them and recognise the strengths they bring but they can’t just be buying media and creating ads anymore” he said.

“We have told them you have to think of a different way of doing things. They have the relationships with all the major magazines and media owners so maybe they could become the broker for us, and we still need to buy media around what we do.” 

“If we produce a piece of content there is no point sticking it on Youtube and hope it does well. You have to have things that point to it, so they have got to help us buy media that tells that story in the right places. It just might not be in normal kind of media, it might be in different places and they have to find that.”

“We are challenging them. I need their skills but it’s not necessarily in the old form.”

Ouch! Brokering content deals with publishers?  Not much margin in that.

So in other words… “we like you and we know you are smart, clever and creative but we don’t want to buy what you have been selling us for years”.

For me it also sets the timer for the future of broadcast media.

Now I’m sure that the decision by TA is driven by a lot of things but I suspect, given the size of their audience, they know exactly who they need to target, when and in which markets. Their data analysis and subsequent segmentation would be hyper-niche. That target audience is now in control of the information, education and entertainment they receive. They choose when they receive and consume it, on which device and through which channel. TA doesn’t need to broadcast, they need to narrow cast.

And it not just TA. It’s most people with a story to tell. The world is getting thinner as people aggregate content around their particular needs and interests.

Reed Hastings the Founder of Netflix, the on-demand video entertainment service that has benefitted from this trend to self-select, has predicted that broadcast television will be extinct by 2030.

I’ll be surprised if it lasts that long.

The factors of production over which they long held a monopoly (the creation and distribution of video content) have been democratised and the originators of that content will now have the ability to go direct. If they are to survive they need to re-invent themselves just as the traditional news media companies are doing today.

I was discussing this the other day with a colleague who said “But they will still have event television like live sports”.

You think so?

To select one example, I would almost guarantee that the Australian Football League (AFL) in Australia would be plotting the day when they can do it themselves. When you look at the strides they have taken in building out their media creation capability so far, why would they stop there? Why would they not take the steps to do it all themselves and cut out the middle man?

This is the great legacy of the digital disruption. The end of the guy who clipped the ticket.

Now I’m not saying this will happen tomorrow and I’m sure the AFL will do some massively expensive deal with the broadcast rights holder who will struggle to make money from it, but it will happen. I bet my penny to your pound.

Anyway back to the rise of the newsroom.

This will be the rising trend in the short term. There is a need for government, corporate and not for profit organisations to rethink the skills they need to succeed in our rapidly changing world.

Story tellers will inherit the world and the middle man will get flamed!

Photo: Andy Piper


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