Newsrooms Find Success With “Story-Centric” Approach

Of all the disruptive technologies that have emerged in the media and entertainment industry over the past few years, newsgathering and the fast turnaround production and delivery of breaking stories to many platforms is one of the most significant. Operating at the ‘speed of news’ is no longer a luxury but a necessity in today’s highly competitive landscape.

Other articles in this series:

In a world of push notifications and live reporting, every second counts for the news broadcaster because the competition to be the first to report is fierce. This presents established mass media with the difficulty of defending their position in the changing media cosmos.

Adding the cloud to a news production workflow, for remote editing and scalable storage, brings many advantages, including the ability to scale up and out to meet demand, unlock cost savings with public cloud storage, and make data available from anywhere your staff is working. With a cloud-based workflow, an increasing speed of news turnaround can be achieved as the team can ingest, edit, produce, and publish directly from the field.

This article was prepared with the benefit of unique insight from the team at specialist Systems Integrator Qvest.

Solving Common Challenges

While it used to be newspapers, online, radio, and TV that played the most relevant role in media use, today entirely new communications channels are transforming the market. Social media platforms such as TikTok are becoming increasingly relevant both in consuming and sometimes in reporting the news of the day. It may be the same news, but the audience demands new ways of storytelling.

A recent survey by Ofcom in the UK underlines the changing preferences of audiences towards Internet-based news platforms.

A recent survey by Ofcom in the UK underlines the changing preferences of audiences towards Internet-based news platforms.

Each medium and platform has its own requirements and quality criteria in order for content to be published on them. When upgrading or replacing systems, new ways of cross-media production have to be tested and optimized from an operational and technical point of view.

Another key driver to change is that as new and traditional broadcast media converge, historically siloed production teams may also need to converge. Do previously separate departments – such as TV, radio, and digital – actually want to work together? Do they see the added value or do they feel they could lose or be saddled with additional responsibilities and accountabilities? Such a transformation process has a direct impact on corporate culture.

New Challenges for Media Companies

So, how are media companies dealing with this challenge? How does a classic “one-way newsroom” become one that is flexible and able to keep up with the news of the day. One of the most important components of a news channel is the newsroom itself. It is often the heart of a media house, as it is here that information is aggregated, curated, and processed. Yet it is precisely these newsrooms that need to be upgraded to meet new, cross-media demands. For example, making an already broadcast news report available online as a podcast at the same time sounds simple, but it is usually a challenge for two reasons:

  1. Stories have different length requirements and a different way of packaging (e.g. its own intro/outro) and therefore requires some manual or automatic revision.
  2. Different systems are required for both dissemination routes (dissemination systems, processing systems, etc.), which were often not interconnected until now.

In another example, different editing systems, video and image formats, different codecs or completely separate IT networks often make smooth cross-media collaboration difficult. Many of today’s newsrooms date back to the days of the “channel-centric approach,” where they were dedicated to one medium: Texts were written in the print newsroom, and radio news was produced in a radio newsroom.

The Classic Newsroom Approach

The traditional “channel-centric approach,” used by news organizations around the world, focuses on one main channel. In this scenario, other channels such as online are already being used, but they are more of an accessory. The further use of TV footage in online formats presents a legal and, above all, technical hurdle. For example, a news format is usually produced specifically for television. In many cases, the broadcasting infrastructure is SDI, and is a largely standalone system that’s often not connected to the Internet for security reasons.

In this TV centric model, editing content for social media is cumbersome, as content must be exported from the broadcast production environment in order to distribute it online. The result is often the formation of a “shadow newsroom”, one that operates in parallel to support online and social media outlets. Here, production staff often act completely detached from the main TV newsroom and mostly work independently on their own tech stack, with their own workflows - although the content and information sources are the same.

The Power of A “Cross-Media” Newsroom

In a “cross-media” newsroom, the focus is on the news story itself, which is distributed to multiple playout channels. This workflow is often referred to as the “story-centric approach.” Using a story-centric workflow, a journalist in the field who broadcasts on Facebook Live can also upload that asset to automatically be published on Twitter or YouTube. Later, or at the same time, the asset may be edited for an upcoming news program.

Story-centric workflows are the result of a story-first mindset. This kind of workflow allows multiple people to access and work on the same assets using a single interface, bringing everything together within a single news production system. Team members can receive tasks within the system, complete them within that system, and then use that same system to publish to the desired broadcast or digital platform.

Bringing disparate teams together in this way enables news production organizations to focus on where the best place is to tell a particular news story. While you might have a few minutes to tell a story on TV, social platforms allow you to go into more depth and investigate a topic more comprehensively - with interactive tools that allow the viewer to consume the story as they see fit.

Looking at a typical news event about new laws being debated in parliament, a push notification can be implemented to alert app users to the start of the live stream on their smartphone, where the entire debate is broadcast. Then protests with clashes break out in front of the parliament building. The story is still the same, but the newsroom can use a short live clip as a teaser to report on the clashes in real time on social media channels, while also referring to the evening news bulletin on TV, where the events are covered in more detail.

This also provides the possibility of simultaneously drawing attention to the station’s on-demand offering, which provides further information and background contributions. Therefore, the different formats and media channels are used to support each other in a way that resonates with viewers.

A story-centric approach considers stories as entities in and of themselves rather than merely as pieces of a single news program to be archived. It also promotes efficient working, as editors have equal access to all the information and material that belongs to a story, and there are no duplicate production processes for the different touchpoints.

Transforming The Newsroom

A new generation of NRCS now address exactly this new way of working. Thus, there are more and more systems and workflows that are adapted to cover the complete production chain of a cross-media news story: From topic research, planning, resource allocation, collaboration and production to playout on the various devices or media channels.

The implementation of these new solutions as updates in existing newsroom systems can be relatively easy with appropriate technology evaluation and accompanying change management. Replacing an NRCS often presents a greater barrier because it interferes deeply with many existing and well-established processes.

The team at Qvest advocate a gradual or phased-in approach to complete replacement; where parts of a new system are introduced gradually. For example, a new tool can be added to existing systems in a newsroom and used temporarily only for a subsection (e.g. exclusively for planning social media content). Gradually use of the tool can be extended to control existing systems, such as linear rundown planning and/or story scouting, through the new tool, thereby serving as an overlay for the existing systems. For this to work the new system must be linked via the right interfaces with the existing systems. This assumes the different systems are compatible so that the workflow processes can be streamlined via tight synchronization.

Other Systems Integrators may advocate different approaches. The introduction and implementation of coordinated change management is a challenging necessity for a newsroom transformation project. News is a 24/7 business, which never rests. High speed production is crucial and based on established routines, so it takes time to fully incorporate new workflows. Not only systems and workflows need to be changed, but collaboration at the same level across former departmental boundaries and a broader skill spectrum of employees are extremely important.

In the past, producing the news was relatively simple: workflows and teams focused on the news program at hand, crafting the broadcast according to a specific rundown. Today news is no longer presented at just one specific time. It is uploaded, downloaded, and shared on multiple social media platforms in multiple aspect ratios. Teams are just as widely distributed as the content they produce, and likewise, the news cycle isn't confined to the rhythms of local or national news programs.

That’s why story-centric workflows have become more common for the media and broadcast industry. This approach can help teams address many of the issues raised by the growing pains of adjusting to a decentralized, always-on news environment.

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