Steve Outing hits a well-frayed nerve with his latest column for E&P “What’s Needed in 2008: Serious Newsroom Cultural Change”
The smart news organization in 2008 will be the one that encourages innovation — no, requires it — from ALL its employees. It will get everyone involved: in planning meetings; in committees charged with specific research and/or implementation projects. It will create some time in the schedules of everyone in the organization to do the work of innovation, and make that an integral assignment.
Let’s go further. Innovation isn’t the key anymore. Results are. Innovation is one way to get results. Other ways include refocusing resources, stopping activities that don’t drive results, training or moving employees who don’t deliver results. Notice I didn’t mention multimedia or blogs.
The biggest culture shock isn’t changing from “getting the paper out” to “producing multimedia journalism” (though those are big).
The biggest shock is changing from a process culture to a results culture.
I would argue that the first step for newsrooms is to redefine their mission in this new world of fragmented media, and then build a plan to execute on that mission, including goals expressed as concrete results.
That mission should be understood, agreed to, written down, and everything should flow from it. The ideas that get the green light must drive the mission and be designed to achieve specific results.
For example, the mission might be “engage readers to build loyalty to our journalism and our brands.” A few tactics might be:
- Start reporters’ blogs. Attach reasonable traffic goals. Heavily promote blogs that attract readers. Stop or refocus blogs that don’t engage readers.
- Start doing multimedia. Pay attention to what draws audience. Do more of that. Stop doing multimedia that gets little traffic. Continually assess effort vs results.
- Pay attention to traffic reports, heat maps, everything that helps understand user behavior. Gather user input both directly and anecdotally. Continually adjust pages and navigation to improve results.
Some might argue that we need to encourage more experimentation, and focus less on results.
Sorry, those days are over.
Things are changing too fast, and readers are too fickle, for this industry to tolerate anything but results-driven behavior from everyone in the organization.
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