At the Core, You’ll Find Content

A good friend and I caught up over a glass of red wine and delicious hot tapas including grilled lamb and eggplant parmesan at Panache one evening this week. It was one of the first truly cold evenings in the Washington area this year. We decided it was best to stay inside…full of warm spirits.

As every good journalist knows, after every good meal and fine spirits you’re certain to find thought-provoking conversation about the future. It was our discussion about mobile and new product development that left me thinking, “Seriously? Are we doing this again?!”

My inbox already knows what I’m about to say. It has been overindulging a fondness for emails about location-based services, apps, gaming, real-time news, hyper relevancy and the father of them all – mobile advertising. It’s here. We’re again facing a game-changing moment in platform innovation and how people receive information. And we’re again facing newsroom restructuring to reflect this change.

Some newsrooms are already reacting. USA TODAY announced its plan earlier this year. In its plan, content verticals and platform editing hubs were erected.

Structure and workflow are certainly key to success but at the core of our business is content. We are an information-gathering business. If we’re not changing at the core, are we really changing?

Steve Buttry (@stevebuttry) offers this advice on mobile-first strategy:

  • Executives emphasize mobile priority
  • Journalists focus on mobile news & information delivery & presentation
  • Tech staff focuses on mobile apps
  • Designers focus on mobile design
  • Sales staff meets business customers’ mobile needs

In 2009, Buttry highlighted focal points for news gatherers in a mobile-first newsroom: metadata (the story behind the story), location, tagging, crowdsourcing, email, and SMS. These demands reemphasize the need for collaboration and integration in the newsroom. If every news gatherer isn’t focused on the end result being mobile, it’ll be very easy to ignore the need to tag, provide metadata and think about dynamic stories told through crowdsourcing and real engagement.

Sound familiar?

For years, digital evangelists have stressed the importance of tagging, metadata and crowdsourcing. If newsrooms really want to play in the mobile sandbox, they will need to evolve at the core. Non-traditional mobile news gatherers are already crawling into bed with our businesses.

Foursquare is building its own database of local businesses, deals and reviews by location by giving individuals tools easy to use and accessible anytime. Before Foursquare came to the scene, craigslist successfully built a database of real estate and jobs. Both databases, by the way, are free.

In 2011, newsrooms will continue to be faced with the challenge of sustaining legacy operations and investing in evolving technologies. The mobile and online staff shakedown will be watched closely. Will online journalists be old school in 2012 or will we finally change at the core?

Inspiration for this post:

Magda Abu-Fadil’s review of “Trends in Newsrooms 2010;”

Rick Edmond’s review of the most recent USA TODAY restructuring;

Steve Buttry’s presentation on leading a mobile first newsroom;

Steve Buttry’s 2009 thoughts on what a mobile-first strategy is;