Monday, January 2, 2012

Digital first and always

Beginning today, actually about an hour and a half ago, we started a new way of planning in The Mercury newsroom to take us to the next level of digital first publishing.
It was in February of 2010 that John Paton became CEO of our parent company Journal Register and introduced us to the digital-first vocabulary of publishing: "the new news ecology," "digital first, print last," "stacking digital dimes" to replace print dollars.
We began revamping our news systems to reflect those changes, including breaking news on our website first, updating as it unfolds and then fine-tuning for print publication at the end of the day.
We added video into the mix, and over the past two years, our reporters have become pretty good at it. Reporters add their perspective to the news they're covering with video voice overs, and we have made video a regular component of breaking news and sports coverage, particularly features like Athletes of the Week.
We use social media, regularly crowdsourcing story information on Facebook, using Twitter to point to stories we're working on and live-tweeting from events. Our network of Community Media Lab bloggers has grown to more than 45 voices on different topics.
We tell the community what we're working on every day, invite input and regularly open our Community Media Lab space for meetings and interviews.
But we were missing a large component of being Digital First. Our planning was still aimed at putting out a print product at the end of the day. We worked all day updating the website and putting things out on social media without much group discussion of it -- and saved our collaboration for that end of the day "page one meeting" to plan the print edition.
Today we changed that.
At 11:30 this morning, we gathered around a computer screen in the back of the newsroom with an early story budget (that's our list of what we're working on) in hand and discussed how the website was evolving so far today.
We talked about how to involve readers in a live chat our sister paper The Delaware County Daily Times is hosting on the Winter Classic this afternoon and how to handle live coverage of Penn State in the Ticket Bowl, which another sister paper The York Daily Record and Sunday News is covering.
What normally would have been a discussion of stories ("Does it have photos?") and what's on the wire ("How much do our readers care about the Iowa caucuses?") now involved brainstorming social media involvement. ("What hashtag should we suggest people use for the Hill School game on Wednesday?")
We are conducting this new meeting standing up, because digital first moves more quickly than print last. We are involving new positions which we have created as part of our digital first transformation -- community engagement/social media editor, for one.
Today's meeting was not perfect. The online managing editor was on vacation, for starters, and the rest of us are not as adept at the technology to make things happen. We are going to be in training sessions for a new computer system the rest of the week so that will create a necessary distraction. Courthouses are closed today so there is not much daytime breaking news.
But it's a start.
As we continue with these changes, we'll let you know how we're doing, and we welcome your input. You can email me at or follow me on Twitter @merceditor and offer your thoughts.
"Digital first" was recently named one of the top trends in the media industry in a year-end wrapup by some journalism thought leaders. It's not a trend for us. It's the path we're embracing to survive, grow and remain relevant.
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1 comment:

  1. Hi Nancy - great to "sit next to you" last night at Steve's presentation. A great post but to one of Steve's points, your "me on Twitter" should be the link to your Twitter profile - not to the Twitter website.

    Ive got tons of Social Media experience and would be available to help navigate the waters for the JRC folks in the area.