Thursday, April 10, 2014

Our new mini, regional, digital-centric features 'syndication' experiment

This. Is. Exciting!

Initiated from the ground-up (from the reporters, not editors, which makes this particularly interesting), we have decided to band three different newspapers' efforts together to organize regional, digitally focused features stories whose production rotates between the different newspapers. 

Who is involved: 

Why this is different: 

In the past, we have always had features departments for each newspaper. I have done my occasional digital-first features, so has the Times-Call and so has the Reporter-Herald. 

I think of this as a mini, regional, digital-centric features syndication system -- with the potential to grow to a statewide digital features syndicate. 

Of course, the views posted here are my own and not necessarily those of my newspaper, editors or colleagues.

Why I think this is needed: 

* Local news is increasingly more important. National wire stories get low priority in many local papers with limited space. Plus, readers want local content from their local papers, They can get national news anywhere. 
* Local has traditionally be limited by cities, but that's not the world we live in. Most people in our area live in a different city than they work. I think "local" should be "regional," and a lot more flexible.
* We all know we need more digital content. But where can you get it right now? Where can you pick up a relevant story that includes different digital components, without commissioning your own staff to do it?
* Content-sharing between newspapers is increasingly important, with smaller staff. Yet exactly the best way to share that information is the challenge. Whitney is big on the importance of improving teamwork between newspapers. In fact, she writes it in all caps. TEAMWORK!
Whitney, who has worked at multiple
newsrooms in the region, is a key
bridge to improving teamwork.
* Reporters need training and inspiration for digital elements. Part of that is getting digital to the forefront of our job description. Part of that is also seeing what other people are doing, and knowing where to go to ask for help.
* This idea helps address all of these shortcomings. It is  regional, digital, shared content, and we're starting with features, because our more flexible deadlines allow for more experimentation and slower communication, as we hammer out the processes to make this easy, effective and efficient. 

What we hope to gain: 

* More digital content over a larger geographic base.
* A regular, weekly digital experience for readers, so they can begin to expect it from us.
* A higher quality of digital content because we will each have three weeks to put our package together (well, along with our regular work, of course, but three weeks to think about it and work on it), as well as a smarter digital-centric planning system that encourages sharing ideas.
* Strategic sharing, which will hopefully lead to higher quality of stories -- without extra work. We are all already making digital features now, just not so strategically. In other words, yup, TEAMWORK in all caps. 

We're launching it next week!
I'll report back soon on what worked, didn't work and what other newspapers can do to adopt some of the useful strategies to their own newsrooms. 

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