News Leadership 3.0

May 21, 2008

Moving the furniture, moving the needle

In Tampa, a continuous news desk
translates into online traffic growth
Does your newsroom structure reflect a new news environment?

The traditional newsroom model—with its compartmentalized teams or departments and assembly-line production for end-of-day deadlines—has proven ill suited to a 24/7 news environment that requires speed, creativity, collaboration and the ability to turn on a dime. The structure, systems and processes of the newsroom drive both culture and results. That’s not to say moving desks around a few times a year will change the newsroom. But smart newsroom leaders are finding reorganization—some sweeping, some in small steps—really helps.
The continuous news desk (which now even has the acronym of CND) has come to symbolize digital transformation in many newsrooms, especially larger ones where cross-disciplinary communication tends to be diffuse. I described that change at the Miami Herald here.
This week, I talked with the editor of another Florida newspaper, about a similar change that yielded striking results.
Janet Coats, Executive Editor of The Tampa Tribune, said the organization in the past year:
- Combined online and print newsrooms under the one editor (Coats). (I confess, I was a little surprised that Tampa, a poster child for media convergence, had separate print and online newsrooms as late as 2007.)
- Reorganized into “deep” and “now” teams in an effort to balance getting the story of the moment with investigative and explanatory journalism.
- Moved a significant number of print staff to a new continuous news desk.

“The results,” Coats said, “were immediate and gratifying - a 60 percent increase in (local) page views year over year.” Breaking news page views were about 11 percent of total before the change, Coats said. “Since continuous news desk, that share has grown to about 30 percent.”

Those results in turn pushed culture change in the newsroom, buoyed the staff, and convinced even Web-resistant staff members. “The launch of continuous news desk was the best thing that happened culturally in the time I’ve been here,” Coats said. “It was one of those wonderful moments when we actually launched the continuous news desk we saw immediate results. That was a glorious thing for people who were demoralized. ... We saw that pop, a dramatic pop, in Web traffic. The only thing that had changed was the journalism. That was powerful.”

I bet other newsrooms have similar stories of change. I’d like to hear yours. Please share them in the comments to this blog.

Comments

Thatís not to say moving desks around a few times a year will change the newsroom.


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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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