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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

FT builds digital/analog integrated Newsroom

FT editor Lionel Barber has announced that he intends to fully integrate his online and off line content production processes. In his letter to staff he says,

"The proposed reorganisation takes place against the background of the
digital revolution, which poses significant challenges for the media industry -
and newspapers in particular."

What surprised me most about Barbers comments was that I had thought this was how the FT worked anyway. The FT was an early pioneer of web editions and it seems extraordinary that only now have they realised that they must organise their editorial in a platform neutral way.

None the less there are some good ideas in the plans Barber has announced. He will be merging the company reporting desks from online and the newspaper and then plans to have all copy prepared with hyperlilnks embedded in the text by the journalist at the point of production. The reporting in the trades and the national press about this has focussed on the 50 redundancies that arise, but it is the change in work practice which is more significant.

What I fear has not been thought through is, that content for the web, indeed any digital content must be written in a different way than content for a newspaper. Similarly if the web is going to break all your news stories then the role of the hard copy paper must change too. There may be no reason why a companion website to a magazine or newspaper should undermine readership of the paper product, but the editorial strategy of almost every magazine and newspaper I have seen appears designed to guarantee that outcome.

An integrated newsroom requires integrated publishing thinking and although this is a useful step by the FT which may show the way for others, there is a long path yet to tread.


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