Nottingham Evening Post emphasizes regional focus with print and digital
IFRA Newsplex supports planning and implementation of new strategy
Nottingham Evening Post (NEP), a part of Northcliffe Media within DMGT plc, is a mid-sized regional UK evening newspaper, with a circulation of about 60,000 copies a day, a circulation which has been in decline for the past 25 years. Before 2006, websites in the Northcliffe group were run by a separate company called Northcliffe Electronic Publishing. In practice, individual newspapers had little to do with the daily publication of news on the web, which was handled by an automatic feed.
In 2006, however, control of the websites was handed over to the newspapers. Many decided to simply appoint a web editor to run the site. Nottingham Evening Post took a different route. Says Martin Done: "Our strategy right from the start was the opposite: We wanted to involve everyone in the web and not to have any web-specific role, thus spreading the workload across the entire newsroom. This proved the most important decision as there was nothing to undo a few months later when we developed our integrated strategy."
Sarah Schantin Williams from IFRA Newsplex was brought in to run awareness workshops, attended by the entire newsroom, to highlight what was being done in editorial convergence around the world. This became the starting point for the change process. Further workshops with the editorial executives on the vision and strategy of Nottingham Evening Post were conducted together with IFRA Newsplex and Martin Done generated a strategy document, which set out where the NEP wanted to be in the future.
One of the first steps out of the strategy paper was the analysis of the digital and print audience, the existing workflows and organisation and infrastructure. "The analysis highlighted areas of inefficiency, gaps and historical anomalies in our organisational structures. Fixing these helped us free up resource to take on some of the new web roles."
Today, the entire editorial staff has gone through Phase 1 of a comprehensive training programme, which means they are now familiar with the new newsroom workflows, their individual roles and responsibilities, and have acquired basic multimedia skills, including producing audio, slideshows, and publish to web. At the end of June, the new newsroom was taken into operation, with a central hub for editorial conferences.
Growing audience and breaking news
The convergence project in Nottingham has a number of objectives. The fundamental one is to grow audience for the NEP content by delivering it to the users in a form they want at a time they want. To achieve this, the aim is to produce extra content from existing resources where this is possible, and thereby increase efficiency. "We want to create an integrated newsroom whereby the best stories are given the most effective multimedia treatment for the audience - limited resource means that we have to focus on the biggest opportunities," says Done. Another aspect of the new newsroom is a renewed focus on breaking news.
Implementing such fundamental change, particularly in a newsroom, throws up a number of challenges. One is to give staff new skills, and, importantly, the confidence to use these. Another is to move the newsroom away from a print-focused, one-deadline-a-day mindset, to adopting a multimedia publishing culture. "There was a fear that we would be asking already busy journalists to take on even more work," says Done. "We told them that we would be looking at developing new workflows that would make the whole news process quicker and more efficient, changing structures and responsibilities together with a new infrastructure. Our message was that we wanted people to be working smarter, not for longer."
Change management may be the biggest challenge when fundamental work practice changes are put in place, but in Nottingham there is a lot of enthusiasm among reporters for what is being done. Says Tanya Holden, trainee reporter on the crime team: "Now that we have moved into the newly converged newsroom the physical changes already make such a difference and it really feels like a modern, 21st century newsroom. Everyone is closer together, which has created what I feel is the real atmosphere of a working newsroom. If we are wanting to produce stories on a multimedia level then our working office also needs to reflect this. Conferences now take place in the centre of the newsroom rather than behind closed doors, so it feels like reporters are not disconnected from the decisions made about what goes in the paper each day."
From a business point of view, the project is already paying dividends, with more content being produced by existing staff. Done: "The staff resource has remained constant. As we go through the pilot phase we are constantly reviewing any pressure points but at the moment we are trying to use the resource gained from the increased efficiency of the new workflows. Due to our increased efficiency and the enthusiasm of staff for the change the converged operation is delivering three media for the price of one!"
With the new newsroom in place and the basic training completed, there is still much to be done at the Nottingham Evening Post. Phases 2 and 3 of the training programme will be carried out in the autumn of 2008 and spring of 2009. The website is being redesigned and moved to a more user-friendly CMS over the summer. A series of hyper-local websites are in the pipeline, as is the rolling out of the integration strategy to other departments, including advertising, newspaper sales and IT.
Martin Done is very confident that the chosen path is the right one: "We have gone from managing decline to growing audience. The newsroom feels brighter, livelier, more exciting again - almost as if we are at the start of a golden age for media companies that many had felt existed only in the past."
About IFRA Newsplex
IFRA Newsplex is the international competence centre for enabling newsrooms for the future. The IFRA Newsplex team provides advisory and support services for developing and implementing media integrated product and newsroom strategies with the goal to increase the value, quality and performance of the news operation in a constantly changing media environment. The services cover strategy definition, product and process benchmarking, executive study tours, project and change management, and a comprehensive talent management programme for journalistic and management skills for both analogue and digital media.
For further information on IFRA Newsplex services (training, consulting etc.), see the IFRA website at www.ifra.com/newsplex or contact email@example.com.
IFRA (www.ifra.com) is the worldwide research and service organisation for the news publishing industry. With headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany, it has acted since 1961 as the platform for decision-makers from the newspaper industry. IFRA offers its services primarily to its more than 3100 members in nearly 80 countries. A Board, comprising publishers as well as central, regional and specialised committees drawn from IFRA member companies, steers the work of the international newspaper community. IFRA's research work provides the basis for this and results in standardisation projects as well as international and regional exhibitions, conferences, workshops, study tours, training events, Newsplex consulting and international competitions. The IFRA Expo - "the annual event of the news publishing industry" - held at major European venues, is the world's most important trade exhibition for newspaper companies and their partners. IFRA Expo 2008 will be held from 27 to 30 October in Amsterdam under the motto "Get the Big Picture!" (www.ifraexpo.com). IFRA Magazine, the international magazine of newspaper business, strategy and technology, is published in several languages in both print and online versions (www.iframagazine.com). IFRA is also running IFRA Search, a vertical search engine for the news publishing industry (www.ifrasearch.com).