Legacy publishers like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have made it a key focus for their survival, with both publications issuing internal reports that outline how they will adapt to a changing marketplace as readers continue to move online and to mobile.
It’s commendable that both of these outlets, as true iconic publishing brands in the industry, are committed to making the necessary changes to capture new users, traffic from new sources and more.
Still, it poses the question, will legacy publishers always be playing a game of catch-up to the more nimble, new-media publishers that were built for the way people consume content today?
Some may argue that new-media publishers already have a leg up, since they were designed specifically for mobile and digital use, and can, in theory, more easily adapt for new advancements in social, AR, VR and other changes.
Just taking a side-by-side comparison shows major differences: (a) new media leans towards a contributor model with a smaller, full-time staff, while old media continues to employ more well-seasoned journalists; (b) reach for new media is focused on social and mobile, while traditional platforms focus on brand traffic; (c) new media tends to utilize more multimedia content strategies, while longer-form text remains the dominant vehicle for old media.
A key difference is how the newsroom itself is ultimately set up. Layers of editorial continue to disappear as the speed to publish increases. Writers now need to wear many hats – writer, researcher, copyeditor and social media manager, as each reporter is responsible for expanding the reach of her capabilities. With this change, the role of the editor also becomes diminished, with many publishers, including legacy media brands, acknowledging that the changes will lead to fewer editors in the future.
Increasingly, publishers need to be focused not just on the bottom line but the topline as well. More so now than ever before, publishers are tasked with not just creating the best content, but also figuring out how to use technology and tools to expand the reach and views of each article.
Some have even moved to 3.0 compensation models where the author shares in the upside (and downside) on consumption. In addition, the design of the experience cannot be an afterthought, as the best content in the world will be ignored if it is presented on a cluttered and hard-to-read platform.
Lastly, many in the newsroom need to rethink how editorial and sales teams work in parallel. In the past, content teams and sales/marketing teams were seen as church vs. state. with clearly defined roles and separation. Today, content teams are becoming more integral to the sales process given the market shift into programmatic and the need for more integrated and creative solutions.
After all, as long as you're creating interesting, credible content — whether for a brand or for journalistic reasons — consumers will be open to engaging with it. This is the new norm advertisers expect, and this shift will only help publishers stay relevant — and if, executed properly, more profitable.
While seemingly stagnant for the last few decades, new technologies, priorities and industry consolidation have turned the newsroom into a constant state of flux. Publishers that can keep an eye to the future, while staying true to their journalistic integrities and strengths, will continue to keep their head above water.