Tag Archives: innovation

Five factors that foster innovation in the online newsroom

I recently heard a newspaper chief editor say something quite shocking. I attended a meeting arranged by the Norwegian consortium New Media Network where the chief editor of the second biggest national tabloid in Norway, Dagbladet, was to give a speech. And believe it or not, chief editor of Dagbladet, Anne Aasheim, said: “I have been a media executive for 20 years now and I must say; it’s more fun today than ever before!”

More fun today than ever before?  Everybody at the meeting knew that Dagbladet has suffered massive losses in recent years – much more than their competitor VG, which is the flagship of Schibsted, one of Europe’s most successful and innovative newspaper publishers, according to The New York Times. Dagbladet is probably the newspaper that has suffered the most in the Norwegian newspaper market in recent years. What could possibly be fun about that? Was Anne Aasheim joking?

Anne Aasheim wasn’t joking. She soon explained what she meant: “When the crisis becomes big enough you no longer just mend things. Your tear everything apart and then you re-construct it. We are now searching for the power to do disruptive innovation. It’s going to be a cut-throat competition to have the greatest power of innovation.”

Then she smiled before exclaiming: “And we are gonna win that competition!”

I thought this was an interesting argument – especially since I have conducted much research in the Dagbladet newsroom during the last four years. Dagbladet is one of those newspapers that always wants to be the first mover. When new technology comes around Dagbladet jumps on it. Dagbladet was the first Norwegian newspaper to launch an online edition, it implemented bloging as the first online newspaper in Scandinavia, etc, etc. Dagbladet’s position in the shadow of the bigger and more successful newspaper VG has forced it to push for innovative initiatives.

The key question for Dagbladet and any other firm that push for successful innovations, is of course: How do you know if a innovative initiative will be a success? I shall not claim that I have the answer to that question (if I did, I would probably be very rich man). However, I have done some research in order to pinpoint the factors that influence processes of innovation in newsrooms. In an article in the current issue of the journal Journalism Studies I argue that there are five factors that affect whether an innovation is diffused successfully or not in an online newsroom:

  1. Newsroom autonomy: are innovative projects initiated and implemented within an autonomous newsroom and with relative autonomy within the online newsroom? (If not, the project is less likely to succeed)
  2. Newsroom work culture: does the online newsroom reproduce editorial gatekeeping or are alternative work cultures explored? (reproduction of “old media” work cultures is likely to prevent innovative initiatives from being successful)
  3. The role of management: is newsroom management able to secure stable routines for innovation?
  4. The relevance of new technology: is new technology perceived as relevant, i.e. efficient and useful? (New technology can be costly and time consuming to utilize)
  5. Innovative individuals: is innovation implemented and understood as part of the practice of journalism?

These factors derive from an ethnographic case study of a process of innovation in dagbladet.no – the online edition of Dagbladet. The findings of this case study are compared to all other research on innovations (or lack of innovations) in online newspapers. This body of research consist of – among many other studies – the research done by Pablo Boczkowsi in his book Digitizing the News: Innovation in Online Newspapers; David Domingo’ Ph.D-thesis Inventing online journalism: Development of the Internet as a news medium in four Catalan newsrooms (which can be downloaded here); Lucy Küng’s When Innovation Fails to Disrupt. A Multi-lens Investigation of Succesfull Incumbment Respons to Technological Disconuity: The Launch of BBC News Online; and Jody Brannon’s quite old, but still very interesting Ph.D.-thesis Maximizing the medium: assessing impediments to performing multimedia journalism at three news web sites (parts of it available on here website).

One last point: Innovation and crisis tend to go hand in hand. Businesses, organisations and nation states alike have always pushed for innovations in times of crisis. There are two reasons for this assumed causal link between recession and innovation, according to an article by Geroski and Walters published in The Economic Journal. First, in times of recession the value of existing rents usually falls, thus making it more attractive for firms to implement new products and processes that hopefully will yield higher returns. Second, to invest in innovations requires a firm to divert resources from activity/production to product development. Such a diversion of resources is more likely to be feasible when the current production is less profitable, e.g. in times of recession.

No wonder why the chief editor of Dagbladet, Anne Aasheim, was so enthusiastic about the opportunities for disruptive innovation…

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Flyp Media: where the medium is the message

What could possibly be common between a detailed account of America’s historic role in Middle East peace and a story about urban acrobats leaping across buildings in London and Beirut? Perhaps, the way in which you choose to tell them.

Designed to look and read like a magazine, complete with the swishing sound that accompanies each turn of a fascinating page, the innovative young site Flyp media, which is being hailed as a “future media lab,” is attempting to straddle the boundaries between the old and the new, between print and celluloid, and between Web creation and journalism.

Videos, podcasts and interactive images are embedded on pages that could well be bound and dropped into your mailbox. It is as much the art of story telling as the story itself. “Flyp the magazine is really a proof-of-concept experiment in terms of multimedia story telling. It is not a product that we’re aimed at as much as the message and the form,” says Editor in Chief Jim Gaines. Continue reading

Try it, refine it – or throw it away

Try new stuff! If it doesn’t work, just stop doing it. Then move on and try something else.

That’s what Mackenzie Warren, director of content at Gannett Digital (that’s the digital division of what’s currently the USA’s largest media company), advised a group of Norwegian media executives at the Norwegian Institute of Journalism this week.

Now, let me first point out that Mackenzie Warren has been a journalist since the age of 14. He’s been a photographer, reporter, online editor, managing editor… just about anything you can be in a newsroom. Except that at Gannett, and at Fort Myers News-Press, where he worked before heading up the digital content section at Gannett, they no longer call it a newsroom.

“We’ve done away with the word “newsroom”. There’s no news in a newsroom (desk reporters are often the last to hear of a story). Plus, it’s not news we do – it’s aquiring, processing and distributing information”, he said.

Now, the Gannett publications have more of a control centre where section editors (sports, news etc., not print, online or TV) monitor the competition and also what the readers and viewers are responding to at any time. Continue reading

All quiet on the western front? Not quite.

German regional publisher WAZ just launched its new flagship website, Der Westen. New features include geotagging, blogs and keyword filtering, monitored from a futuristic-looking newsroom. Martin Stabe has the details.

The concept, writes Der Spiegel, is to let users choose the centre of their world, their perspective on news. Der Westen then provides content around it.

The FAZ today has an interview of blogger-turned-editor-in-chief Katharina Borchert. Numerous online ventures have been playing on regional papers’ turf, from local advertisers flocking to AdSense to local radios breaking news more rapidly, she says. To compete, paper brands must regain their offline roles as community leaders by enhancing the news hole with social features, Facebook-style. Continue reading