The Telegraph is about to make a pioneering move to become the UK's first integrated multimedia newsroom.

Looking much like the deck of the Enterprise, it unveiled its new newsroom last week. When it moves in, next month, the Telegraph plans to significantly alter its publishing focus, entering a brave new world of converged editorial coverage.

To look at what the future may hold took an exclusive tour of de Volkskrant, one of Holland's leading quality papers, to see a newsroom already a year down the road to full convergence.

"I like to think of us as an online newspaper that prints an edition once a day," said Pieter Kok, publisher of the daily broadsheet.

"The multimedia approach is quite simple, if customers change their approach to news then we change with them," he added.

"If you ask a person of 15 years of age or a person of 50 about the news, at the end of the day they know the same amount.

"It is just that the 50-year-old gets it from newspapers and the 15-year-old grabs information from several places, from Messenger, mobile phones, the internet and TV.

"It is not really important how they got it, just that they got it from a trustable source."

The larger-than-life ex-lawyer has taken charge of the development of convergence. He started the process in September, last year, but change at the paper has been evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

In addition to the daily 300,000 circulation of print edition and standard web text and podcasts, de Volkskrant has developed a raft of advanced news products.

It offers an RSS news feed that also aggregates news from other sources, an afternoon PDF download, an E-paper, a news cruncher - essentially an MSN Messenger buddy that instead of chat offers text and video news in the conversation window - and web TV, where the paper buys in agency video reports to merge with its in-house productions.

De Volkskrant, Holland's third biggest print paper, also owns a radio station and will soon begin trials of Go TV, a video news service, in Amsterdam taxis. A sponsorship deal with Volvo is about to add a mobile audio and video studio to the paper's armoury.

"We really want to be a front runner worldwide with these new technologies," added Mr Kok.

"New software means we will be faster and better on the internet, where we want to be the primary source of news."

Mr Kok claimed that splashing cash on these technological innovations has led to the site getting 1.1 million unique visitors and 25 million page views every month. For comparison, the ABCE figures for the Telegraph in May were a little more than 47 million page impressions. To put this in context, you need to bear in mind that the Telegrah does not publish exclusively in Dutch to a domestic population of 16 million.

Much like the Telegraph, de Volkskrant is about to move into new premises that are better suited to its convergence needs. But it already publishes different web products throughout the day and uses the 'hub' principle with key editorial and marketing decision makers sitting together at the centre of the room, surrounded by journalists grouped into production areas. Key teams are located side by side to ease co-operation and marketing and editorial staff are mixed, ensuring that they work together on integrated training and development projects.

"This way of working should decrease the time to market for our new initiatives as they will be working together on these projects from the start and know them completely," said Mr Kok.

Yet despite heavy investment, great technological advances and team integration, Mr Kok believes his paper has only achieved 40 per cent of what it needs to do before he considers it totally converged.

The move from the Wibautstraat to new premises in the city is not just a technological and logistical necessity. According to Mr Kok, there is a far bigger barrier to scale, one that money alone will not solve - it is about taking advantage of the mind shift of changing premises.

"We want to take advantage of the psychology of moving premises to change the structure of working, people will be more open to this change if it's combined with a shift of premises," he said - a view reflected in the newsroom.

A change in mindset is key to successful convergent. Arie Elshout, deputy editor in chief, told "When people have a scoop, they still want to keep the scoop for the front page.

"We still have a lot to do to get reporters to change how they think and get them to allow those stories for the web page.

"To change how journalism is organised here is difficult. We are a progressive newspaper, but journalists are conservative, they don't like change to their routines.

"I don't know anything about the new technology, I'm 52, I'm an old-fashioned print journalist, so even I need to get to know how to do it."

For the last year, de Volkskrant has been sending groups of its staff to Ifra's training newsroom in Germany to learn how to run an integrated publication across a myriad of platforms.

Mr Elshout said editorial staff have been enthused by the experience and have returned home keen to adopt new news strategies, but a lack of experience has led to an ad-hoc approach.

"Every day we evaluate the paper but we don't evaluate things like podcasts, because we are not experts in it, we need to have people from radio and TV to do that.

"It will come in the second phase of development as we are going to bring in a permanent education programme to ingrain new beliefs.

"At present there is no structure, there is just the initiative of journalists. It's very amateurish to rely on the good will of people, so we need structure.

"No-one is evaluating what we do, it's not professional, but it is pioneering. The challenge of the second phase is to become more professional in what we do."

As part of the drive to professionalise its new technological advances, the paper has hired a journalist from Radio Netherlands to oversee work in the audio/video department.

Mr Elshout also said that the expansion of this service means he needs to hire more specialist reporters so that they can make more films in-house (currently they make one or two a day) and rely less on films from news agencies.

Surprisingly, Mr Elshout claimed that multimedia training did not mean that journalists would be multi-tasking, creating video reports and writing text of the same stories.

As part of the drive to make jobs unique to a specific discipline, he has converted a former newsroom hack into a video journalist to solely work on making films.

He also said the multi-faceted news strands would require expertise in each area and a back-up team offering constant training, support and evaluation.

As Mr Kok kept saying: "Convergence should cost money, but it is all about saving money in certain areas to spend money in the other areas that can make money." Money in itself should be no object.

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