The philosophy behind the integrated newsroom
The revolutionary ideas of Dr Dietmar Schantin, director of Newsplex, to change the editorial process
"Some publishers still think it [integrating news production] is not relevant to them but I think they will be in big trouble," warned Dr Schantin.
"Sooner or later the audience will go somewhere else where they can get what they want . . . sooner or later the circulation will go down until a certain point when this Catch 22 starts, less circulation, less advertising, cuts in the staff, less quality, less circulation and then there will be the need to save money again and inevitably they will die."
Journalism.co.uk met Dietmar Schantin in the bar of the Victoria Thistle Hotel - a stone's throw from the new HQ of the Telegraph - to talk all things 'convergence'.
During the past four months Dr Schantin has been in London advising The Telegraph on editorial matters as it makes the change to a fully integrated newsroom - a mission away from his native Austria that he expects will take him until Christmas to complete.
The former studio manager at the National Austrian Broadcasting Corporation - and more recently expert in reorganising newspaper groups - became director of Ifra's Newsplex project in October 2005.
Newsplex is an offshoot of the Ifra newspaper association aimed at supporting newspaper publishing houses undergoing the complex changes brought about by the need to go digital.
"It's important for newspapers to embrace these new technologies. They have great editorial departments with highly skilled journalists, their content is of high quality. So why not trying to reach the audience via other channels, there is no reason why not.
"But the most important thing, I think, and this is what reflects the Newsplex philosophy, is that you don't just copy and paste. You need to add value if you go to a different channel.
"As a newspaper you shouldn't copy the BBC, or you shouldn't copy Channel 4 radio. You should do your own thing on audio and video.
"I think some newspapers are making big mistakes. They just try to be the BBC but they are a newspaper."
Despite having successfully implemented changes in newsrooms across Europe, Dr Schantin says there remains reluctance in large parts of the newspaper industry to adopt change.
He claims that his first job is always to show journalists that audience habits have shifted and to try to take away the fear of the unknown of a digital future.
"For some people it is a threat. The past has shown that when you did an online site readers stopped reading the newspaper. So some journalists think it is cannibalism.
"But we think that if you do it the right way it enhances the paper, it doesn't cannibalise it.
"Its nothing more than a tool box. They're still journalists researching, finding good stories and preparing them so that people can read it properly, but now you have more tools to tell your story, that's all it is."
According to Dr Schantin, change is less about buying new technologies than altering the established mindset.
He said: "The whole idea of audience orientation seems to be quite new for some newspapers. In the past it was more 'we know what is good for our readers and so we distribute the content.'
"What we try to say is: 'We are a service company and our service is information and news. We serve our audience with the things they want to know and on a comfortable platform.'
"We start from the audience, what they want is a very important point. That does not mean that a newspaper should just do what the audience wants. The newspaper needs to stick to its core values."
When executives at the Telegraph unveiled their new Victoria newsroom last month, great emphasis was placed on the newly adopted strategy of having four daily editorial deadlines; 'touchpoints' that focus on delivering news over several different platforms to different audiences groups, a policy seemingly in line with the Newsplex idea of knowing your readership and knowing how it want its news.
Dr Schantin characterised his revolutionary vision for the fully integrated newsroom.
"Newspaper will always be an important part but it won't be like 'OK, we have a newspaper and we also do online.' It's about 'we are a publishing house, a media company. It just happens that we have a newspaper, but also our digital channel is as good and important as the newspaper. Its focus may also be on a different audience or it provides different kind of content.'
"It will be that you won't necessarily read something online and also get it in the paper and vice versa. It's about target groups and the vision I have is that at the next stage you have editors that are responsible for a certain target groups. They take the media, formats and content they then need to serve certain target groups.
"I think this is far ahead because it is a completely different way of commissioning."
He added that these groups would not simply be defined by the staid categories of age and sex.
"Demographics are very important but what is becoming more important is the behaviour - the user situations.
"When you want to get a story out you should consider who is its target group, in what life situation is this target group at this moment, what content is relevant for this target group in this life situation. Based on this you choose the media and the format"
Dr Schantin refuted suggestions that integrating editorial processes and converging a newsroom itself automatically leads to a publication employing fewer journalists.
Instead, he highlighted Nordjyske Medier, a Danish newspaper that began convergence three years ago and expanded its workforce.
"The whole convergence idea is to streamline your processes, you free up time for the people and then this time is used for the new activities of digital media.
"What they [Nordjyske Medier] did with the same amount of staff was build up a television operation"
"It's not about job losses, it’s about making standard processes more efficient and reinvesting the time into the new activities. If you want to do a podcast you have to save time somewhere else. Convergence is a growing strategy where you need people doing this new stuff, but you get the credits because you get more audience, so hopefully more advertising."
And with that he made his way through the Victoria lunchtime rush, perhaps to return to the Telegraph and check-up on the espousal of his vision.
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