Italian newsstand
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There is a lot going on behind the doors of Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso, publisher of Italian daily newspaper La Repubblica, which also operates a network of regional titles with a national hub based in the Rome office

And while these products have their foundations in the traditions of print, some are well on the journey to digital-first, while still committed to the print products. Not only is it now producing an evening iPad edition, running the La Repubblica website 24-hours-a-day and investing in online video for the future, but more generally it has also seen marked changes in attitude when it comes to the roles of print and online.

Arriving at the company's offices in Rome at 10.30am, it is not long before the morning meeting for La Repubblica at 11am. This is the first meeting of the day, held between the editor-in-chief and the newspaper's section editors. Others also sit in on the meeting, such as the newspaper website editor, and members of staff from the evening iPad edition, La Repubblica Sera. Listen to this podcast for more on how La Repubblica Sera is produced.

Each morning meeting is filmed and published online for readers to watch. Two further meetings will be held - not on camera - over the course of the day, one in the afternoon and a final meeting in the editor-in-chief's office at around 8pm.

Previously, if a story broke in the middle of the night, the printed newspaper would be re-done and a new version printed, La Repubblica Sera editor Luca Fraioli tells me while we wait for the morning meeting to begin. Now, the shift in mindset about the role of print and online means that the team would turn to the 24-hour online team to cover the breaking news at that stage.

Today, print is focused more on analytical and original content, while the internet is the place for breaking news.

The editorial teams for other products within the company also meet later that morning. The team of six journalists behind La Republicca Sera meet at around 12pm, for example, as does the regional network of daily newspapers.

The regional newspaper network

I am met at Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso by Andrea Iannuzzi, editor of AGL (Agenzia Giornali Locali), where he heads the national hub for the regional network of titles.

Each regional newspaper, and the accompanying website, contains sections dedicated to both local and national coverage. Each website publishes around five or six stories a day on average, with content sometimes shared with La Repubblica and L'Huffington Post (which is also based in the same building) and last month celebrated its first birthday.

The regional network is staffed by more than 500 journalists across Italy, Iannuzzi said, with a total of 18 papers and about 50 newsrooms. The newspapers cover cities and regions not already specifically catered for by the national newspaper. For example, La Repubblica already has editions for Rome and Milan, and so the regional network does not feature a local paper for those cities.

Overseeing the network, Iannuzzi has a daily conference call with the local newsrooms, to discuss their coverage. The national hub for the network is based in the Rome office, and also works on more in-depth projects for digital platforms - the sort of content "regional newsrooms can't afford", Iannuzzi explained.

One example, is an online memorial which the team has created this month for the 50th anniversary of a landslide which killed 2,000 people.

And these projects are "not just for tragedies either", Iannuzzi said, referring to examples such as coverage of a festival or big sport event.

The idea is that the national hub can either "support ideas or the whole project", he added, as well as being on hand to spot opportunities for sharing and collaboration.

Across the network, journalists are encouraged to "think of the content first, and then the platform".

A recent example of a story on children's school meals, for example, "has been adapted for different platforms", he said, as well as giving both a national perspective across all the newspaper websites, and links to the local story.

The printed newspapers have a readership of more than 3 million a day, and a daily circulation of 400,000 sold copies. Online, Iannuzzi reported around 400,000 unique users a day across all the title's websites.

Creating a digital-first operation

The move to digital-first is ongoing. "Some of our papers are 100 years old," Iannuzzi explained, "so it is not easy to make a transition".

This move has seen the newspaper websites move from being more "like a newsstand", where readers would effectively be told to "go and buy our print edition", to an attitude where breaking news is likely to appear on the website first.

But the publisher feels that the printed newspaper is still "something to preserve", and so the team "try to leave something for the paper in the morning and then can put it on the website in the evening".

While start-ups working in online-only local reporting avoid the costs of print production, Iannuzzi said the company's brand, and its history, is a valuable asset when it comes to reader loyalty.

"If your grandparent bought the newspaper 50 years ago, it's wonderful. In that town, that newspaper is the story," he said. In comparison, a start-up "doesn't have that kind of history", he added.

Either way, he supported a "move from competition to collaboration", adding that he would like to work more with start-ups focused on specific niches, which a mainstream media company would not be able to drill into.

And Iannuzzi also hopes to learn from other innovative news outlets. Later this month he is off to the US to visit Digital First Media "to see how they work".

La Repubblica's investment in video

Online, La Repubblica is passionate about video. "In my opinion, it is more important to work very closely with the video area than with the paper," website editor Giuseppe Smorto tells me.

Just like within the regional network, integrating print and online is a key strategy, along with the development of social media and the news outlet's relationship with readers.

Currently the national operation has around 420 journalists in print, and 25 working on the website. "But the solution is not to move more journalists onto the website, and have less on the paper," Smorto said. "All the journalists of La Repubblica have to work for all the platforms."

The visual desk, staffed by around 10 journalists and 20 technicians, produces between 120 and 140 clips each day. It broadcasts a 10 minute news-style bulletin each day, which is first aired on television in a partnership with national broadcaster Laeffe, before it is published online.

"This kind of news is made in TV style," visual desk editor Massimo Razzi said, "but everything else is made in web style".

Expanding on his definition of web style he added that this video might be "just a few minutes long, sometimes 30 seconds is enough, but not more than three or four minutes."

In some cases it produced more in-depth video, although not longer than 15 minutes. It also offers live video streams, and its recent live coverage of the righting of Costa Concordia recorded 1.3 million views.

Video is situated "all around the homepage", Razzi said. Links to related video are, in some cases, highlighted at the headline level of a story, with direct links.

The site also features an online television channel, Repubblica TV, with the videos embeddable elsewhere. And the team recently stepped into video syndication, working with other media outlets via a revenue sharing model based on viewing figures.

Those working on the print newspaper also engage with video, producing comment footage for the platform in response to the news.

Video also features in another part of La Repubblica's website, a section dedicated to investigative journalism, which is run by editor Daniele Mastrogiacomo.

The section is produced by a team of two or three journalists, he told me. Videos produced for this part of the site tend to be three to five minutes long, he added, adopting a shorter documentary style, and the team also engages with the outlet's local reporters.

And it also uses video to engage with its audience, such as via its national "crowdsourcing experiment", Iannuzzi said, which launched last year. As the Editors Weblog reported at the time, the idea is that eventually the exercise will establish "a network of potential freelancers with a sprinkle of citizen journalists".

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