Once upon a time, the news industry was separated into print, radio, and television. Widespread internet adoption added online media, and as internet technology advanced and broadband saturation increased, text, graphics, audio, and video became increasingly prominent on the web. The result was a blurring of the lines between the traditional methods of news delivery. Furthermore, control of information flow shifted, from the mass media to the user.
Production costs and barriers to entry are lower today, and much more content is being created and consumed. Interaction between news producers and consumers has increased dramatically. The moment a major story breaks, news providers have people scouring social media for eyewitnesses to add depth and perspective to stories.
Cross-Platform Is the New Normal
Digital news is no longer considered as simply a marketing vehicle for legacy news platforms, but is now perhaps the most critical news distribution platform. Legacy news brands use digital to extend their reach, and digital journalism is less separated from legacy journalism. The most successful outgrowth of this convergence of digital and legacy news platforms is cross-platform strategies and planning that:
• Leverage resources and content
• Create innovative content
• Play to the strengths of news organizations
And it all starts with determining what the digital audience (now virtually indistinguishable from “the audience” in general) wants and collaborating to provide it.
Benefits of Collaboration
Collaboration in news production may be organized around common issues, common locations or specific user communities. It may involve different media outlets, and related organizations and institutions. Collaboration among production platforms allows news organizations to add depth and context to news and expand specialization areas like investigative reporting or other specialty beats – many of which are being cut by traditional news organizations. Collaboration also allows content to be re-purposed and remixed for various platforms without re-inventing the wheel each time. Repurposing and remixing of content increases user access while creating new value for news consumers and new opportunities for news producers.
What Collaboration Does and How It Does It
Collaboration among news outlets, reporters, filmmakers, digital news producers, and even citizen media makers can raise awareness of topics, attract and better engage consumers, and leverage expertise of numerous sources of information, including academic organizations, museums, and other centers of expertise. It combines the skills and strengths of the various partners to create news with greater impact and that is ultimately greater than the sum of its parts.
Collaborative news projects are now logistically much easier to organize than they used to be. In many cases the greatest hurdle is getting past attitudes that broadcast, video, audio, and print are separate entities. The wide availability of project management tools, file sharing, telecommunications, and social media sets the stage, while new content management systems make it easier create and distribute multi-platform content. Joint branding of news production, cross-linked sites, and roll out of content across platforms is increasingly common.
Example: The BBC Academy
The BBC Academy was formed to focus on training and development within the BBC and across the news industry. The goal is to equip people with skills they need to produce news in today’s cross-platform world and help news producers develop skills they need to succeed in a changing media landscape. One BBC Academy initiative is Digital Cities, which the Academy tags as “a catalyst for collaboration.” Digital Cities brings together news producers, technology workers, academics, creatives, and local governments for special events and training.
One recent event, “Digital Cardiff,” was held in June 2013 for the Welsh digital community. The event facilitated networking among the digital information community and local, national, and international digital sectors, and focused on the latest creative and digital trends. Digital Cardiff was a collaborative program run by several public and private media partners, and it kicked off with Digital Futures Day, which discussed what digital broadcasting means in a converged, connected environment. Opportunities for broadcasters and digital media companies to collaborate was a particular area of focus.
The BBC isn’t waiting around to see how converged media takes shape, but is actively involved in shaping media skills and new technology through conferences, labs, and workshops. Mark Jacobs, program manager of BBC Academy’s Fusion training project, said, “I believe events of this kind are likely to become an important part of the BBC’s future. They build relationships both internally and externally, inform us all about the future and provide vital training and goodwill between staff and the freelance community.”
A RTDNA / Hofstra University study found that 76% of local broadcasters collaborate with other news outlets, and it’s to news producers’ benefit to maximize opportunities that come along with these collaborations. The results include expanded audiences and a more solidified brand presence.
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