The future of journalism

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Published: September 1, 2015 12:23:29 AM

Integrated newsrooms have been around for some time, but never has the concept been more relevant than now

The mayhem created by the stock market crash last month left almost everyone reaching for their smartphones every few seconds for the latest developments. With people wanting news real-time, business news channels now compete not only with rival channels but also digital platforms in a bid to deliver news as it unfolds. And this is where integrated newsrooms seem to be the panacea for handling competition.

In an era where news goes viral in seconds, giant media networks have left no stone unturned to digitally integrate newsrooms across various media. The CNNs and BBCs of the western world realised this years ago, integrating their newsrooms to deliver simultaneous/synchronised content. In India, Network18 and the Zee Group followed suit.

Raghav Bahl, founder of Quintillion Media’s mobile-focused digital venture The Quint and non-executive director at Network18, says firms in the business of news have no option but to integrate. “Today, people consume news on the digital device first, therefore this change is inevitable,” he says. Bahl was associated with Network18 when its newsroom integration first started in 2013.

Recently, Reliance Industries, which took over Network18 in 2014, announced that it further plans to integrate mobile and television newsrooms before the rollout of Reliance Jio. The step is aligned with the company’s strategy of foraying into 4G telecom services and making rich content and applications available.  RIL chairman Mukesh Ambani, in his speech at the AGM held this June, had said, “Jio is much more than telecom services. As of entertainment and news, which has been, and still remains, a huge opportunity. Jio is ready to launch a suite of exciting, engaging, exclusive and entertaining digital media products.”

What is interesting is that print players are also investing in digital media, making services such as news delivery possible via mobile apps and web portals. According to the Ficci-KPMG 2015 report on the media and entertainment industry, many print players are now moving towards the integrated newsroom concept where digital and print could grow together as a solution.

HT Media’s English business daily Mint integrated its newsroom in 2012, and now Hindustan Times plans to do the same. “Consumer action is happening on the web and we want to work on a ‘mobile first’ and ‘web first’ philosophy. We want to be known as ‘digital HT’,” says Sanjay Trehan, business head, digital content and syndication, HT Media.

The change in the workflow is expected to create efficiency.  HT Media had brought Nic Dawes as chief editorial and content officer in 2013  with a primary intent to conduct workshops and training exercises for reporters; he was earlier with the Mail & Guardian as editor-in-chief in South Africa. “The last three months have gone in training which will only intensify before the new system takes over,” he says, while adding that the enthusiasm to learn shows that professionals know that the world is changing and print journalism needs to evolve.

It goes without saying that writing in real-time is quite different from writing for a newspaper which will be read the following morning. “Therefore, the change doesn’t have to be limited to technology, but a change is needed in working habits and timings as well,” says Bahl.

One needs to take note that while digital media is seeing unprecedented growth in the last couple of years, traditional media in the country is still seen as the go-to medium for advertisers wanting critical mass, reach and scale. And therefore, traditional continues to constitute a significant part of the overall media pie. However, many experts believe that successful companies of the future are likely to be those which will embrace digital technologies as a necessary part of the overall strategy.

Going by the breakneck speed of change, the newsroom of the future is looking less and less like the newsroom of five years back.

Note to readers: We have consciously refrained from mentioning The Express Group in this story.

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