Winds of change

İBRAHIM ALTAY
Published
Winds of change

With the World Publishing Expo coming to a close, it is clearer than ever that the mainstream media's adoption of cutting-edge technologies in their workflows is essential to keeping up with the changing world

Bob Dylan's song entitled "Subterranean Homesick Blues" had a lyric that went "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." It is quite valid a statement if we apply it to our profession and its future trajectory in an ever-changing world, society and technological context.

There are several venues and events that are quite beneficial in figuring out which way the wind blows. These provide the indicators of how journalism and media evolve both in the short and long term. The World Publishing Expo organized by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) is certainly one of them.

This year's expo took place in Berlin from Oct. 9 to 11. Publishers, software developers, media managers and journalists came together during the expo in great numbers. I was there as well, and I believe it would be beneficial to share my experience along with several of my impressions with my colleagues and readers this week on Reader's Corner.

Let's start by saying that there is a certain shift in debate that has consumed media recently. The debate on whether to prioritize print or digital when it comes to publishing seem to have lost its luster recently. They are no longer considered as the alternative of their counterpart, at least in the fervor they were in recent years. Instead, the idea of adopting both stances in cooperation with one another is really getting some traction. If the debate continues along those lines, we can see that it may lead to a mentality that prioritizes content. When you prioritize content, you no longer face any hurdles when it comes to multichannel publishing. Let's open that up a bit for clarity especially in terms of journalism.

After the birth of digital media, the newsrooms of newspapers were split in two. The editors of print are different individuals as compared to digital editors or more correctly, digital news websites. The rise of the digital media didn't change that fact other than the increase of staff on the digital side of the media. The two continue to operate separately. However, if we take the current state of the relevant technologies into account, this is no longer a necessity. The opposite actually. It became a crutch that fueled the debates of print versus digital. Instead, we should reorganize the workflow in our newspapers and combine these two newsrooms. This merger does not mean downsizing either. Instead it expands on the available assets while creating new ones.

A better workflow

One of the key points moving forward is workflow. Let's break it down from the perspective of a major newspaper. You have hundreds of reporters, editors and correspondents located both in the country and in international centers. You have a huge staff located in the headquarters. For a news article to reach the pages of your newspaper and go to your website from there, they have to go through at least four to five procedures. Most of those only translates to loss of time. I am not talking about the fact checking process by the way. These are the organizational hurdles that a news article goes through.

With only changing your existing software along with your mentality while dumping the unnecessary hang-ups from yesteryear, it is possible to manage and conduct this entire procedure from a single platform and dramatically reduce time. A news article no longer needs to travel from reporter to news editor to the redactor then the editor-in-chief and from there to the designer separately. It also means that web editors no longer need to get the news articles from the pdfs of newspaper pages at night. Even writing the road map is tedious. I leave the actual implementation to your imagination. And that is not all. There would no longer be a need for sending photos or videos via email or other separate platforms while uploading text of the news articles in the system. Archives and data centers no longer need to be separate.

The issue of speed and convenience have been the major talking points between mainstream and social media. This is an excellent step in closing the gap on both counts. Some newspapers are already behind this in some fashion or another. Others are warming up. Rest will be playing catch-up in the following years.

There are certain questions about these systems from our colleagues. One of those is the managing aspect. This can be done via different authorization for different job descriptions. What it provides is the options. A single editor can easily send the same news article both to the print and website. It can be customized according to the platform. One article may have a single photo while the other features ten along with a video clip. They can have different time slots for publication.

There is also the semantic side of this but that would be a little out of scope for this article. Let's just say this however. I was with IT Vice Director Muharrem Öztürk and Software Development Manager Faruk Mamak at the expo. I believe that they are on top of the matter and familiar with the concepts discussed as they follow the developments closely. They share the vision in the expo and make their preparations accordingly. I hope that our newspaper alongside our media group can be at the forefront of this transformation in the media of Turkey. We can no longer afford to be stuck in our ways.

Emphasizing storytelling

This wasn't the sole point to take from this excursion however. The World Publishing Expo organizes seminars and debates on content management as well. One of the subjects at the forefront this year was the significance of storytelling.

With the connectivity and speed in communication technologies, facts and figures of most stories are readily available for almost every outlet out there. Getting it sooner only translates to running a story 15 minutes earlier that your competitor instead of the full day back in the glory days of printed newspapers. With that in mind, the ability to tell a story better than your competitors is the winning horse now. By telling the same story, yet differently and in a richer manner instead of copy pasting from agencies, you can come out at top. There is no longer any point to print a newspaper with "this and that happened" type of content. You can find that anywhere. Telling the story better has become just as important as breaking the story.

We actually possess better tools than ever to gauge reader interest. We can differentiate between stories that a reader actually reads versus those they just glance at. By determining that, we can home in on the characteristics of the news article that belong to the former category. Instead of using tools to craft more clickbait titles, we must increase the news articles that a reader actually engages in. We always emphasize the importance of original content in newspapers in this corner. We can add beautifully written news articles that add to the facts and figures obtained from news agencies to that as well. Relying solely on reader loyalty and convenience is a slippery slope. Loyalties can change with a loss of credibility, political disagreement or simply disliked content. Convenience can easily change with a more convenient platform. But providing news articles that actually capture the attention of readers has no substitute and it will continue to be the selling point, even if the same facts and figures are available elsewhere.

Lastly, let me offer my congratulations to our sister newspaper, Sabah daily for making it to the WAN-IFRA Color Quality Club for the third consecutive time in this year's expo. Let's hope we will renew our praise for the fourth time next year.

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