George Brock, head of journalism at City University, London, and Grig Davidovitz, consultant and project leader at Israel's GD Consulting, gave participants at the WAN-IFRA 9th International Newsroom Summit advice on how to manage publishing on multiple digital devices.
"We are moving into a very new phase," Brock said. "What we call mobile now is not just postcard-sized screens, they are screens almost as large as your PC," he continued, emphasising that the vast growth of smartphones is going to lead to a very significant social change as it means that essentially, everyone will be online the whole time.
Brock believes that the massive information explosion that has taken place over the last few years means that for newspapers and journalists, "editing is even more important," to help Internet users make sense of what is out there. "I think the next trend will be focused on the importance of editing," he said.
Newspapers should pay attention to their archives, which can be a valuable resource for readers, if tagged and searchable. A news outlet's archives could become a type of journalistic encyclopaedia, if organised appropriately.
Much discussion took place at the conference about the importance of multimedia, but Brock stressed the necessity not to forget about the value of words, which he described as "efficient at coding information."
"Don't turn your website into a broadcast site," he said.
Davidovitz advised newspapers to retain consistency across platforms as they manoeuvre the digital landscape. Now, with the abundance of devices available on the market, consumers are frequently exposed to several different faces for the same organisation: print, online, tablet, phone. Often, visiting the same news organisation on each is a very different experience, which he believes is not what readers what.
He used Facebook as an example of continuity. "The core of Facebook is very clearly reproduced on all platforms," creating the same experience on each one, he said. The way that Facebook does this is by having one information stream that is easy to reproduce in a different way on a smaller device, and by creating templates on an article/item level. Every item in the news stream gets a template suited to its needs: they are different for posted photos, videos or other update alterts. And every template has a version for each device, and the final template is a combination of the individual article templates.
For a news organisation, the advantage of this kind of flexible template is that it allows different presentation for different types of article. "You can highlight the best element," Davidovitz said, "and reproduce it on each screen."
The way a story is presented on the page can help to provoke feeling in your readers, as well as providing information, he said. He sees the iPad as a reminder of the need to create visually compelling and engaging content, which he believe many news outlets have failed to do effectively online.