The paper has increased its reach, circulation revenue and website traffic, as well as circulation, says Executive Editor David Boardman, even among the young. Two-thirds of 18-34 year-olds read the paper in some format, he adds.
This success is the result of significant changes in the newsroom. The focus is now on content that readers won’t get anywhere else. And unlike many other keen integrators, Boardman is not a believer in the concept of "platform-agnostic" content: some stories need to be platform-specific, he says. But it is not for the reporters to decide this – their focus must be on the story first.
The newsroom has been entirely reorganized from a dichotomous print/online structure to one focused around three areas that “capture what we are really trying to do”:
- Creation: the reporting team, including investigation, verification, writing, photography, video graphics
- Curation: the team who adapt the content for platforms, including editing, design, organisation, sense-making, up-holding standards, presentation, prioritization
- Community: interactivity, social media – this is more of an ethos than a specific team
The newsroom is arranged into concentric circles centered on the news hub, then curation, creation and community. All of these teams are structured around the notion of increasing enagement, Boardman adds. “Increasingly, advertisers are going to demand to see evidence that you are really engaging your newsrooms.” Commercial staff now work more closely with the newsroom, as revenue considerations cannot be ignored.
“We have thrust metrics into our newsrooms in a way we have never done before,” Boardman says, and there are screens throughout the newsroom showing journalists which stories are most popular. This is not because it’s a competition, Boardman specifies, but so that reporters can see what the audience is interested in and promote the pieces that they think should be getting more attention.
These changes in organization reflect a wider change in mindset, Boardman says: “We are trying to educate our staff to not just produce one product and send it out. We want to provide 24/7 companionship for our community.” Newsroom culture can be an obstacle to change, he said, and to tackle this The Seattle Time has created a video for employees to demonstrate the different ways in which content is accessed throughout the day on different platforms.
Within the specific platforms, the Sunday paper is treated differently from the rest of the week’s editions, he said. “When we look at the demographics, we see that the Sunday paper has great resonance for the younger demographic who will never buy a daily paper,” he explains.
David Boardman spoke at the World Editors Forum in Kiev, Ukraine. For live reporting from the event, visit the Kiev 2012 Blog.