Following today’s news about the Morning News’ possible move, we’ve got much more about the transformation under way in its newsrooms. The Poynter Institute recently spent a little time on Young Street to observe how the upheaval of the last year — buyouts, layoffs, requiring everyone to apply for new jobs, all in the name of reorganizing around a digital-first mentality — has changed the place.
Desks and beats are out, and “obsessions” are in:
Teams now organize into hubs oriented around topics such as breaking news, justice and high school sports. As part of their coverage, each reporter is expected to develop an obsession to follow, inspired by the way Quartz organizes coverage around changing phenomena instead of fixed institutions. As at Quartz, they’ll refrain from covering institutions just because they’ve always covered them. And unlike beats, obsessions aren’t expected to live forever. To start, reporters are expected to pitch an obsession that they can report on regularly for six months.
According to the Morning News’ findings from this summer, “obsessions can be offbeat.”
Despite its embrace of business-speak like “verticals” — which makes my English-language-loving heart break out into hives — I’m impressed by the DMN‘s willingness to make long-overdue changes that finally recognize that putting ink on paper is no longer their paramount daily concern. I mean, it’s madness that until recently the daily news meeting was still taking place at 10:30 a.m. and was focused on slotting column inches.
They hold “headline rodeos” now, though the video above makes plain that those meetings aren’t nearly as much fun as that name suggests.
Will any of this work? Will it forge a path for digital revenue to grow quickly enough to counteract the continued decline of print? Nobody knows.
In fact, as Poynter rightly points out in speaking with News Corp. senior vice president for strategy Raju Narisetti, no media site has really, truly, honestly, cracked the code of digital as long-term business:
Legacy papers are doing some things right, he said, and with good intentions. The Wall Street Journal is aggressively pushing Snapchat. The New York Times is going after Virtual Reality and native advertising. USA TODAY is embedding its core product in Gannett papers. And The Washington Post has a clear drive to accumulate a massive digital audience.
But none of them have it figured out yet. Neither, he said, have digital-first sites. You can admire BuzzFeed’s ability to grow its audience and VICE’s ability to attract millennials, but no organization has yet to find a sustainable business model that’s growing and profitable at the same time, he said.
I’m rooting for them, and for all of us in digital media, really.