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Monday, March 17, 2008

Telegraph's guide to integrated story management

I came across this report quoting Telegraph Media Group's digital chief Ed Roussel and thought it was worth a re-run.

Roussel was talking at the DNA2008 conference about the role of editors in the Telegraph's integrated newsroom and how they go about commissioning and publishing stories online.

The Telegraph was an early adopter of web-first publishing - where stories go online before they are readied for the paper - and redesigned its newsroom to bring web and print operations together and integrate the story commissioning and publishing process.

Roussel described the online story management guidelines thus:

  • When news breaks send out immediate alerts: SMS, email, desktop
  • After 10 minutes get 150 words on the website and solicit reader help with images/video or other accounts
  • Within an hour update story to 450 words and add additional images and video
  • Then look to commission analysis and opinion pieces, develop a topic page with multiple angles and multimedia
"This integrated news environment only works if you have got very strong leadership and you have strong people as heads of departments, running key departments, sports, business, news and the picture desk, but for a big story you want to have a story owner, and that person needs to be really, really good," Roussel said.
"They are essentially fulfilling three tasks, one is that they are constantly planning the story. We have something called the grid where owners enter their plan for the story, and they are constantly revising that plan, constantly talking to key people involved in it.
"Secondly, they are commissioning the stories, and they are being really specific, they are entering on the grid: Edward Roussel to file 300 words by 12.15pm, so that goes in the grid and my job, my contractual obligation, is to produce that content.
"Thirdly, they are monitoring it, making sure that the content that has been commissioned is published on time and equally looking at the competition so if there are any great ideas we can make sure we are stealing those ideas, making them our own and making them better."
Interestingly, Roussel said looked well beyond breaking news.

"It's been interesting to hear over the last few days about the web being all about breaking news and the newspaper being about analysis, we don't agree with that.
"We think the future of successful websites is that we need to have everything, the first word and the final word. And that means analysis…we want to have the best people reporting directly for the website.
"It's about serving the customer, not serving the newspaper."


Dave said...

Thanks Julie, thought-provoking. I'm now wondering if/how the 'web first' approach could be made to work in organisations whose core business is not news.

Justin Williams said...

Of course, it isn't perfect at the Telegraph - as you well know, Julie. There's still a very long way to go before it becomes a true web-first operation.

Julie Starr said...

Not perfect yet? What have you been doing for the past year, Justin?

No, I know it's not perfect. It's a really big organisation that's going through enormous change which hs not been made any easier by the legacy systems operating in every department.

(Note to self: try this on a smaller newsroom first next time).

But look how far it's come since the website crew sat under the stairs on the 11th floor (okay, near the stairs) and no one on the paper even noticed we had a website.

And look how much content there is on the website now and how vibrant it is. And look at how many science stories are published online which previously would have mouldered in a holding queue until some space, maybe, came available in the paper.


Julie Starr said...

Hi Dave,

Sorry, meant to respond to your comment earlier.

I'm not sure how filing 300 words to the web before lunch would work in a non-news industry, but I guess some of the principles transfer pretty well.

I'm thinking of the observations made in the book The Cluetrain Manifesto ( about the web changing the we do business generally.

Online, we are used to being able to talk directly to writers, bloggers etc - through comments like this or email - and give our feedback on ideas, services.

We are beginning to expect that generally. So companies need to be more open, accessible, transparent.