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Multimedia: "telling the story the way it was meant to be told”

"The reason I’m a digital journalist is that you can tell the story in the way it was meant to be told" said Guardian Blogs Editor Kevin Anderson. Speaking at AOP’s forum on editorial technologies. He stressed however that publishers' choice of multimedia must always fit seamlessly with the story.

Peter Bale, Executive Producer at Microsoft UK, agreed, saying that we are living in "the most exciting time possible to be a journalist", despite this though, he warned that some journalists are still prone to technophobia.

The many languages of multi-platform

Julian March, Sky
Sky News, an AOP Award winner in 2008, is wholeheartedly embracing this multi-platform philosophy.

For Sky, multi-platform means not only web and mobile formats, but also serving commercial radio news, train stations news screens and cross-platform content for partners like Orange.

Online Executive Producer Julian March said his formative years as a linguist have served him well for adapting to this truly cross-media environment.

While digital "is forcing everyone to come out of their silos", said March, a producer still has to speak multiple tongues: one for developers, one for presenters, and so on.

In the same way, there is a real nuance around working cross-platform content successfully - a TV script, for instance, doesn’t translate itself easily or comfortably into a text story online.

Kevin Anderson added that, since multimedia production is massively time-consuming, you have to keep asking yourself whether the story is best served by video, audio or simply 'good old text'.

"CMS support group" for publishers

Kevin Anderson
Hearing publishers talking about Content Management Systems (CMS) often ends up being like a "support group", said Anderson.

Despite the fact that the journalist is the 'important end user', "most CMSes aren’t built to ingest feeds - they’re two to three years out of date", whereas open source software like Drupal "speaks the language of the web."

Though Anderson uses his mobile phone to compose articles and take photos and video, Anderson's main gripe was that this the Guardian CMS still 'doesn't speak to' mobile devices.

"Security is important", said the Guardian Blogs Editor, "but it shouldn't be the thing that shuts down all conversation."

Meanwhile, as long as commercial CMSes require “33 clicks to publish”, bloggers will always be first to breaking news.

"All bets are off"

Diane Burley, nStein
Telling the story of the plane crash near Buffalo, NY in January, Diane Burley, nStein's Digital Industry Specialist, explained how this tragedy inspired a local newspaper to finally embrace digital.

The incident created an insatiable demand for constantly updated local content, while the newspaper had the contacts to be closer to the story than anyone else, and its journalists were finally convinced to let go of their historical viewpoint - 'I don’t really want to be on the web'.

Treating news as a commodity

Summarising his thoughts on editorial technology, Peter Bale dispensed a few home truths:

  • Too many journalists are scared of technology
  • Workflow is not a dirty word
  • We’ve gotten hung up about the medium being as important as the message, when we should be embracing technology to tell stories in the best possible way
Bale urged publishers to cherish news providers such as AOP Members Reuters and the Press Association, in an impassioned plea for the wires services to be paid on time and correctly attributed: "If you treat news as simply a commodity, that’s all it will ever be."

The event was chaired by Pete Picton, the Editor of Sun Online.

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