Building platform agnostic newsrooms and platform perfect content

Despite the new primacy afforded to digital platforms by recent NYT and LAT memos that de-emphasize print planning at news meetings, the model pretty much only extends to homegrown platforms: [yournewspapernamehere].com or branded apps.

But there has been a tribble-like acceleration of potential distribution channels hatching in the past year or so. And they are nothing born in the development offices of media conglomerates. They are upstarts. Disrupters.

What consumers “take” — and how they take it — is rapidly iterating. Instead of an audience finding our content, we must instead constantly strive to find our audience.

“There is no linear distribution model because everybody has a different device, and they’re all going to come to content in different ways,” says digital futurist (and former print reporter) Amy Webb.

Amen.

That is why Facebook hopes to become the distribution channel of choice for publishers. They can deliver audience. It’s also why Gannett encourages our journalists to experiment with Snapchat and WhatsApp. And to develop ground-breaking content for Oculus Rift. And to turn a fresh eye to the resurgent newsletter and podcast.

And we haven’t even talked about another platform on which many media companies — including Gannett — are hoping to reach new audiences: Real Life. Think community forums, symposiums, curated dinners, one-of-a-kind behind-the-scenes tours, concerts, hikes with Pulitzer Prize-winning environmental reporters. All acts of journalism.


Is one platform more perfect than another? No. It’s not like that.

Print is serendipitous and iconic. The web allows for an increasingly nuanced and cool use of longform to tell stories in holistic ways. Tablet and mobile have forced the industry to be succinct in surprisingly effective ways (shout-out to Snapchat Discover). Podcasts and newsletters remind us that voice — distinguishing our brand(s) in an increasingly crowded field — is worth its weight in gold. Or appeals. Just ask “Serial” subject Adnan Syed and the millions who listened along each week to his story.

We must, as Gannett has, reverse engineer our newsrooms so news hole or a daily pageview quota is not the driver of content. Instead, we give our content creators permission to think only of content and the best way to present it. And that may change from day to day, week to week. And it may mean that what we surface to a mobile or social audience is drastically different from what we choose to present in print. Or on the next as-yet-uncreated platform.

At the end of the day, we are storytellers and we now have unprecedented access to an array of tools that make for rich storytelling experiences in print. And online. And on our phones. And in our ears. And in real life. We need to embrace each of these platforms for its strengths; to be platform agnostic in our pursuit and creation of content, yet platform perfect in the presentation.

So what does platform perfect look (or sound or feel) like?

This.

And this:

Courtesy Snapchat.

And this. And this. And these.

You’ll see a lot of platform experimentation coming out of Gannett newsrooms. Some of that is already taking shape in the form of our restructured teams, our commitment to train our talent, our laser focus on innovation and consumer-driven decision making and our unwavering commitment to elevating journalism.

It won’t always be perfect. Some ideas will work. Some won’t. Some will be Romenesko fodder. We’ll learn. We’ll evolve. And we’ll be ready.