Five tips from startups working with newsrooms

We asked the CEOs of startups working with newsrooms for tips on how to bring those two worlds together and better interact with each other.

Fotokite at the GEN Summit 2015

We talked with previous participants of Startups for News (SFN), the competition bridging the gap between media startups and editors, to discover how it is to work directly with newsrooms. Fotokite, creator of a live broadcasting aerial camera, participated in SFN in 2015 and is now working with BBC, CNN and AFP. “One of the hurdles was the variability from one news organisation to another. They have different budgets and different times of procurement cycles. It is difficult to make a one size fits all type of solution for every newsroom out there”, said Chris McCall, Fotokite’s CEO.

According to Zohar Dayan, co-founder & CEO of Wibbitz — a system that automatically creates short videos from text content — newsrooms tend to be “traditional”. “They are used to do things in a certain way, have done so for a really long time and I think creating that change in their workflow is a little more challenging now. It takes longer. Patience is key”, considers Zohar Dayan. Wibbitz participated in SFN back in 2014 and they are working now with Reuters, USA TODAY, Hearst and ViralNova, AOL and Prisma Media.

“Patience is key”

Strategies and adaptations

Chris McCall says the key strategy to deal with newsrooms is to “develop a few very strong relationships”. He says that startups should start local, try to understand the needs of newsrooms in their geographical area, solve these issues and only then approach bigger companies and challenges. Based in Zurich, Switzerland, Fotokite firstly approached the BBC and they ended up being their first customers. This first relationship shaped his understanding of the specific needs of newsrooms, specifically as technological innovation is involved. “They want a system that can work in complex environments, with lots of people around, minimal distractions and still something that works seamlessly every time. As a customer, that might be challenging”, said the CEO, but this can also bring innovations to the product.

“One of the important things that was missing in the marketing was a live full HD videostream that was able to broadcast right on the spot. We took the feedback from BBC, CNN or AFP and we devoted a lot of our development resources into making this happen. We probably wouldn’t have done so if we didn’t have that kind of early feedback”, said Chris, considering this brought Fotokite “a market advantage” over its competitors.

This also happened to Wibbitz and now the company adopted a way to take advantage of feedback from newsrooms.

We have a process that we call the discovery mode and we share mock-ups with newsrooms to get their feedback, before it even goes into development”, explained Zohar Dayan.

For the Wibbitz CEO, startups also have a lot to share with newsrooms, specially when it comes to innovation. “It is important to be the experts and share knowledge with media companies, since they are not always connected and we should be an industry expert for them”, considers Dayan, explaining how his company showed a few years ago to newsrooms the importance of short videos for social media and now it is a worldwide practice.

“Create an innovation team”

The Wibbitz CEO has one last piece of advice for newsrooms. “Create an innovation team”, argues Zohar Dayan, adding that having a newsroom alert to new startups and different products opens a new world of opportunity for journalists and editors. But this team should reach all the hierarchy chain inside a media outlet, so it is important to include marketing and business development in this effort.

The Global Editors Network is launching the fifth season of Startups For News (SFN), a startups competition that wants to promote and reward tools or services for newsrooms. The eligibility criteria to participate is to have received less than one million euros in external investment, to be founded after 2013 and provide innovation to newsrooms in order to help them with their workflow — click here to know more about SFN or click here to apply.

5 tips for startups

  • Newsrooms can be challenging clients — Newsrooms, editors and journalists can be demanding. Turn demands into real proposals and be specific.
  • Go local first — Start by solving the problems of the closest newsroom to you. Then move on beyond the vicinity and then go for the world.
  • Create your network — Build good and solid relationships with the clients of your news organisation. They will keep coming back to you for new products.
  • Be patient — Since newsrooms can be demanding, be patient. Show them how your product, tool or service can work. Bring tangible examples.
  • Listen to newsrooms feedback — Be flexible in order to adjust your product. Newsrooms can open doors into new markets and products that you didn’t even think about.

5 tips for editors

  • Give your honest feedback — Many startups are still trying their products and any input can help them to achieve a better product and can help you to get a better tool or service.
  • Ask what they can deliver — Go straight to the point and ask what they can do for you specifically. Add a timeline that works for both and set goals to be achieved.
  • Create an innovation team — Newsrooms need to be aware of the latest developments to keep up with their readers. Get together a team and browse the startups environment periodically.
  • Be open to new ideas — If a startup shows you proof of how a certain innovation can impact your news production or your interaction in social media, give it a go.
  • Maintain meaningful relationships with startups — Try to keep up with startups from their early stages, give them feedback and give them incentives to continue to create tools for journalists.