With news last week that the bastion of conservative tradition, the Telegraph Media Group (TMG), was accelerating its transition from a print-focussed to a digitally led approach, there can be few doubts in even the most sceptical of minds that the digital revolution isn’t just a prospect; it’s already happened.
The Guardian carried out a report this week revealing that the Telegraph Group’s executives had “cherry picked” ideas from newspapers in Europe and North America and were now upping the pace for a radical restructuring of the TMG’s editorial operation – a transformation that will make digital content the backbone of every printed edition of The Daily Telegraph.
A number of sources have been muttering darkly about the TMG’s new “templatised” production system, which will allow a much, much smaller team to produce the paper. How? Simple as falling off a log: just drop digital content from the web into pre-designed page templates. Guardian journalist Mark Sweeney quoted one source who said:
“The most substantial change I saw [in the briefings] was the creation of a central production department that will mostly treat online as a ‘buffet’ to fill the paper. Although it has been made clear the paper will still have elements like exclusive news and comment.”
There seems to be a view gathering momentum, however, that this isn’t merely a “digital first” strategy. The print version of the newspaper is here to stay and will, according to another of Sweeney’s unnamed sources, remain “a crown jewel.” With 80 million users worldwide accessing the Telegraph’s content online though, a new digitally focused ethos has become inevitable.
That has considerable implications for The Telegraph’s content writing staff. Every journalist will now need to possess four indispensable key skills: video production, social, analytics and search engine optimisation. There will be one integrated digital/print newsroom and each desk will be required to deliver five ideas in different formats every day, including one social/shareable, one video and one interactive.
Journalists are also going to be required to include more interactive elements within their news articles.
Everyone involved in article writing or in producing content for news feeds should take heed of this momentous shift of emphasis in a thoroughly traditional outfit.
The stampede to digitisation isn’t about to happen, it’s here, and the skills needed go beyond the crafting of elegant prose.