From little things, big things grow

Convergent journalism; a combination of journalism, such as print, photographic and video, into one piece of group of pieces.

Today, audiences want content on-demand, across multiple platforms. For newsrooms, this has meant adaption and the implementation of unprecedented levels of change. What were once traditional print newsrooms are becoming innovative newsrooms that use mobile, video and audio storytelling.

Often praised for the innovative approaches to storytelling are publishers at the top of the hierarchy, The New York Times and The Guardian. But that’s not to say that there have not been innovative approaches in small newsrooms.

Two small newsrooms journalists; Anika Anand from The Seattle Times and Evan Wyloge of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting explain in this article strategies and solutions for making a story work without extensive resources.

The journalists describe the importance of pitching their ‘big idea’, creating goals to monitor success and strategies to use when there is a shortage of resources. Wyloge says that if small newsroom reporters aren’t on board with a big project, “abandon that reporter” because half-ass commitment is failure. They tell of the importance of striving for innovation, no matter the size of the newsroom a journalist is working in.

screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-4-15-26-pmThe Illawarra’s local paper Illawarra Mercury has taken small approaches to innovation by introducing an an online edition; so audiences seeking on-demand news can access the product online, rather than having to make a trip to the store to access up-to-date news. They also provide updates on their website, Twitter and Facebook page throughout the day, so anyone with an internet connection can connect to their stories instantly, rather than waiting for the next day’s edition. The Facebook platform is a brilliant tool for small newsrooms as it is a simple and free way to share stories and encourage user feedback and opinion. The Illawarra Mercury has almost 40,000 Facebook ‘likes’ and this is perhaps the quickest way to reach the majority of this small newsrooms audience. 

It should be noted however, these approaches taken by the Illawarra Mercury are now basically expected by audiences. If they cannot access one newsrooms updates easily, they will turn to one that is more accessible. To achieve a competitive advantage, newsrooms need to focus on simplicity and make it easy for users to engage.

Innovative ideas that small newsrooms should consider:

  • Using third party tools that work on their platform
  • Making content free (doesn’t always have to drag the audience back to their website)
  • Choosing elements right for their newsroom
  • Devoting appropriate resources

An example of a small newsroom using an innovative idea to engage audiences is VietnamPlus who product 4-minute rap videos each fortnight to draw in young people. It’s about knowing your audience and giving them what they want.

For the Illawarra Mercury, with their small adaptions from purely print journalism, to generating online, user-engaging content the question is: where to now? What can this newsroom do next to ensure they remain innovative and up-to-date with what audiences want? My suggestion would be to start producing audio and video segments that can appear on their website, Twitter and Facebook pages. They’re already succeeding in using platforms well and their written and photographic journalism is engaging and delivered quickly. But, to really join the list of small newsrooms doing big things they need to step even further into convergent journalism and combining the various forms on journalism into one piece.

Read more on how to consistently engage audiences.

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