The Fairfax Flow-On Effect

‘Digital First’ editorial model changes the game

‘Digital First’ editorial model changes the game

Massive news at Fairfax today. The company has announced a huge cost-cutting  restructure in a move aimed to financially future proof the organization.

The facts:

As I said, massive news.

The flow on effects from today’s announcement are yet to be seen and will continue to be debated over the coming days.

But for the PR industry, there are two components from today’s announcement with big implications, the editorial job cuts and the ‘Digital First’ editorial model. Combine these together and we see the reality of a trend that has already been happening for some time.

The ‘Digital First’ model means all breaking news and content must be digitally optimized with editorial staff more or less forced to file multiple times online every day. Essentially, there will be fewer journalists writing stories (and fewer journalists to pitch to) but with more pressure to write more online optimized stories, more often.

In today’s announcement Chief Executive and Managing Director Greg Hywood said, “Readers’ behaviours have changed and will not change back.” Oh so true. When I was working for Text100 in Dublin back in 2006, I distinctly remember a conversation with the then Technology Editor of the Irish TimesJohn Collins, about the pressure he was under to produce more editorial content online with less and less resource and in a shorter time frame. Gone are the days where you filed a couple of stories at 4pm for tomorrow’s paper.

Since 2006, we’ve seen this trend rapidly accelerate as our online consumption habits have evolved at pace. One only has to look at smartphone penetration statistics in Australia to witness how many of us consume our news and entertainment online and on the run. Technology analysts at Telsyte estimate there will be 20 million smartphones in Australia by 2016. Today, we have one of the highest smartphone penetration rates in the world with about 12 million consumers already owning one.

As an industry, we too must continue to adapt our practices. This means providing our time and resource pressured journalists with relevant, shareable and balanced digitally optimized content, not just static press releases. It also gives rise and further proof to the trend of brand journalism, another outcome and opportunity from today’s announcement for the PR industry. It heightens the focus for creating owned communications channels and developing rich content and digital strategies for our clients. I won’t explore the brand journalism topic further in this post as it has already been blogged by my colleague Karalee Evans here.

At Text100, we have increasingly hired journalists and content developers to help us respond to this trend and improve our client communications. This means we work in and with integrated media and create and present our content in different ways through video, infographics and sound grabs. We must own content and become experts in planning, strategy and execution.

To succeed we must understand our audience more than ever before and we must ensure all communications and content is optimized and relevant for the digital world.

Content it seems is key.


Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on the Text100 Sydney blog, Digital Comms Down Under.

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