This piece by Adam Tinworth for journalism.co.uk on digital transformation deserves to be read – and re-read again and again – by anyone with even passing involvement in navigating the treacherous waters of the shift from print to digital publishing.
Although many businesses like to talk about how they are transforming their products to meet the needs of digital consumers, how many can genuinely say their strategy moves beyond the addition to, or at worst simply the replication of, what went before?
Adam nails it – and I think gets to the heart of a problem that particularly plagues resource-light local media outlets with print products to feed – when he talks about changing channels of distribution without thinking about the resultant need to change your content too:
“You’re not doing anything substantially different from what you were doing before, but are instead just publishing it in more channels. In theory, this brings you additional revenue with minimal additional costs, and that seems like an attractive proposition.
“The problem, of course, is that you’re not actually providing a good experience in the new formats, and you’re very easily challenged or displaced by competitors who do.”
I would be the first to admit that while I was working in the local press we were more often than not producing content online which was replicative rather than transformative. My challenge as a web editor and digital advocate within newsrooms was to try to change a culture that at the time saw the newspaper website as little more than a place to simply republish stories, headlines and pictures exactly as they had appeared in print, sometimes days earlier.
I’m proud to say that we did have some success in doing so but the process was far from complete. I may no longer work in the local press – but if I did I’d hope that all colleagues would read and absorb Adam’s piece before asking themselves, honestly, if their digital product as it exists today is replicative or transformative. And if it’s the former, how do they adapt their newsrooms to become the latter.