20 Minutes is the average time Europeans spend on public transport each day, but to most of us it's now better known as the news source that broke the mould. When it launched as a free newspaper in Paris in March 2002 it began a free paper war.
In 2007 20minutes.fr launched, and is now the third most visited news site in the country.
In September 2015 the French circulation audit office, OJD, announced that the total visits for the month were close to 46 million – up 50% year on year. That means a lot of content and a lot of cross-media management. So when a web publisher like 20 Minutes turns to Desk-Net you have to ask what it hopes to get from it.
“Our original intentions for Desk-Net involved four principal goals;
- Allowing us to follow our journalists production in real time
- Commissioning articles from editors (thanks to the integration of Desk-Net with our own back-office systems)
- Planning the publication of articles over a number of days
- Planning the subjects to be covered over a number of days"
The thinking was to allow us to use a single software application to do the work we are otherwise doing with a mix of tools and with good old-fashioned paper.”
That's an ambitious set of goals, particularly when you consider that the publisher has teams in Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Nantes, Nice, Paris, Rennes, Strasbourg, and Toulouse as well as the national edition. Running editorial management software out across the entire editorial division is going to take some time.
“For the moment only the first of those goals can be truly said to be 100% achieved right across the editorial service. The others have been achieved to varying degrees, depending on which service we're looking at. The regional teams are the ones who are really using the tool to its full extent.”
Blanchard goes on to detail what those regional teams are doing with Desk-Net;
“The various 20 Minutes local offices use Desk-Net to program upcoming content. The story leads are entered before going into production – journalists list their subjects on Monday for the whole of that week. Next, they modify them the night before each day. Then the section head gives the go-ahead for each subject in the course of the morning editorial meeting. Of course, the subjects and the authors are subject to change in which case the editor modifies the details of the assignment directly into our system, which passes it in turn on to Desk-Net.”
As well as managing the workflow Desk-Net gives 20 Minutes instant visibility on the range of subjects being prepared and their relative progress. Which makes it possible to keep track of the huge number of journalists and editions involved in publication.
Desk-Net also serves as a complete menu of all the articles, long and short, and allows us to see instantly what subject any journalist is working on which means we can avoid them doubling up and duplicating work.”
When you have a dozen regional editions and the third-largest news site in the country it is no small matter to be able to eliminate duplication and getting an instant overview of what's in the pipeline.
That's just the first stage in Blanchard's four-part plan. With the ultimate goal being to move to Desk-Net for full forward planning for the media platform we'll be keeping tabs on 20 Minutes' growth.