Newsroom software; a fast transforming landscape

After years of relative stasis, newsroom software is undergoing a period of dramatic change.

For some years the predominant approach was to license large and often monolithic editorial systems which promised to cover off just about every element of the editorial process. These systems would then need to be complemented with other software as their shortcomings became apparent or they were simply out-evolved by user needs.

What we’re seeing now is a tidal shift in the software landscape of the newsroom.

  • The needs of a newsroom are changing faster which in turn requires faster introduction of new software capabilities - an accelerated timescale best supported by the flexibility of software-as-a-service (SaaS). SaaS services are expanding accordingly.
  • The number of processes that need to be supported by software are growing daily.
  • End users now expect a better user experience from B2B software.
  • The concept of covering all the software needs of a newsroom with one package suite from a single vendor has not proved successful.  

One key area of concern is that of planning and workflow tools. Most medium to large newsrooms have introduced editorial calendar tools and many smaller ones are moving from Google sheets to dedicated tools.

The issues of integrating a planning tool

When adding a content calendar software to your newsroom there are two primary dimensions to consider:

  • Workflows
  • Technical integration

The former is significantly more important than the latter, a point made evident by the many newsrooms already successfully working with a non-integrated editorial calendar.

Where does the planning tool fit in the newsroom software stack and workflow?

The role of a planning tool is currently changing which makes the question of how and where to use it in your newsroom workflows more difficult to answer.

  • Content planning: The traditional, and still most crucial role of a planning tool.
  • Workflow planning and coordination

Content planning workflows

The logical and traditional position for the planning tool is as the first tool used in the process from pitching through to publishing and thence to the analysis of its success.

There is one exception to that which is breaking news and other content that is published without a formal planning process. In these cases the editorial process bypasses the planning tool. In these cases the CMS may then be used to send updates on what’s published automatically to the planning tool so that the content lists are kept comprehensive and current.

Workflow planning and coordination

Advanced planning tools are expanding their feature set from simple content planning features to a more sophisticated process of planning and monitoring subsequent editorial workflows.

This is becoming more and more important as many workflows are spread out across multiple software tools which are often not deeply integrated. 
An example of this would be video editing tools or podcast creation software where the creative suites are often not closely integrated with the CMS.

From its traditional role as the first tool in the default editorial workflow the planning tool is increasingly a role overseeing more, if not most newsroom process steps.

As part of that role the tool can either;

  • define and trigger workflow steps and/or
  • provide a dashboard view of the current workflow status.

These advanced capabilities require a more in-depth look at the planning tool’s position in the newsroom software landscape.

Other systems for technical integration of planning tools 

Desk-Net we often see the following sequence of opinions and decisions when our planning tool is considered by a newsroom:

  • Initially it is taken as a prerequisite that there would be deep integration at least with the CMS and hopefully a number of other systems
  • Potential system to integrate with include:
    • content management systems
    • digital/media asset management systems (DAM, MAM)
    • chat tools such as Slack
    • analysis tools such as Google Analytics
  • Upon further discussion it becomes clear that much of the planning data is not needed in the subsequent editing and publishing processes performed in the CMS and other systems. As a result the need for a deep integration is reduced.
  • Typically newsrooms start with a non integrated planning tool, or limited integration and for many it continues that way despite comprehensive integration options.
  • Once the planning tool has been used for months or even years project teams embark on focused integration efforts targeting processes where there is a lot of (potential) data transfer between the planning tool and other systems.
  • Questions to be answered are:
    • What system(s) do we need to integrate with?
    • Bi-directionally or just one way?
    • What data elements should be synced?
    • What do we need in version 1 of the integration and what should come later?

The underlying advice to this is: Better to have good planning processes with a non integrated or lightly-integrated planning tool than bad planning workflows with a deeply integrated tool.