Digital Media Asia: Transforming the newsroom

The Straits Times editor tells us how he is changing things up at the newsroom.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | November 12, 2013

The fifth edition of Digital Media Asia kicked off in Kuala Lumpur Tuesday morning with a focus on how newsrooms are transforming in the digital era and the challenges involved in selling digital news content.

As print circulation continues to decline in matured markets, newsrooms have to change the way they operate and take advantage of technology in an innovative manner.

Editor of Singapore’s main broadsheet The Straits Times, Warren Fernandez spoke about how his paper is quickly transforming itself.

“We know it is coming. It is like a tsunami warning has been issued,” said Fernandez who added that The Straits Times is making changes akin to small waves.

He said that initially the challenge was to break down silos between the people in the print and online departments. The paper is currently reworking its operations to generate online content throughout the day.

The lessons that the paper has learnt so far in the digital realm are plenty.

The Lessons?

  1. Future is not free
  2. Own a niche
  3. It pays and costs to be original.
  4. Build your brand
  5. Give them hope in the future

“The Straits Times has been around since 1845. We won’t just roll and die,” said the editor who stressed that the key is to adapt to new technologies and ensure good journalism practices are not affected.

When it comes to new platforms and new ideas, he said it was not necessary to be perfect.

Stressing the importance of visuals and interactive content, he said “Just get them up and running first.”

When it comes to paywalls, Fernandez said it was not possible to produce quality content and give it away for free online and still be sustainable.

Later in the morning, editor in chief of The Age in Australia, Andrew Holden, spoke about the paper’s digital subscription model.

He said that while there is content which readers may have to pay to read, there will always be free content on the website.

He added that educating customers prior to introducing a payment structure and harnessing editorial strength is vital in ensuring the success of a metered paywall.

Meanwhile, Sachin Gopalan, CEO of BeritaSatu Media Holdings, said “publishers let their business get hijacked by the hype of digital innovations” and “jumped on the digital bandwagon without realising what was in store for them.”

“We were misled in thinking advertisers will follow us. We should have, on hindsight, charged for content from day one,” he said.

The CEO who is leading the company’s expansion said newspapers cannot fight with the likes of Google and Yahoo when it comes to garnering advertising revenue

At The Jakarta Globe, he said one of the focuses is determining how to get end users to pay for useful content delivered digitally.

It is also vital to find a niche advantage and develop unique content, he said.

“We must also find creative ways to deliver digital content. And do not feel bad about charging for content. Livelihoods depend on it,” he said.

But he added that quality content is still the most important aspect.

“In the end, only good journalism will save the day.”

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