News

Dallas Morning News Editor Mike Wilson on their evolving newsroom

“Distributed content is a real phenomenon and it isn’t going away. We created our audience team – social media producers, analysts, etc. – to push our content to people wherever they are,” says Mike Wilson, editor of The Dallas Morning News, who is responsible for the paper’s news coverage in print and online.

by Nick Tjaardstra nick.tjaardstra@wan-ifra.org | October 31, 2016

In this interview with WAN-IFRA’s Anton Jolkovski, Wilson discusses the changes DMN has made to its newsroom, how they are distributing content on social media platforms and how they use analytics.

Wilson will also be expanding on some of these topics during his upcoming presentation at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Latin America conference, 16-18 November, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

WAN-IFRA: How does the physical layout of the newsroom reflect the transition to digital-first publishing? Has the layout stabilized, or is it continuing to evolve?

Mike Wilson: The most important change we made is we put the breaking news team, the audience team and the photo/video team in the center of the newsroom. The rest of the newsroom is arranged a bit more haphazardly. We are not putting a lot of money or energy into changing it because we are seriously considering a move to a new building.

Please describe the evolution of your CMS over the course of the transition, and plans for the future.

Until last year we had a couple of CMSs for digital publishing – Escenic and WordPress. We have now moved to a custom platform called Serif, which we developed in partnership with a local web design firm. It is a versatile, feature-rich CMS and it has revolutionized the way we produce news. …

What is the Morning News’s strategy regarding distributed content, and to what extent do you work with Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, Snapchat Discover, et al?

Distributed content is a real phenomenon and it isn’t going away. We created our audience team – social media producers, analysts, etc. – to push our content to people wherever they are. We’ve been extremely successful reaching people on social. We have experimented with FBIA and will be doing more with it soon. We are on Apple News but so far haven’t joined Google AMP.

Please describe how you use analytics in the newsroom.

Our analytics editor tracks our performance daily and makes monthly reports on trends, etc. On July 1, we created digital audience goals for every journalist in our newsroom. They do not achieve their goals simply by getting clicks, but rather by growing their local, loyal audience. Our metrics put a premium on the most valuable customers – those in our area who keep coming back. Our journalists are constantly given strategies to constantly improve their reach.

To what extent are members of Morning News’s editorial staff involved in the business model as a result of the transition, and what goals have been set?

Our role is to do the journalism that will build audiences; our business colleagues are focused on getting those audiences to subscribe and/or listen to messages from advertisers. The newsroom is focused on the journalism, but we do meet weekly with our companywide digital focus group to discuss strategy.