For those unfamiliar with the term, a news budget is not an accounting tool for editorial expenses, but rather a list of the stories that are planned for the next edition for a newspaper or news website and in which section (front page, local news, sports, etc.) and what form (text, photo, video, etc.) they are to appear.
“News budgeting, as I understand it, is much more common in the States,” said Millrod, Director of Editorial Technology at Newsday, during the CMS Day of the Newsroom Summit. “You can think of it as planning. Planning is the key to collaboration. Planning is the key to getting people to work together.”
Naturally, things have changed as the emphasis has shifted from paper to online and across different digital platforms. For example, Millrod singled out the growing importance of video: “How important is video to Newsday? We built our own video studio.”
‘It’s to get everybody on the same page’
Newsday uses Atex Desk as its primary Content Management System (CMS). “We were able to create a view, actually multiple views, that we call a budget view. Everyone can see it,” Millrod said.
Journalists who are writing for the paper can also see what those working on social or video are creating.
“It’s to get everybody on the same page. Every story we cover, everything we do is represented here by a budget item,” Millrod said. “And it’s important to understand that these budget items are grouped together before any of the content is even produced. We have a story idea, the reporter hasn’t written a single word but the videographer is already making plans – it’s on the budget.”
It’s not just the comprehensiveness of the budget, but the visibility that counts, he said.
“You can see and track what’s happening and access every element, every piece of content that’s part of a package. That includes the photolist, the article, the audio clip, and even the social media posts that are related. It’s all here,” he said.
Given how much content is potentially being displayed, it’s also important to be able to configure the way of looking at it.
“People come to the budget view with different reasons. Not everyone wants the same thing, but it’s a database so we can give them the view they are looking for. We can show the planning budget, or just the digital media,” Millrod said.
‘It works because it’s not extra work’
Items in the budget translate directly to real world journalistic tasks. Slack has been integrated into Desk with automatically generated notifications that go to reporters with assignments.
“Why does it work? It works because it’s not extra work – it’s built into the workflow,” Millrod said. “A budget item in the CMS is called a job. It’s like a folder with its own metadata but when you create one you create a budget item but also assignments and potentially setting deadlines.”
“Because it’s built into the CMS, the headlines and descriptions automatically update as the real headline and story are written,” he continued. “All you do is click the icon on the regular Desk view, and it launches the budget with everything you need to know; when it’s going to run, assigned and actual length. Flags where stories need special attention, like does a lawyer need to look at this story? That’s as well as the status of all the multimedia components – you can preview the video if it’s ready.”
Configurability through filters
Regarding how different roles around the newsroom work together, Millrod said the answer lies in the configurability that comes with the ability to apply filters to what is displayed depending on your interests.
“Because it’s built into the CMS, I can show you the filtered results you need to see. If I was producing the next day’s newspaper, then instead of having all of the desks showing, I might just want the print projects. If I was the business editor, I would only look at the business budget.”
Asked about any pushback against the budget system, Millrod observed that since the paper has had budgets since the days of pure print, it was the multimedia staff that had the most to adapt to. The answer to which was a view that displays purely multimedia content regardless of whether it is accompanied by traditional print or online articles.
For all the configurability and automation on display, the most succinct explanation of the budget system’s success, however, was probably when Millrod grinned and acknowledged that “it also works because it’s easy.”