Newsroom of tomorrow

The new media landscape calls for new working methods and new ways of organizing the newsroom. Managing Editor, Sofia Olsson Olsén, tells us how Aftonbladet will meet the future.

Never before at Aftonbladet has there been such a thorough remake of the editorial work process, its flow and content. All with the purpose of creating an online journalism that will last for many years, taking Aftonbladet into the future with full force.

It will be necessary for people with different skills to co-operate and there will need to be a wider mandate for everyone to make quick decisions on publishing as well as minute-by-minute checks on the needs and behaviors of our visitors.

The message at Aftonbladet has been very clear for the last six years: in 2017 we will have become an online media company that also publishes a printed newspaper. The pace of change may not have been revolutionary from Day One but it has increased rapidly in recent years.

In the autumn of 2014 we started the most comprehensive editorial make over in the 185–year history 
of Aftonbladet. And now we are in a hurry. We must keep in step with our readers’ real changing behaviors. The Aftonbladet Report, which shed light on all aspects, has been a basic document guiding the change. It was presented in November and was inspired by The New York Times Report. There have also been a number of seminars involving many employees. Following this, the editorial management has worked intensely creating the map that will turn theory into practice.

A practice looking like this:

  1.  All production of content is for online publishing. The packaging for print is then made using existing material.
  2. Decision lines will be faster. In a constant flow of publishing, each and everyone has the knowledge and the tools as well as an widened mandate to make decisions on the spot.
  3. Team work is the foundation for the all important joy of working and the passion, with explicit goals known 
to everyone and with assignments and implementation that to a large extent are decided by the teams. The ideas will flow from everyone to everyone.
  4. Everybody has a constant check on, and good knowledge of, readers’ behaviors using data insights and analyses. The staff has the tools 
to be able to follow, in real time, the impact of our journalism; how we are reaching the right reader at the right moment on the right platform. Our online analysts work in the editorial room, at the news desk, giving support based on their knowledge.
  5. We have established two different working methods: a fast track for production and publishing which enables Aftonbladet to keep its position as Sweden’s primary news source and an agenda-setting track where the journalism is our own; one that makes a mark, that is being talked about and shared with others.

But, as previously stated, the cultural journey, going from print to online, began much earlier. In the autumn of 2012 the Aftonbladet Online Academy was started, a clear and strategically important educational effort for groups and individuals. Since then all employees have regularly been offered courses so that together we can increase the digital insights and competence amongst the editorial staff and in other departments.

In the autumn of 2015 the Online Academy is one of the most important tools for taking the next
 step, not least through the courses that are planned for a quick and focused change of publishing tools in the editorial department.

The autumn of 2015 has also seen the beginning of the implementation of Schibsted’s new media platform at Aftonbladet. The platform is a strategically important tool for understanding our readers and their actions in order to create an even better journalism and to be able to personalize the experience for our visitors.

For this our staff must have good and new skills, for example:

  • To be able to follow, in a production flow, how one’s article is doing on the website and in social media and, as an editor, have the total overview.
  • To be able to, with the help of analysis and knowledge, convert numbers and data into action, forming and directing our journalistic content to the right person, at the right time and on the right platform.
  • To be able, as an experienced editor with a developed sense of judgment, to work with the algorithm that governs the priorities. This is a new way of seeing things: daring to trust the algorithm but also to realize that it is created from our own judgments and values which it applies with consistency.
  • To know how to use tagging of our material and the opportunities we have to give the visitor both orientation and in-depth reading.
  • To be able to work with a considerably larger number of readers about whom we suddenly know a lot more. How do we best handle this newly acquired knowledge?

We plan to have the new media platform fully operational before the summer of 2016. At the same time the whole editorial room will be refurnished, adapting the working environment to the new digital strategy. The environment is a key issue in the strategy of Aftonbladet.

We will create a work environment where everyone feels that making mistakes is actually allowed, that challenging and testing limits is a good thing in the pursuit of the way forward.

The work environment lays the foundation for a modern digital newsroom in the changing world that is ours. It will mean clear communication from the management, cooperation between staff and across department boundaries: newsroom, analysis, development/IT, advertising, customer 
relations. New 
and more inviting 
meeting formats 
are other pieces in the puzzle.

With our background as an evening paper that has to sell well every day the whole staff is aware of the need to “sell” online in various ways, for example by increasing the number of unique visitors, increasing readers’ time spent and selling our journalism through the paid service Aftonbladet Plus.

What we now have to learn is how 
to really interpret and use our information about the changing behaviors of our readers, both in the short- and long-term. And most important of all: to be prepared to be quick when trying something new. Make the changing of flows and processes a daily standard. As one member of the Aftonbladet staff put it: “I am pushing on, hoping and thinking that this will be fun. We will just have to see what happens later. After all we are in constant change.”