INFORMATION will culminate in the coming months the last phase of a plan that involves a profound change in its internal organization and in its information products. It will be the consolidation of a transformation process that will modify the structures of the newspaper, consolidating it as an information brand that disseminates content across multiple platforms and that has the full capacity to specifically adapt its information offer to the singularities of each medium. A global transformation that concerns both digital platforms (mobile, web, e-paper), which are in some way the main responsible for this change, as well as the printed newspaper and television, both supports aimed at an evolution that allows them to adapt to the new challenges that digitization is facing them.
That this change, perhaps one of the most profound in the history of INFORMATION, coincides with the 75th anniversary of the publication of the printed newspaper, but it is an excellent opportunity to reaffirm the link that links the past, the present and the future of an essential means of communication to explain the history of Alicante in the 20th century and today.
The digital transformation, the multiplication of the supports, the specific creation of content for each one of them, or the opportunity, certainly revolutionary, to establish a two-way contact with its readers that allows them to get to know them better and better, are key changes in this evolution that they have already radically modified INFORMATION and will continue to do so. But this inevitable adaptation to a digitized world is not going to alter the original essence of the main asset of its long history: quality journalism at the service of the citizens of the province of Alicante.
The digital world that we have had to live in is like a cycling round that never ends. The goals that mark the end of each stage are not fixed, but are in constant motion. This is because the very rapid evolution of digital media imposes profound changes, of structural calls, such as those being addressed in the organization of the newspaper, but also continuous conjunctural adaptations of the strategy to continue adjusting to the evolution of technology. and to the new trends, habits, interests and likes of the readers.
They are changes, one and the other, that involve all areas: the production of content for different media, the dissemination strategies in each one of them, the analysis of their effects as a way of getting to know our audience better. They are global changes, since it is impossible for this process to modify a part without affecting the whole. Thus, the brand as a whole has changed in the first place: now, INFORMATION is a choral work that builds its informative discourse, inevitably unique, through the different platforms where it provides content and services.
The web has also changed, which in its very fast career for the immediate, every day is more mobile than computer, and which is also now a product with a growing volume of quality content made specifically for the web. But the printed newspaper has also changed, now deepening its character as an interpretive and more informative medium, and thanks to the e-paper it has a digital version that circumvents the geographical limitation of the diffusion of the physical product to be accessible from anywhere in the world.
The model that we follow in INFORMATION for this transformation assumes the challenge of information immediacy as the main objective that must be faced. Our readers now operate devices that allow them to be permanently connected, so they demand to be informed in the same way. We are aware that, if we want to meet that demand, it is no longer we who decide when and where we report. It is the reader who, as the great protagonist at the center of the whole process, decides how, when and where he wants to be informed. Tackling this new stage has made us aware that we must be ready to respond to that challenge: tell what is happening as soon as possible and through all the means at our disposal.
From “print to online” to “online to print”
In a first moment of the digital evolution of practically all the world’s newspapers, to which INFORMATION was no stranger, the news that had been produced for the printed platform was transferred to digital. However, as the versatility of the new medium and its enormous possibilities to report in real time were discovered, the need for immediate and permanently updated information grew. It became clear that sooner or later the terms would have to be reversed. The result of this evolution is the model that is called, in English, “online to print”. There is no longer a single flow of content from the printed newspaper to its digital platforms and a scarce production of updated content as it used to be, but now the production of news for digital platforms is prioritized and those contents later serve as a basis for the printed newspaper.
This reversal of the process has required profound changes in the drafting of INFORMATION that are still underway. The sections of the newspaper that allow the content to be segmented according to geographic or thematic criteria are still present. As is still present, the absolute preponderance of local issues over others, in which we now delve into hyperlocal approaches that bring our content even closer to all the towns in the province. But now, the autonomous mode of operation of each section is also transferred to the digital platforms of the newspaper, so that they are responsible for its cover (home) and for updating its contents, such as the production of the pages of the newspaper. printed. It is the best way to build that unique informational discourse, in this case, around a specific section.
To achieve this goal, the editors and especially those responsible for those informational areas of INFORMATION have had to adapt their knowledge of traditional print journalism to digital. Hence, the recycling and staff training processes have been and will continue to be key in this process. All the members of the newsroom are doing regular dives in the section that is in charge of managing the general home, where the most specialized people in the digital work of the newspaper work. The Writing is one, although the platforms are many. It is logical that if, as in INFORMATION, you have the best journalists in their respective news areas, it is these journalists who also build the best digital content. Thus, section by section, we are configuring a «web of websites» in which each informative area delves into the search for its own audience.
Obviously, there remains a general “home” as there is a cover in the printed newspaper. This “home” continues to have the value of being a selection made with the valuable information criteria of excellent journalism professionals. And its value is confirmed because it continues to be the main source of entry for the 155,000 unique users that, on a daily basis, have INFORMATION. However, in the online world, each content must also defend itself, without the general packaging of the closed and finished product that the news had in the traditional newspaper. The fight for the digital audience is being waged in several battlefields at the same time: social networks, where its users share the content that interests them most and the medium itself “sells” their own to capture readers in a potential market of millions of people; search engines like Google, where a formal and technical optimization of news can multiply its impact and on the web itself, where a considerably greater number of news than in a printed newspaper compete with each other before an audience that demands speed as well as clarity and conciseness.
The editors and especially those responsible for the newsroom are assimilating that good journalism no longer sells alone. It’s not just that audience measurement gives us a sometimes unexpected reflection when the issues we thought were going to have a big impact have had a lower audience than anticipated. In the digital world it is necessary to fight against a deafening noise caused by the excess of information that often avoids distinguishing the good from the bad.
For this reason, although quality continues to be the main reference for content, it is necessary to control the springs that online allow us to achieve the greatest effectiveness in the dissemination of our content, translated into the widest possible audience for each of them. One of these strategies is based on the remarkable public relevance of the members of the editorial staff of INFORMATION, and the influence that they can exert through social networks to transmit greater depth to their content that will reach more readers. And by the way assume that good journalism now also needs a dissemination strategy to multiply its impact by a hundred or a thousand.
Despite the dependence on the immediate that seems to plague the digital medium, the feeling that there is “improvisation” is wrong. The need for detailed content planning is explained precisely by this dependence on current affairs. The cover of a digital section is not one, but many throughout a day. It must be continually updated and moving the many contents to offer a user always new content. To achieve this objective we have had to widen and reinforce the planning of the informative work that was done for the newspaper.
Every day, the sections now elaborate a detailed planning of topics that includes our informative forecasts for the day, the topics to which we are going to pay more attention, as well as our “grid” of content publication by hours, both normal and aimed at premium users. A great effort that also helps to consolidate a unique concept of the current situation of each information area and how it is planned to distribute strategically among all the supports in which they are going to publish this content. The same single global information flow that the platforms as a whole must have, applied to each of the sections.
Adapting to each reader
The preponderance of digital, what was called in some North American newspapers “web first” or earlier for the web, is not only marked by the undoubted strategic value of these new online platforms, but by the fact that success will be greater as the more immediate is the response given to the reader in their demands. Hence the priority of digital.
Journalistic work changes and the professional must have technology that allows them to be as connected as their readers, in addition to preparing the content outside the newsroom, and sending it immediately. In addition, you must also be prepared to respond to the need to produce new content, beyond the traditional text and images, such as videos, audios, etc. The INFORMATION section has tablets that allow, with a comfortable and manageable device, to prepare texts, take photographs and videos and send them from anywhere to the web.
Today, in INFORMATION, the first version of current news is always digital. The contents to be published later in the printed newspaper take this digital version as a reference, but logically they are more elaborated because the journalist has had more time to contrast, deepen and enrich the content. This does not mean that the digital news is of inferior quality, since they have different objectives to satisfy different needs. The digital one is built faster to meet immediate demand and, therefore, count the most important data and evolve the news in successive updates.
The one in the printed medium is elaborated with a longer time frame and is no longer limited to telling what has already been told digitally, but rather goes deeper into the analysis and concretion of the facts. In this sense, the news from the printed newspaper that readers are in INFORMATION is the latest version of a topic that started reporting hours ago and has evolved throughout the day. As in a relay race, the digital will have given the baton to the printed in the coverage of that topic, and the printed will relinquish it to the digital the next morning so that the process can begin again.
The different effort involved in creating each story then determines the reader of the digital platforms for which it is intended. The ones with the highest density will be classified as “premium” and will be aimed at a type of reader willing to pay for this content with undeniable added value. The scoping information that informs the news immediately during the day itself will be destined for a general public and will always be open and free. This is the foundation of the “freemium” model that is implanted in the newspaper’s digital platforms.
The digital transformation of INFORMATION will also be reflected in a new “star” type newsroom arrangement that will unite those responsible for the newspaper in a single central table around which the different sections will be arranged. This design responds to the need for continuous dialogue that requires the immediacy of digital platforms. As if it were a permanent front-page meeting, those responsible for the newspaper will decide where and how each news item is to be published at the rate they emerge. They will have real-time information on various screens around them about their own metrics and those of social networks and other useful information that allows them to make decisions as quickly as required. The management of the general home will also take place at this central table, as well as the monitoring of social networks.
The newsroom will see its entire park of computer equipment modernized with which it will work on all platforms and will have a new version of its editorial system Redactor. In the near future, a new Integrated Publishing System that will merge the edition of the printed newspaper and the CMS (digital content management system) that will manage digital platforms will allow greater versatility in cross-platform work with immediate exchange of content for adapt it to other supports.
Metrics to know more about the reader
One of the great changes that the digital transformation has brought is to specify the knowledge of the audiences. If the reader, or user as it is now called in the online world, is at the center of the whole process, it is essential to have a lot of information about how and when you consume our content in order to create strategies that allow us to tune in to your tastes, hobbies , concerns and interests. In the printed newspapers, there is no flood of data available on digital platforms. Newspapers know what their readers are interested in, but they find it almost impossible to accurately measure that interest.
Now, every morning, those responsible for INFORMATION find themselves with a metrics report, which is only a summary of all the available data. But throughout the day they can check in real time what the web audience is and what topics are generating more interest. They know how many users the newspaper had, how many pages they read. If they arrived via mobile phone, a desktop computer or a tablet. If they found out about our news through the home page of the newspaper or were interested in one they had found through social networks. If they searched for us through Google or found one of our contents that had to do with the search they were carrying out.
We can know at what time of day or night they saw our website. If they have come from a neighborhood in Alicante, from Elche or from a Galician city. Or if they were thousands of kilometers away from us. All these data and hundreds more can add them to the knowledge of its readers that a newspaper with decades of contact with them, as in the case of INFORMATION, already has it. Now, in addition, the audience can be segmented, organized into more specific and less general groups and specify more easily in each of them if we have really achieved the objective of awakening readers’ interest in our content. That information and its understanding is valuable for all platforms, not just digital ones. It begins to be frequent in the writing of INFORMATION that the focus of the contents takes into account, in the printed version, the interest that they have caused throughout the previous day in the digital ones.
The volume of data is of such magnitude that in order to take advantage of all the valuable information they contain, it is necessary to use treatments of the “big data” type, one of the projects in which Prensa Ibérica, the publishing group to which INFORMATION belongs, has turn on. It is no longer science fiction that, knowing the reading habits that a user follows, we can offer him a personalized selection of our news when he arrives on our web page, which prevails over the ones that really interest him. Nor is it that the advertisements on this page match your specific needs. Or that we will be able to better report a story if we put one title instead of another. It is a significant leap that will allow us to personalize the product we offer, adapting it to each reader.
The audience is now a pressure that we suffer a day and almost a minute. But there are still other variables to consider. Sometimes, the journalistic criterion hits the target and the informative interest and massive attention of the readers coincide. Other times not. Rigorous reporting is not always a pain in the neck because often today, and therefore news, is a reflection of how unpleasant and complex the world around us is. And that news, and now we know it digitally for sure, may not generate magnitudes of audience like other more viral, to use the term in vogue.
But just because fewer people are interested doesn’t mean they won’t be published. The audience is important, but the journalistic criteria of what is important must also continue to count. This example summarizes what is happening in this newspaper. Although the phrase that Lampedusa put in the mouth of one of his characters in “El Gatoparto” could also synthesize it. In INFORMATION we are changing everything, (since the only sin that a newspaper cannot commit is living outside of its time) so that everything remains the same. So that we can continue doing quality journalism. And that you read it.