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Digitalization drives profound changes in all industries and has long been forcing companies to think beyond the mere existence of a website. This also applies to the media industry, as it is equally experiencing accelerated structural change as a result of digitalization. Not only do readers search for professional multimedia content in real time and on various platforms.

With many new participants and disruptive business models, competition is also becoming increasingly complex. And even if some people can no longer hear the word digitization: Many are still in the early stages with their processes. While others rely on: “It’s always been done this way.” They too, however, recognize the need for change. After all, it opens up great opportunities for innovation, increased efficiency and a stronger customer bond. But for this to happen, companies must continuously adapt. Transformation processes are therefore needed in order to benefit from the opportunities. And these involve technologies as much as people. So how does digital transformation work in journalism, publishing houses and media companies?

What is the digital transformation in journalism and media?

Digital transformation is basically the change from traditional processes and business models to digital ones in order to be successful in the digital age, with added value for customers, and to be more efficient in the process. This definition of digital transformation applies to the media sector just as much as to other industries. The underlying element of such a transformation process is digitalization itself – from analogue to digital. When it comes to the media, the way content is consumed by audiences and created by competitors today has changed fundamentally. And with this change in media, media companies must develop accordingly.

This means that traditional media companies such as publishing houses, television and radio stations must react and digitize themselves – i.e. transform themselves digitally and use advances in technology to modernize themselves. But it’s not just about the use of new technologies or the digitization of content and new products. It is just as important for companies to adapt their culture, structures and working methods in order to ensure efficient processes. This can also mean that certain business processes disappear over time because they are no longer needed and there are more efficient ways and solutions. And completely new business models are emerging.

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Opportunities and challenges of digitalization

Why is digital transformation important for media?

Will digitalization turn traditional media and publishers into losing players? Unfortunately, yes, if they do not manage to rethink their offerings and the way in which content is created, distributed and monetized. But no, if they take advantage of the opportunities offered by digitalization in the same way as others have already done. The digital transformation for media companies is therefore a necessity and also offers many advantages:

Benefits of digital transformation

  • More efficient processes and more time for creative tasks and innovations.
  • Fast market launch of new formats and products – and equally fast withdrawal if required.
  • Multichannel publishing becomes the standard and content is distributed consistently and effectively across a variety of digital channels.
  • Readers’ needs are better met and new ways of interacting with the audience are found.
  • New ways to monetize content and open up growth opportunities.

In other words, those who can work faster and more efficiently while maintaining or even improving quality will have more opportunities in the future. And how can companies achieve this and build on the opportunities offered by digitalization? This requires innovative approaches and technologies, but above all transformation processes.

What does a digital transformation strategy look like?

Many companies can expect a holistic transformation. That includes the redesign of business models and processes as well as content. That said, a major challenge in many companies is the fear of change and the sheer complexity raises the question: where should we even start? The simple answer is: with a strategy.

What should such a strategy include?
By defining a strategy, it is not meant to define all the small milestones and create a project plan. Above all, we recommend focusing on the goals at the beginning and internalizing two things:

1.

Every company needs a clear vision. Which direction should it take? What should the future look like? How are we positioning ourselves? Why is change necessary? This vision serves as a guide for decisions and initiatives.

2.

This vision is nothing without clear leadership that brings the entire team on board. Yet leadership does not necessarily have to be hierarchical. Depending on the size of the company, it can be a working group or one person with the necessary understanding and motivation to mobilize. They must be able to clearly communicate the need for change and serve as a role model for the adoption of new technologies and ways of working.

Practical bonus tip: Focus on people
Successful media companies consider people in their strategy – especially customers. In other words, it is definitely about benefits for employees, but they are also already considering a customer-centric approach that focuses on user experience and content. The added value for colleagues and the audience is an important factor behind the why. After all, efficiency is nothing if the content falls short.

Digital transformation – more tips on putting it into practice

Are the vision and goals clearly communicated? Then it’s time to do the work. Many processes are now being initiated and questions arise such as: “Which processes can be optimized?” or “How will we monetize our products in the future?” And there is often not just one right way to find the answers. Especially when it comes to new business models, change processes can also take some time. Methods such as the Business Model Canvas are applied, things are tested, learned and finally adapted. And yet there are also processes that companies can tackle directly and even implement to some extent – with visible results (including the motivation to continue):

Mindset: Establishing an innovative drive

A cultural shift towards openness, a willingness to learn and an innovative spirit is essential for a digital transformation. On the one hand, training and further education help to strengthen the digital skills of the workforce. But digitalization is also leading to hierarchies becoming flatter and more horizontal in many industries, with changes in communication structures. The result: teams can act more freely, quickly and without bureaucracy and ideas become innovations, new formats and even new business models. In other words, employees need room for creativity, but also the support to try something new – including new technologies.

Flexibility: Tackling the teams’ ability to transform

A cultural shift towards openness, a willingness to learn and an innovative spirit is essential for a digital transformation. On the one hand, training and further education help to strengthen the digital skills of the workforce. But digitalization is also leading to hierarchies becoming flatter and more horizontal in many industries, with changes in communication structures. The result: teams can act more freely, quickly and without bureaucracy and ideas become innovations, new formats and even new business models. In other words, employees need room for creativity, but also the support to try something new – including new technologies.

Performance: Supporting editorial processes with software

There is still a lot of potential for optimization in every content process. Numerous manual workflows, repetitive tasks and routines can be implemented much more efficiently today. Consequently, it is good to question whether some steps can be simplified with the help of innovative technologies. Here, there are several aspects that can be addressed at an early stage:

1

Companies can make work more efficient for their teams:

Through innovative software that provides an overview and automates repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Media companies such as publishing houses or broadcasters use newsroom systems, for example, which provide support at all planning levels from research to publication.
2

Companies can use data and insights to better understand target groups:

Digital transformation is closely linked to the needs and expectations of customers. And to be customer-centric, you need measures for cross-media analytics and workflows that allow you to collect customer feedback quickly. This is the only way for companies to simplify data-based decision-making. For the media, it is crucial to opt for software that combines cross-media data from a wide variety of sources. This allows the performance data to be linked to the overarching strategy and the insights to be incorporated into new offers.
3

Companies can support collaboration regardless of time and place:

Only web-based newsroom software enables editorial teams to work together across departments and topics in a productive way. Having content and assets available centrally and digitally makes it possible to combine work and avoid different versions and duplicates. This saves time and enables consistent communication across all channels.
4

Companies can save even more time with AI:

The future of media companies will also be shaped by artificial intelligence. There are many use cases: from analysing user data, personalizing or creating content and optimizing operational processes. For example, AI can easily help to find topics and trends more easily: with automated topic spotting and media monitoring.

Collaboration: Involving external partners

Investing in the right technology and software helps to optimize processes and leverage automation potential. But the market already offers numerous solutions and tools: It is not always easy for companies to recognize which software is the right one. Doing your own research and testing is a good start. Nevertheless, the complexity of the digital landscape makes it difficult to navigate alone. It makes a lot of sense to build up a network and to bring in external partners, be they technology consultants or software start-ups, who can assess and evaluate the market, the target groups and, above all, the innovative solutions.

Success Story

Real-life example

What do optimized editorial processes look like at work? German broadcaster WDR has established cross-media topic planning and distribution with the Newsmind Stories editorial software:

Read success story
Newsroom Software

Conclusion

Digital transformation is not an optional step for media companies. It is a necessary adaptation to changing market conditions and user expectations in order to be successful now and in the future. What is needed is a holistic transformation that includes strong leadership, a clear vision, customer centricity, flexible and scalable approaches and, in the best case, effective partnerships. In order to maximize potential, this includes cultural changes as well as technological ones.

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Jochen Schon

Founder of Convit

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