Sometime’s all it takes is a change of attitude. Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, announced a bold move in the way the organization will identify itself yesterday. In an email to staff, posted in full on The Guardian, Barber has outlined a shift from a news agency to a digital platform.
Of course, this means cutting up to 35 positions and the addition of 10 new digital journalists. Before we start huffing and puffing about what “digital journalist” even means (aren’t we all digital journalists?), there are a few reasons to champion this move.
1. Specialization Makes It Easy
The Financial Times has been eyed by Bloomberg News and Thompson Reuters recently. Streamlining the organization now creates more value. While the paper has always looked pretty in pink, 25% of its revenues are now coming from digital advertising. Barber noted in his letter that they have survived the past years, 125 of them in print, by being “pioneers” in their agility to move from print to online. Their specialization in financial news and their short stories that never jump to the inside sections make it easy to to move to an all-digital platform. Anyone running a niche publication — be it music, sports, or stamp collecting — should start thinking about using digital platform to describe itself. Any new magazine or journal needs to be called a digital platform to succeed.
2. Less Redundancy, Less Bureaucracy
By thinking digital-first, the effort that goes into clarifying content and advertising across platforms and editions is eliminated. Focus is everything. I suppose that, in essence, is what ‘digital journalist’ means. From start to finish, content is produced with the platform in mind. Not that it changes what sort of content is created, but how it is done. No more tweaking, no more passing a story along to three different editors of three different editions. All of his eight points deal with streamlining. Focus and digital don’t have to be at odds with each other. Nothing beats a clear mission.
3. Content is King
Moving to a digital first strategy means better content. It can be hard to see amidst the news of the reduction in positions and the buzz factor of all things digital, but the key aspect of this strategy involves a renewed focus on real journalism. By focusing on how and when you publish content and restructuring reporting teams so that they aren’t in “silos” means better journalism. It’s refreshing that a mention of new apps and “interactive” comes second to the focus on better content. The Financial Times isn’t just creating a video channel to enhance their digital presence. Anyone can do that. This move is about a new strategy and way of thinking about their work to enhance the working business model of journalism. When you say digital first, you have to mean it.
What do you think about the Financial Times’ moving from a “news business to a networked business”? Is it just a slick way to announce layoffs?