Editorial Guidelines – Web Transition February 2007 Introduction
As part of our aim to build awareness of company strategy and the changes facing our editorial teams as a result of the growth of our internet activities, these Guidelines (agreed between the Company and the NUJ), summarise our plans and ambitions for the growth of our websites and products, as well as setting out the support that will be available to editorial staff in the shift from print to web working.
RBI aims to be the first choice online for its target audiences, winning the battle for attention by delivering compelling, superior online offerings. This is the same aim that we have always had for our print products – to be the first choice for readers. However, because the Internet is a very different medium from paper, supporting a far wider range of content types and activities, we cannot succeed by simply reproducing on our websites the type of content we run in our magazines. We need to: Deliver “traditional content” in a way that works on the web, using techniques such as tagging and linking to create a great user experience and ensure that our content is highly-ranked by search engines.
Create new online tools and services that exploit the inherent characteristics of the Internet and the latest trends in online behaviour. These will include products based on aggregating content from other sources as well as services based on “web 2.0”concepts, in which user-generated content is a key component. These new offerings will often include audio and video, exploiting the multimedia capabilities of the Net.
In many of our markets, our aspiration is to be a “Super Community”, that is the natural starting point on the Web for our community members whether their aim is to search, browse, research, share or simply catching up with the latest gossip. The new web 2.0, interactive tools are critical if we are going to create genuine online communities, in which the members feel a sense of belonging and ownership in the same way that readers have felt about our magazines.
The strengths we have built up in our magazine business – our brands, our magazine readerships and, critically, our high- quality editorial teams and the content they produce – give us some tremendous advantages over others competing with us for the online attention and loyalty of the same audiences. Our strategy will be based on exploiting these strengths, for example, by combining user-generated and “professional” content in smart, innovative ways. The talent, creativity and hard work of our editorial teams will remain the cornerstone of our success.
To convert our print successes to the web, we have to change the way we are organised and the way we work. Today, our editorial teams and processes are geared to produce great magazines. So far we have tweaked them and bolted extra bits on to enable these teams to create online content. To be successful in the future, we need to reorganise our teams and redesign our processes so that they are designed from the bottom up to deliver both great magazines and great websites.
Crucial to our success will be timely and thorough discussions with editorial teams at the earliest opportunity, to consider web plans, likely timescales, affect on roles, structures, priorities, the print title and all aspects of the web and print strategies (see Roles & Staffing).
In addition, it is the intention to ensure that ongoing communication and information will be made available via sources such as the RBI wiki, which will include information on best practice, technology terminology, current web projects, etc.
3. Roles/Structures/Resources Getting the right people in the right roles with the right resources and team structures is critical to our online success.
Although there may not be identical structures across all markets and some roles will inevitably change over time, some key roles already exist within the business or have been identified as being critical to the success of our websites. These include the following:
Other critical functions, either in separate roles or part of these key posts, will include Web Design and technical Web Management activities, particularly in a site start-up phase.
Some of these roles have existing job profiles and others are or will be created to help determine:
To ensure that appropriate and adequate resources are available, discussions will take place in each market with editorial teams with regard to requirements for new roles and any alteration of existing work methods or responsibilities. Where significant changes to roles are proposed, new job descriptions/profiles will be agreed with individuals and with the NUJ. Discussions will also focus on the use of new technology tools plus secondment arrangements, where applicable. Discussions will include clarity with regard to the interrelationships between web and print accountabilities and in particular how the web and print strategies will tie together. The impact of new roles and work methods will be reviewed and assessed on a regular basis within each market.
4. Staffing/Workload As far as possible, we aim to fill our new online roles from our existing editorial teams.
Whether or not we can do this in each case obviously depends on the nature of the role and the capabilities of individuals, but new opportunities will clearly be available as we develop more online products and services. Enthusiasm and commitment to learn new skills and apply existing skills in new ways will be critical, as will the company’s commitment to supply appropriate training, coaching and any other support needed to enable that journalist to be the best candidate for the job (see 5).
It is not envisaged that the creation of websites will result in journalists and production teams having to work extra hours to meet extra demands. Rather, we anticipate different ways of working (aided by appropriate training and resources – see 5 & 6), adjustments to existing workloads, as well as additional web roles in some cases. Where additional web responsibilities are taken on, existing responsibilities will be adjusted correspondingly.
Again, it is not anticipated that changes in work patterns will be needed, however with the increasing globalisation of some markets and with the 24-hour electronic culture, should any changes be sought, this would be with the agreement of individuals and the NUJ.
Training needs will inevitably evolve as we bring out new tools, as we learn more about what works and doesn’t on the internet and as new expertise is developed, therefore training requirements will be constantly reviewed to ensure that we are meeting the needs of individuals and the company.
Other opportunities for journalists to share best practice and experiences will be made available, such as web workshops and use of the RBI wiki.
RBI has always been committed to training its people to get the best from them. A number of web-specific programmes are already in use, but we are putting together a clear programme of training to give our editorial teams the skills they need to succeed online. The specific courses offered will change continually to keep up with changes in technology and online behaviour. Courses currently planned include a series aimed at all RBI journalists, to give a basic understanding of the Internet and online publishing, including how to write for the web, how to use the various tools available, and how to use the web to improve their performance as journalists.
There will also be specific training for people in new online roles, such as editors of community websites, community content managers and web designers, based on the job profiles for these new roles.
6. Technology Resources
In order to succeed online, we need to give our editorial teams the tools and technology they need to turn their ideas into reality. A detailed development project is currently underway to improve and extend the tools available to teams. Community website platform Our current community website platform, Core components 1.5, is too inflexible and too slow to develop. RBI’s Web Solutions Group is in the process of developing a new architecture for community websites, based on a web services approach, which should enable editorial teams combine in-house developed and bought-in software to give us the flexibility and speed of development that we need. Authoring tools
We need our journalists to create all content so that it is ready for the web, including providing a web headline, tagging the content and inserting appropriate links. We can’t expect them to do this unless we give them tools that make it easy for them to create this type of content. These tools will be developed and rolled out in stages, with appropriate training given as each new tool is delivered. They will include tools to suggest keywords, help locate related content and embed links in copy. Video/audio content tools Increasingly we will need to deliver audio and video content on our websites. RBI already has considerable internal resources to support this, including a TV studio. We have already delivered/identified new resources for podcasting, including high-quality digital audio recorders and online services for distributing podcasts.Other online tools and services
There is a very large and growing pool of powerful online tools and services, many free or cheap to use, that RBI journalists can use to improve their existing content or deliver new content. For example, RSS readers to help journalists track what is happening on their “beat”, wikis and other web 2.0 tools to help journalists with background research. We are in the process of creating a central list of these resources, hosted on the RBI wiki, to help editorial teams find the ones that can help them.
It is the intention to incorporate new roles within the existing agreed RBI Editorial Grading Scheme, by discussion between the company and the NUJ.