Seguire l'istinto non basta nel giornalismo online, bisogna essere ossessionati dai dati, dice il capo dello sviluppo digitale di Bbc, Dmitry Shishkin: la sfida più ardua per gli editori è portare pubblico al proprio sito


Non si può fare giornalismo online “seguendo l’istinto” e basta, servono “innovazione” e capacità di “cambiare velocemente”. Le decisioni di un editore o una redazione, “specialmente quelle che hanno meno risorse”, devono “basarsi sui dati”. A scriverlo sul suo profilo Linkedin è Dmitry Shishkin, digital development editor della Bbc, il più grande e autorevole editore radiotelevisivo del Regno Unito, nonché uno tra i primi al mondo.

Dmitry Shishkin
Dmitry Shishkin – Development Editor, BBC World Service at BBC Global News

Nell’epoca in cui al paradigma “stampa-radio-televisione-web” si è aggiunta anche la categoria “mobile”, secondo Shishkin, la sfida più ardua per gli editori è quella di “portare la maggioranza del proprio pubblico digitale ad accedere direttamente al proprio sito”, senza passare da altri siti o social network.

Il “problema”, secondo Shishkin, è che sempre più spesso capita di sentire persone che, relativamente ad una notizia, dicono: “l’ho vista su Facebook”, “qualcuno l’ha condivisa con me su Linkedin”, “un amico me l’ha fatta vedere da un tweet”.

Come rispondere? Con “l’innovazione”, secondo Shishkin, tanto “editoriale” quanto “tecnica, che è ugualmente importante”. E con gli innumerevoli strumenti a disposizine come: grafici, gifs, Snapchat, Instagram, photo stories, brevi video, persino i video verticali, cartoons, emoji stories, infografiche interattive.

In particolare, secondo Shishkin, gli editori non devono agire “seguendo l’istinto”, ma dovrebbero essere “ossessionati dai dati” e dotarsi di redazioni “multidisciplinari, in grado di consigliare loro come curare l’edizione di al meglio”.

“I contenuti sono importanti”, secondo Shishkin, ma lo sono anche “Seo, social optimisation e headline-testing”, a maggior ragione per quelle redazioni che abbiano “le forze per scrivere al massimo 10 cose al giorno”, perché “devono sapere qual è la più adatta”.

Come evidenzia il grafico qui sotto, per esempio, non è detto che news brevi siano sempre la soluzione migliore, specie quando i dati dimostrano che i propri lettori ne vorrebbero di più lunghe perchè disposti a leggerle.

La Bbc, dal canto suo, che ha da poco lanciato una nuova pagina molto social e interattiva come Bbc Africa live page, ci sta provando organizzando delle hackathon sul posto, ovvero delle specie di maratone, di contest tra esperti del web e gente comune, che possano condividere idee e, chissà, suggerire quella vincente per realizzare un “prodotto editoriale africano per africani”.


3 key components of digital transformation of newsrooms

By Dmitry Shishkin – This post is based in the keynote speech I gave at Discop conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Nov 5, 2015)

The News industry is going through significant change. Clever people often refer to the “printing press-radio-TV-online” change paradigm. Another one, ‘mobile’, is being added as you read these lines. Three billion people are currently online, with another billion be added by 2020, most of those in the developing world and almost exclusively on mobile devices. The new age of interaction on social media platforms and more recently the surge of messaging applications keep adding to that growth while at the same time presenting very real risks too.

Media companies, publishers, content providers need to change. The leaders of the industry need to simultaneously change faster to be effective in showing the way.

Media businesses will increasingly need all-rounded digital specialists – digital change managers or digital strategists, whichever you want to call them – to ensure the smooth running of the newsroom. Generalists, or people with a skill set which gives them a thorough understanding of editorial content, technical expertise and the ability to get things done are crucial to an organisation’s success.

Consider this: you have a brilliant editor who is lacking an appreciation for the product cycle or a product manager with little regard for editorial, or, perhaps, your project manager does not understand the viewpoints of other stakeholders – your equation falls to pieces.

This is what I would call a “digital triangle prism” – if one of the components is missing, things could go very wrong. While the pace of external change is significant, it’s never been more important to keep your focus and priorities on what you do, why you do it and how you do it.

The three concepts that I believe to be the most important to succeed in running digital news operation are:

We are all digital journalists now

Broadcasters with websites used to have two separate newsrooms in the past, driving costs, ensuring inefficiencies, guarantying duplication. Now most of them have already merged into one combined newsroom, although other processes – commissioning, news gathering and post-production – are still done very much separately. Journalists working in the field still largely hold their allegiances, and prioritise them above others – meaning that, for example, good video material gathered for TV could sit in the editing suite for hours before broadcasting, and only then makes it online. Upskilling is another big area to improve on.

With the launch of BBC Africa Live page in April, BBC have proposed a different approach to our people in the field – feed to digital platforms as you gather, irrespective of what platform you are on an assignment for. There are few easy tips for newsgatherers to remember about the needs of web output, but that is a topic for another post.

All decisions we make are based on data

I am obsessed by data, and I would like editors to be obsessed by it too. Over the last couple of years you might have seen a trend of major digital news publishers, including the BBC, to start setting up multi-disciplinary, agile, audience engagement teams advising editors on how to edit better. No algorithm will ever change editorial decisions of course, but the less we use ‘gut feeling’ in the process, the better. It is particularly important for news organisations with limited resources – if you are only able to produce 10 pieces of content a day, you really ought to know which ones to go for.

Be it SEO, social optimisation, headline-testing or bigger pieces of work we call ‘deep dives’ – all those activities are as important as the creation of the content itself.

(Thus, a graph below clearly shows an illogical paradox where a newsroom keeps producing shorter items (red line), where pages views clearly indicate that audience wants longer ones (blue line) – a clear takeaway here, write fewer of the former and more of the latter).

Innovation is the underlying principle

In the world that keeps changing, brand loyalty is a fleeting concept. With proliferation of news sources, the rise of social-powered aggregators, it’s clear that most news providers you will find it harder and harder to get the majority of their digital audience go directly to their platform. Users are more likely to consume the provided content off platform, selecting from dozens of competing sources. Trouble is – they are not likely to care where great content came from – “I saw it on Facebook”, “Someone shared something on LinkedIn”, “a friend showed me a tweet”.Content matters, but interesting treatment and packaging of content matter too. It used to be text, then text + pics, then a text + pics + video.

Now we are talking graphs, gifs, Snapchat and Instagram one-photo stories, much shorter videos, even vertical video. Cartoons, emoji stories, interactive charts. Why not?
Try it, measure it, try again. If it works, great; if not, also good – you’ve learned something. It is impossible to work with digital media and not to be fascinated by the total flexibility of it all.

Try it, measure it, try again. If it works, great; if not, also good – you’ve learned something. It is impossible to work with digital media and not to be fascinated by the total flexibility of it all.

That’s editorial innovation. Technical innovation is equally important. Hence BBC’s recent hackathon experience in Africa. Going to Nairobi and Cape Town, where we organised hack events in February and April, we did not quite know what to expect – after all it was BBC’s first international venture into that field. Having gone through roughly 30 ideas in two cities, I am thrilled we took two of them to the stage where live products were launched. Yes, it’s a trial. Yes, we may not continue, but we made it happen – African products for African audiences. In 2016 I am intending to build on those experiences, but that’s another story.