Agency of change¶
20 October 2016. Prague, Czech Republic & Sydney, Australia - Open-source newsroom platform Superdesk has gone live at Australia’s national news agency, powering reporting operations in bureaus across the country (and in New Zealand and London sites) and driving production at - and global content distribution to customers from - its central newsroom in Sydney.
Australian Associated Press (AAP), which has been in business for 81 years, is jointly majority-owned by News Corp Australia and Fairfax Media. AAP-generated content is the daily bread and butter for these rival enterprises. AAP output figures are impressive: 15,800 stories edited, 4200 created uniquely in-house, and reaching 11,432,500 people a week via its customers’ traditional and digital channels. This is a 24-hour news outfit operating at some scale.
So why did AAP choose Superdesk, and why open source? The person perhaps most directly responsible for this is AAP's Chief Technology Officer Brook Thomas. It was Thomas who sought out Sourcefabric, the Europe-based news media software makers behind Superdesk, and who worked with its leadership team to fashion a novel development partnership. Partnership is everything here: AAP’s developers worked with Sourcefabric’s to build Superdesk.
The system is modular, to allow for rapid extension to serve emergent channels and platforms, and the plan is for this partnership to tackle new features to a business-tuned roadmap. This isn’t the routine purchase of a software licence, it’s true AAP ownership of the tools it needs for its business. It takes some guts to commit to shouldering an Aussie-sized share of a huge project, but the rewards seem to be worth it.
And Thomas’s gut reaction to Superdesk in production? Foremost it is pride in his development team. "When we originally conceived of the partnership and the stakes involved, we knew it was really going to come down to the quality and character of those at the coalface," Thomas said.
"It's been a remarkable effort from all concerned and especially the AAP team who had the additional responsibility of learning and mastering an entirely new tech stack. They should take tremendous satisfaction in seeing their work come alive."
Sourcefabric, which is now working with other well-established news media partners on Superdesk projects, is convinced that this partnership model is a no-brainer for an industry struggling to keep ahead of technology and consumer trends. Many media houses have lost tens of millions of dollars on proprietary systems that were out of date at the time of purchase and unfit for purpose by the time they were commissioned, such is the pace of change in the sector.
Sava Tatić, managing director of Sourcefabric, said: “From the very beginning, together with our partners at AAP, we were convinced that Superdesk has the potential to become a new standard for the media industry.
“To see it roll out successfully to production in Australia is the first concrete proof of this idea.”
He may well be onto something. As a recent, if reluctant, Nobel laureate once put it, “The Times They Are a Changin’.” The Superdesk teams and partnerships expect The Tribunes, The Telegraphs, The Records, The Observers and many more soon to be changin’, too.
About AAP - Founded in 1935, AAP is the national news agency of Australia employing more than 600 people. It provides a comprehensive domestic and international news service to the Australian media, business sectors and beyond – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Virtually all of Australia's newspaper, broadcast and digital media subscribe to AAP news services. In addition to the news agency, AAP’s businesses include editorial production outsourcing service Pagemasters, media analysis company Media Research Group (MRG), and Medianet, Australia’s largest distributor of corporate and government press releases.
About Superdesk - Superdesk is a web-based content creation, production, distribution, publishing, curation and management platform in collaborative, open-source development at commercial news organisations from press to digital broadcasters.
About Sourcefabric - Sourcefabric is the European, open-source software development house behind Superdesk and other media technology products. It runs to Agile rhythms and, for the Superdesk project in particular, parachutes in its teams to work with each media client’s developers and, crucially, with the journalists who will use the tools. Sourcefabric has on call its own old-school, but tech-literate, former news writers, subs and production editors to work with developers to define tools and workflow. It is similarly equipped with the expertise and experience of editors, managing editors, group editors and others with an abiding interest in the business bottom line.
For interviews and further details, please write to Letizia Gambini, Sourcefabric Head of Communications.