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Not your grandma's newsroom management system

Let’s face it, we aren’t any better at predicting the future than we were back in 1962 when “The Jetsons” TV show was released. By Jetsons logic, I should have my own personal flying car, be taking regular trips to the moon and have a talking robot maid (to their credit though, they did get a couple predictions spot on like video chat). The takeaway? The only way to meet the needs of the future is to construct something so adaptable that it will adjust to any and all changes that come along.

This notion couldn’t be more true than for that of the news industry, an area that has been under constant evolution. So unless you’ve got a crystal ball tucked away somewhere, I'm placing my money on Superdesk, a future-proof newsroom management system.

Here’s how we are staying on top of the needs of digital newsrooms that have undergone a fundamental change in the way they operate. We just picked a few ‘here to stay’ trends that we view as foundational rather than a part of the ‘fluff’ trends that are going around.

Change is the new norm

This first trend is really less of a trend, and more of a survival technique. Newsrooms need to be ready to take risks. If adaptability and change are not norms in your organisation, they should be. For lack of a better phrase, it’s time to sink or swim.

The focus is on resources, processes and priorities, when all of those line up, it’s time to innovate and advance. In an article on NiemanLab, The Huffington Post’s Koda Wang, who oversees the company’s global expansion, states that “the idea of a fixed print format is long obsolete.” He is readily encouraging newspapers to stop thinking of themselves as newspapers and start fostering innovation from within. As a result, the mindset and technology in the newsroom need to change accordingly.

Ahem… Superdesk anybody?

Whether you are attracted by the open source nature of the Superdesk platform, the API-first development, the unparalleled user experience, or the contributions from a global network of industry experts, by using Superdesk you’re sure to get a glimpse at the new code base for journalism that’s future-proof and here to stay.

As a member of the organisation that develops Superdesk, it’s easy for me to tout the numerous benefits of using this sleek newsroom management platform, but it’s the fact that this truly is the most comprehensive, and thoughtfully designed system out there that makes this bragging ring true. Working for Sourcefabric or not, I wholeheartedly believe that Superdesk is the best option for newsrooms… but I do digress.

Putting the story in the driver’s seat

There was a trend (and arguably still is, albeit it dying a slow and painful death) of producing mass quantities of brief and “catchy” information, the junk food of news if you will. Some newsrooms reward their writers on the number of clicks on their articles, not on time actually spent reading the article. The tide is turning however and a new trend has emerged. Increasingly, readers are interested in more in-depth articles that contain quality content. Readers don’t just want to know what the news is, they want to understand how they should interpret it.

This demand from the readers translates into the need for newsrooms to focus on the story first. We see the tidal wave of sub-par content diminishing and editors focusing resources instead on fewer, quality pieces. And guess what? They even make for a higher number of clicks!

In an article I stumbled upon the other day, the author Lee Simpson spoke about his experience building a CMS for news organisations and made a statement that resonated with me: “it was obvious that a more flexible and robust tool was required to enable journalists to produce the kind of articles that were needed.”

Journalists should focus on the job they’re hired to do: writing engaging stories. Superdesk was built for journalists, by journalists and is story-driven throughout. Whether it be the distraction-free editing environment, the simple collaboration feature (collaborative editing and media curation), or the easy external content embed, the system is designed to serve the story above all. All these “features” make it possible for journalists to keep their focus on the story.

Gen-Y, Flexibility, API

What do we want? Everything. When do we want it? Now. ‘I don’t want an inflexible, closed system, I want one that allows me to easily remove repetitive and mundane work and lets me bring my new ideas to fruition quickly.’ So says the news industry techies that are quickly adopting the Generation Y mentality of instant gratification and on-demand satisfaction. These journo-Gen-Y’ers want an extensive range of tools for their people and they want them right away.

There is no “silver bullet” for fixing a newsroom. They need the flexibility to adopt whatever technologies are available that might help them stay competitive. So here it is, Superdesk is scalable, modular and transparent. It’s not only a tool made for everyone's newsroom, it's a tool that everyone can build their newsroom upon.

An essential ingredient to satisfying this trendy demand for flexibility is an API-first approach to newsroom management tools. APIs allow you to do a number of things easier such as create new products, support new devices, create partnerships and lower the cost of experimentation. Additionally, it lets people use your data and information to do cool things, in turn enabling external development and creativity. That’s why we created the Superdesk content API, a read-only RESTful API focused primarily on content delivery in its first version. And we don’t stop there: other specialised APIs will follow shortly such as APIs to manage news content, access semantics and handle real-time updates.

Investigative journalism as a luxury

In light of the unfortunate trend of “junk food journalism” and the ever-expanding presence of social media in the lives of journalists, the need for content verification has stepped to center stage. Back in the good ‘ol days, a journalist had much more time to work on a story, verify content, sources, etc. Now when news breaks it seems to be a race for first before accurate.

In-depth investigative journalism is being viewed as a luxury that many news organisations cannot afford. This latest trend is an unfortunate and avoidable one.

While verification is not the only road blocker to the resurgence in investigative journalism, it is certainly an important one. As it’s not really an option for newsrooms to simply decide to be the last to report on all breaking news, why don’t we provide journalists with better tools and solutions that aid in verification tasks?

The fact that Superdesk can extend beyond itself means that “the sky's the limit” when it comes to meeting these sorts of needs. For example, we have built a tool to quickly verify images, called “Verified Pixel”.

I can’t explain what Verified Pixel is better than one of the co-creators himself, so I won’t. Read in Doug’s words exactly what the tool does and why it matters. The gist of it is that it’s an extremely well-designed tool that makes verifying the authenticity of images quick and painless, or as Doug loves to say, “it is as easy as not verifying”.

The modular approach to Superdesk makes it easily extensible without requiring rewrites of the base code. This means that we can seamlessly add things like “Verified Pixel”, or Live Blog to Superdesk. You can read more about Superdesk’s applications in our blog post “Powered by Superdesk”.

Whether you’re one of the journo-Gen-Y’ers, a nostalgic resistor to change, or a curious onlooker, one thing we can all say for certain is that the future of news is uncertain. So why not use a system that was crafted specially to cater to that unpredictability?