There are four key functions to the newsroom model
The producer function
In a news operation, this is the person ultimately responsible for leading all the content development efforts and getting high quality content produced and distributed on time and on budge. This is the person who is ultimately responsible for the audience numbers. If the ratings are down, the anchors don't get fired -- the producer does. This is the key leadership role in your owned media efforts. This person needs to understand what stories work, how to get them produced and distributed, and how to measure their success to inform the next stories.
This is the day-to-day leadership function in an owned media program. This person leads strategy development and manages the resources of the team to deliver the metrics goals you outlined in your strategy. This is the central point of contact and the ultimate decision maker on all things related to content for all your owned media properties.
The writer or reporter function
This person is the actual content creator. The writers produce stories assigned by the producer or assignment editor, going out and gather information and actually create content. Writers and reporters are usually teamed up with a video production specialist in TV news, but many today write, shoot, and edit video or take photos. Writers produce "omnichannel packages," or stories that can easily be used and distributed not just on TV but on websites, blogs, in email, in mobile apps, in social media, and other digital channels. Other specialists you might see in this category are involved with graphics production. These people make visual content to support the story such as a chart, graph, animation, or other visual content. But the core story-gathering and writing component will always be the most important piece of the puzzle. The actual production of the story is the easy part.
This function is responsible for actually producing content for your owned media properties. It is important that the person in this function is "wired" like a reporter. The key issue here is expertise. While a traditional PR person has deep subject matter expertise, they don't really "scale" very broadly. Your brand will need to create content about all kinds of different subjects that are relevant to your brand, but not necessarily "about" your brand. It is important to have someone in this role who can create a story quickly, and at a high level of quality with nothing but a subject and source, just like a real reporter. Depending on the size and scope of your operation and your budget, you could augment your content creator with specialists in video, graphics, and other specialty production functions.
The assignment editor function
This is the "eyes and ears" of a news operation. The assignment editor performs the "listening" function by monitoring trends, watching competitors, getting story leads, monitoring police band radio, and helping to inform the producer about developing situations and story opportunities.
This is the typical "social media manager" function at most companies. This function should be focused on monitoring in the context of finding opportunistic situations for your brand that your audience would find entertaining and engaging. They should be in close contact with your writer and your producer function to keep them informed about what is happening with your audience and in the world at large. This function should also be a good content creator who is focused on proactive, short-form content (like sharing and distributing what your content team is creating) and reactive, short-form content (like responding to content others are making about your brand). Depending on the needs of the brand, you may want to augment this role with the customer service component of your marketing efforts. These are two distinct and separate roles -- one is about building audience, and one is about customer service. Keep this in mind as you determine how to staff your team. You could also add specialists in data analysis, analytics reporting, and other similar roles to augment your assignment editor function.
The engineering function
In a news room, the engineering team is responsible for making sure all the technical facets of the operation are working the way they are supposed to. They buy the right technology and tools, they implement the technology and train the news team to use it and -- when necessary -- they build custom technology when an off-the-shelf solution isn't readily available.
This is your traditional in-house digital or web dev team or, in some cases, IT, depending on how your brand is structured. This is where you want someone with relatively deep expertise in a development role, typically a "front end" developer, to lead this function. Again, depending on the scope of your brand and your specific needs, you could augment this role with programmers, UI designers, and other technical or code oriented functions. This team's role is to support the rest of the team from a functional perspective.
It is important to note that, in my experience, it is incredibly difficult if not impossible to find any one person who can do all of this, and all of these roles are critical to making your owned media program work. That doesn't mean you have to hire more full time employees for this -- these functions could be covered by reorganizing existing resources. Also, you can always augment and scale these functions with outside partners. But, without having someone in your company responsible for and accountable to each of these four distinct areas, your owned media efforts will fail. Each role is critical. Someone has to own and implement strategy and understand the story that the audience metrics are telling about your success (or failure) to produce great content. Someone has to be responsible for actually producing content -- lots of different kinds at high quality levels. Someone has to be responsible for the listening and response function in your organization. And all of those people -- none of whom are going to be necessarily technical in nature -- are going to need technical support.
Taulbee Jackson is president of Raidious.
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