Digital first and content playfulness

In 2011 the Guardian announced the adoption of their digital first strategy to reverse long-term declining print and advertising revenues and address competition from new entrants – hybrids of original news and aggregated content like BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post.

The Guardian first coined the term ‘digital first’, but other news organisations have also publicly set out their ‘digital first’ agendas, as they struggle with the same pressures and dilemmas.

There are a number of facets to digital first – but the strongest common themes are around multi-media and social media. Basically how do you help your audience to find, engage with and share your news content to give it as wide a reach and impact as possible?

Social media opportunities

The web signals a threat but also an opportunity – particularly the opportunity to distribute content and reach a wider audience through multiple social media channels. As the editor of the FT, Lionel Barber put it in an email to staff announcing their digital first strategy:

…we must recognise that the internet offers new avenues and platforms for the richer delivery and sharing of information. We are moving from a news business to a networked business.

Multi media is at the heart

Multi media content is at the heart of digital first news. As Mu Lin writes in his journalism blog, digital first represents

…an all-inclusive approach [to] content production. When planning a reporting project, we need to consider all forms of content: video, audio, article, photo, interactive features (data/map), etc. Get all these contents equally well produced, then push them through appropriate platforms.

Rethinking news

In writing about the announcement, journalism professor and Guardian contributor Jeff Jarvis states:

[Think of]…news as a collection of pieces of Lego that can be stacked into many shapes… [making] better use of the “cutting-room floor of journalism” strewn with facts, interviews, anecdotes, and insights that don’t make it into an article, all “missed opportunities to engage readers”.

Rethinking the role of the digital journalist

Digital first journalism expands the journalist’s role. The editor of the FT again:

…we need to become content editors rather than page editors. We must rethink how we publish our content, when and in what form, whether conventional news, blogs, video or social media.

Divisible content

Digital first journalism sounds a lot like content marketing’s ‘divisible content’ or ‘content leverage’ approach:

divisible content diagram

Divisible Content 101 © Column Five

Identify your message – Create your piece of content – Break it out into numerous micro assets  – Publish it out across various social media platforms.

Content re-imagination

Which for those of you who’ve read Handley and Chapman’s Content Rules also sounds a lot like their concept of content re-imagination.

reimagine content

Good content is intentionally reimagined at its inception for various platforms and formats.

Content playfulness

Content re-imagination, divisible content, digital first – all of these approaches really boil down to a sort of content playfulness – a more imaginative and more expansive approach to what often might otherwise be dry, complex or academic content. Like the monks with their mischievous mythical beasts in the Book of Kells, we need to use 21st century techniques to augment the text and illuminate the main messages.

In my next post I’ll explore how we’ve piloted a ‘content playfulness’ approach to our research and policy content at CIPD.





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