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Desk-Net – The World Tour

ONA 15

Ever wondered what editorial management software can do for your newsroom?  The friendly folk at Desk-Net are keen to show you what it can do, and how to get the most out of it.

You can find Desk-Net around the world wherever the leading lights of publishing get together to swap notes on the future of media and newsroom management.


WAN IndiaNext up on the Desk-Net world tour is WAN-IFRA India 2015 (2-4 Sept) where publishers from across South East Asia come together for the Conference and Expo to talk about tools and strategies.


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That’s followed by  ONA 15 in Los Angeles (24-26 Sept).  The Online News Association’s 2015 Conference & Awards Banquet is the focal point for digital journalists building the publishing platforms of tomorrow.


ExpoThen a little closer to Desk-Net’s home in Hamburg is the WAN-IFRA World Publishing Expo 2015 (5-7 Oct).

Whatever corner of the world suits you best come talk to the Desk-Nettistas about managing the newsflows of today, and about the new features Desk-Net is introducing to better manage the newsflows of tomorrow.


What would an 11 year old make of your newsroom?

capital of children news

I’ve been in plenty of newsrooms with journalists behaving like 11 year olds, but never had the pleasure of sharing a newsroom full of 11 year olds behaving like journalists.

That’s precisely what is happening in Denmark right now at the Journalism for Children programme at the Capital of Children facility in Billund, Denmark (the home of Lego). It’s a summer camp with a difference.

The kids get to role-play, research, interview, and develop stories for different platforms. The idea is to include online meetings with other groups, internships at DR Ultra (the Danish children’s television channel) and Kids’ News (a weekly newspaper for children from Berlingske Media) and to give the children mentoring experience with journalism students from the University of Southern Denmark.

“This is an educational program for children who dream of being journalists, are curious about the society surrounding them and are passionate about telling stories for both children and adults,” says Mette Højborg, CEO of the Capital of Children Office. ”

Which adds up to a worthy project to broaden the children’s experience and introduce the concept of journalism to a younger audience. For me, however, the most interesting aspect is not at all about teaching 11 year olds to doorstep politicians or ‘pap’ celebrities. As Aslak Gottlieb, director of studies observes;

“We’re not interested in seeing how far and how quickly children adopt the habits and workflows of adult journalists,” says. “We’re interested in seeing what the children themselves develop after they’re introduced to the basics of journalism: ways of telling stories, choice of sources and angle, use of digital platform and such.”

I’m with Aslak. It seems to me to be a fantastic project where the most interesting thing is not seeing 11 year olds become journalists.  Instead it’s all about seeing how an age group that’s normally ignored by publishers goes about prioritising and telling their stories. I look forward to the results which, incidentally, you can follow on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #journalistspire.

Harnessing technology for ‘good’ journalism; it’s still all about people.

image courtesy of Sofiaperesoa

Thought leaders point to the importance of technology platforms for newsrooms, but the underlying message is that it all still comes down to people management.

Emily Bell (@emilybell), Director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, and previously head of digital at The Guardian recently gave a speech saying that media should be using technology to provide better journalism.


Emily Bell

Her principal point was that; “For the first time in 200 years news publishers are not in control of how news is created and distributed” and that with the rise of social media they are now “ a much smaller part of a bigger ecosystem.” Bell went on to note that newsroom workflow is now breaking down into three parts. The breaking news feed has become mobile alerts, the daily publishing output now appears as the social media presence, and “websites are ‘effectively becoming the archive.”

Most of us newsroom dwellers started out with paper as the main news outlet. Unless you’re reading this at your desk in the NY Times or The Guardian you are probably in a newsroom that still works to the beat of a print deadline drum. You still have a daily meeting the time for which was fixed in the years before social media existed. You probably discussed lead stories, but did you honestly plan how they would play out on social media throughout the day?

Bell’s recent speech seems to focus on the social media platforms and their power in breaking news. She herself worked at The Guardian as totally reinvented itself for a digital world. Bell, of all people, knows that the stories don’t appear on social media by magic; it’s all about workflow and people management. In January 2015 she gave the Hugh Cudlipp lecture in which she observed that; “The ‘social media team’ is no longer the group of people bullying you to tweet your story, but now key to the operation of how and what you report.”

As social media has become the main stage for breaking news, so the way social media is handled has become more important, and with it more complex. As Emily Bell puts it;

“Today, the ‘new newsroom’ has optimisation desks, to make stories work better on social media, data scientists who analyse the information about story performance to tell journalists how to write headlines, produce photographs and report stories which will be ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ more than others. It has aggregation desks, which scour the web to find news that ordinary people have posted for a wider audience. It has audience insight desks that work on how to get more people to spend longer reading more journalism. And it has data desks, which take the newly available sources of information in vast quantities and use the latest mining tools and techniques to clean, interpret and visualise information in new ways.”

So social media isn’t just about pasting a link. It requires thoughtful optimisation and, unless you have a newsroom full of super-beings capable of doing everything unaided that means that a story will need to benefit from the talents of a number of staff members. Which ups the ante when it comes to newsroom organisation and scheduling.

Of course the ‘new newsroom’ Bell describes in the present tense isn’t the ‘today’ that most of us are looking at right now.  Most newsrooms are doing well if they manage to programme social media output at all, let alone run it past the ‘optimisation desk’.

That day will hopefully come, and when it does so its success or failure will not be about technology, but about smoothly we get different people with different talents to combine their skills throughout the day.

Starting over; Helsingin Sanomat caused a huge buzz when it created a web TV channel from scratch. So why is it doing it all over again?


When Samuli Leivonniemi, news editor for HSTV took to the stage at Desknet Editorial Days he started with an image of a middle aged man looking slightly out of place on the roaring flight deck of a US aircraft carrier. The man was Kalle Koponon, a print journalist from Helsingin Sanomat who had taught himself to be a freelance photographer then reinvented himself all over again as a videographer. Samuli’s point was not just that Kalle Koponon produced some excellent videos of unusual subjects, but that Koponon, and Helsingin Sanomat (HS) had both had to go through some tough transitions in order to keep up – and then do it all over again to get a step ahead.



Samuli Leivonniemi

Samuli Leivonniemi

In 2012 HS bit the bullet and built a fully equipped TV studio. It started to produce a 30 minute long news broadcast of a quality to rival the national broadcaster. Brilliant. Yet by 2014 that was cut to five minutes and HS is now building a completely new studio. Why?

“What we learnt is that you mustn’t do Web TV the way you do linear TV” explains Samuli. “When the TV people moved in we hoped they would be working on online videos for us, and they did. But only at the end of the day when all the other video work was done and that rate of production was too slow to satisfy online needs. So we reported anyway straight away with or without video.
The video team was so focussed on producing the bulletin that they only gave us video at six o’clock which meant that we had good quality TV but too late. We had the video but nobody watching it. So we had to look for a balance and part of that was that you have to be fast. In the end we settled on a quality standard at the lower end of the scale but with much more rapid production.”

HS produces a full schedule of Web TV programming; “We have six regular talk shows – football, fashion, politics, the in-depth interview, plus a talk show about domestic politics, and news satire. Then we have a daily output of anywhere from five to twenty news clips, mostly self made, some from reuters, and a daily news broadcast for channel four plus daily weather forecast clips.”HS TV

With all of that to manage it’s little wonder that Samuli finds himself speaking at an event about newsroom management software. The task of running a full Web TV channel is undoubtedly daunting, but Samuli is in no doubt that it represents the future. “Our own analytics show that video views for HS videos have tripled over the past year. We’re now aiming for one million video views per week and we’re not far off – we’ll reach that goal before the end of this year.” So what did HS learn from the process of creating a TV channel not once, but twice?
Samuli Leivonniemi’s ten tips for Web TV;

1) Don’t publish bad quality,

2) Fine tune your processes,

3) Train your people

4) Don’t be afraid to share content

5) Never send two teams to cover the same event

6) Videos are expensive so reuse videos when you can

7) Teach your audience to watch videos

8) Don’t do talking heads unless you have to

9) Build video presence in social media

And to round off the top ten Samuli gave us the wisdom of Kalle, the journalist who reinvented himself in parallel with his newspaper from print to video;

10) “Really the trick is about making videos that people will want to talk about when they get together around the coffee machine or the water cooler.”


editorial days small

7 potential pitfalls on the path to digital transformation

Dr Dietmar Schantin

“Every company is unique but we have worked with publishers from A (Austria) to Z (New Zealand) and we find the challenges for newsroom transformation are remarkably similar. We find the same preoccupations – the customer focus, the digital focus, and in particular how to become digitally focused while retaining the print product as a platform that drives sales.”
Dr Dietmar Schantin, founder of the Institute for Media Strategies gave us the benefit of ten years in media strategy at the recent Desk-Net Editorial Days event. Here are his the pitfalls that plague publishers managing newsroom change.
“All of these are interrelated. One domino falls and they all fall, but let’s start with;

1) An ‘atomistic’ view
The first mistake is that when you confront people with a complex task they are overwhelmed and try to filter out the complexity. Typically they do that by focussing on just one aspect so we often hear the cry ‘we need a new newsroom, we need a new building, a new CMS….’ whatever. In that process of staring at the single element they lose the overview of what we are trying to achieve. Time to stand back and asses.

2) No clear and consistent goals.
‘Vision’ is seen as commendable but as the phrase goes – ‘if you have visions then go see a doctor’.
All too often ‘visions’ have more to do with marketing slogans than attainable goals and that only adds to an already complex problem.

I remember the Nottingham Evening News [in the UK] coming to us and saying “we want to be the place where Nottingham communicates”. An admirable sentiment. But what does that mean exactly for the newsroom? We responded by approaching all of the editorial departments with a 40 question survey and the overwhelming issue that arose was a lack of clarity about where they were going.
Most publishers are aware of the need to transform, but there is not enough thought given to where that leads. The result is confusion for the people who work there. Typically the direct result of that unclear outlook is;

3) Insufficient project resources.

It’s easy to see when equipment is not up to the job, but when it comes to available human resources it is more complex question that all too often gets a simplistic solution.

When we talk transformation there is a 90 per cent chance that we will hear the phrase ‘ah but we have someone who could manage this project’. Except, of course, that this individual already has a full time job to do.
The next level up from that approach is to think that all that’s required is to hire a project manager. Just by way of comparison the Daily Telegraph [UK] found it took sixteen months for a dedicated staff of seven people to implement their transformed newsroom.

The inevitable results of under-resourcing are frustration and staff burn out.

4) Bolting things together
Too many projects are cobbled together, often relying on existing structures and inserting a digital element in the hope that this will work. In the process the existing structures go unquestioned. We see plenty of examples where staff are working from 6.30 in the morning but there is an editorial conference at 9 purely due to the ongoing legacy of print.

True transformation means realigning the entire production process.

Georgies am 10.06.15-285) Inadequate technologies and tools

If the mobile telecom contract is too expensive to offer smartphones to all staff, but you expect them to shoot and file video stories then the result will be frustration.

Don’t give people hammers if what they need are screwdrivers.
6) The wrong people in the wrong places

Closely related to number 5) is the problem of the human factor.

Transformation has to be both a management project and a grass roots staff movement but there is a common tendency to redefine the multimedia newsroom and then hand it over to the editor in chief of many years who secretly sees online as the enemy.

We know many young online editors hired as part of a transformation who end up leaving three months later not because of the job itself but because they are oppressed by an obsolete culture. That doesn’t mean you have to expel the old guard – if they were excellent journalists before then they still are, but what we can’t do is to cobble together new job descriptions to better fit existing personnel.

Which brings us to…

7) Insufficient people development.

People development is not a luxury. Training, education, and counselling is essential. Setting up a training program at X euros a head multiplied by 200 staff seems like a daunting cost but it is nothing compared to buying a printing press and newsroom transformation is a far more radical move than that.
Once you get people on board most of them will want to learn but you can’t just hope for that – we have to make it happen.
Small companies tend to be more flexible, faster, and more easily motivated but when it comes to transformation it doesn’t matter if we are talking about six people or six hundred – if a single managing editor doesn’t really want to see the change happen then it just won’t work.”

editorial days small


Dr Dietmar Schantin has worked for the last ten years transforming 15 newsrooms around the world for such shining lights as Telegraph Media Group, Ringier Media Group, Archant Group, Associated News Media, Axel Springer, Styria Media Group, the Hindustan Times and New Zealand Media and Entertainment.

Looking for better journalism? Plan your newsroom like a cookie factory.

Image Evan-Amos

“Journalism isn’t like a cookie factory!” If I got a euro for all the times I heard that from an editor at a Dutch newsroom… I would have enough money to start a cookie factory.
Of course, there is some truth to this argument. Media don’t bake the exact same assortment of cookies every day, like a factory does. A newsroom doesn’t just produce the same 12 flavours of content. Nevertheless there is a lot that each and every newsroom could learn from a cookie factory. One of those things is the value of planning and logistics.

Before the factory can start baking a cookie, it has to make sure all the ingredients are present, and both machines and staff are ready.

Just as a media company gets its content from a variety of sources, the factory gets its ingredients from various suppliers. Various suppliers means varying delivery times. And that is not the only thing the factory has to take into account. Maintenance, quality testing, sometimes baking whole batches all over again, transportation – all those things and more have to be carefully planned to make sure the factory can bake cookies of a consistent quality and deliver them on time to the shops.

“Great”, I hear you say, “but you’re overlooking the fact that not all journalism can be planned”. You are absolutely right. Not all journalism can be planned. But most journalism can be planned; short- and longform journalism, press conferences, sport events, town hall meetings – all of that can be foreseen in advance. As can those lengthy pieces that bring depth to a topic like the financial situation of Greece. Sure, we couldn’t know the exact date of publication. But from January 1st of this year we already knew that a piece like that was great to have lying around. The cookie factory doesn’t know exactly when summer will start, but they do know that the fruity flavours will sell way better when it does.


Paul Vereijken

Paul Vereijken

When a newsroom realizes this and commits itself to planning its content with tools like Desk-Net, great things will happen. The quality of the produced content will increase.
By planning, I really do mean planning. If a reporter knows that a court will return its verdict on an important case five weeks from now, the reporter already plans that in his own agenda – of course. But that’s only the first step, there’s also the process of editorial planning. Using an editorial planning process means an editor at the internet desk gets a heads-up and knows that he has to build a timeline to accompany the news article on the day of the verdict. Instead of rushing into this hours before – or even after – the article gets published, the internet desk now has five weeks (!) to build this timeline.


Chances are that within those five weeks nothing new will pop-up on this court case and that the internet desk will have a quiet moment to build the timeline.
Importantly planning your content like that doesn’t kill creativity or that sense of urgency that every medium wants to show through its content. It actually helps it. Because planning all the things you can plan gives you peace of mind and therefore more time to think about all of things you couldn’t plan.

Guest author Paul Vereijken (@paulvereijken) worked in various positions at Eindhovens Dagblad (Dutch regional newspaper). In his role as a Digital News Manager he selected Desk-Net and implemented it together with Fleur Besters and other colleagues. Today he is a New Business Consultant at De Persgroep (publisher of Eindhovens Dagblad).

New version out: Social media icons, story list mailings, performance

A new version of Desk-Net (#74) containing minor improvements has just been released.

Social media icons: Desk-Net already provided standard icons for text, pictures, etc. Now the original social media icons (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) can be selected.


Before the icons may be used, the account admin must first add them to the company’s format list (located in Admin > Formats).

Improvements to story list mailings: The story list on the Dashboard page can be easily sent to multiple recipients.

New: Mailings contain the appropriate formats and assigned employees (e.g. “Text:Rooney”).

Performance: After migrating to a new database server last winter, we have now been upgraded to a more powerful application server as well.

New alert: Desk-Net changes the publication date when other respective data is modified (e.g. the event date).

A new alert notification has been implemented. When the publication date is automatically changed, an alert notification pops up while saving.


In the coming weeks and months, we will be working to finalize the mobile version of Desk-Net.

Included in the development process are improvements to the entry field and other pages, providing you with the same familiar Desk-Net experience on mobile devices as on the desktop version.

We hope these new features will make working with Desk-Net easier and more enjoyable. We welcome your feedback at

– The Desk-Net Team


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