What is the Future of News Production?
Wed 09, 12 2020
Chief Technology Officer & Co-Founder
To answer this question, we need first to look at where we come from. What Dalet has done in the last ten years is to provide a very distinct approach to news production by combining the Newsroom Computer System and Media Production into a single platform. The result is one system – essentially an NRCS with a Media Asset Management core – that provides end to end workflows from Ingest to Production and Playout. It is built on a story-centric approach that allows for easy content sharing and re-purposing. A unified interface gives the reporter and the producer a comprehensive set of tools to access and transform the objects managed by the system: scripts, media pieces, wires, feeds, rundowns…
Today, we see a proliferation of digital-only news channels and fierce competition across the board. To compete, news operators must lower their total cost of ownership (TCO). They also must have digital-first workflows. Today, many news operations prepare digital content at the end of the workflow. Content is prepped for TV before other platforms. But now, news has to be everywhere at any time on all screens with the content adapted to what the viewer wants simultaneously. We cannot accomplish this with rundown-centric workflows.
The old way of shooting news, with a full camera and reporter crew in the field, is gone. Media is expected to be delivered in near real-time with editing and storytelling done on any device from any location. The same goes for developing storylines. There are multiple contributors and thus multiple storylines. They need ways to collaborate and share content beyond the confines of the newsroom.
Audience habits have changed too. They want frequent updates on stories with rich graphics and relevant context that help paint the full picture.
The future newsroom needs to be able to deal with more news sources and have a far greater control over editorial and media sources to prevent the spreading of fake news. They need tools to assist and give timely, contextual recommendations on content use.
So, where is this going?
Current news production systems still heavily rely on physical equipment and interfaces with hardware. While Dalet is a software company, the end-to-end solution includes integrations with many other components.
The IT revolution of the last 20 years has been about the digitization of data and content and the virtualization of applications and infrastructure. The future of news production will be the virtualization of the newsroom. What does that mean? It means that the newsroom is going to become that virtual space, accessible from any device or location, where journalists and producers collaborate in the production of content. The newsroom is no longer a physical room but a digitized platform that allows content professionals that may or may not be working together to produce stories and media that will be distributed in a variety of ways.
This is not completely new – a reporter that works in the field today to cover the elections can send their content over the internet and can interact with the systems hosted at the station to produce and post their contributions. Some newsroom functions are already accessible from outside the newsroom. But this notion of a virtual newsroom will bring this experience and content production work practices to a completely new level.
We need to invent how media professionals work together in a virtualized environment
The keywords of that approach are Collaboration and Mobility. The objective is to provide operational and business flexibility that will allow a distributed workforce to adapt to the fast-changing expectations of the audience. To achieve those goals, are innovative user tools with modern interfaces – that will be the visible part, the applications that the members of that virtual newsroom will use from wherever they are. These systems will be deployed on public, private clouds or hybrid environments to power agile backends and will rely on AI-powered automation to take care of technical and non-creative steps.
At Dalet, we have been working on the next-generation of our Unified News Operations solution that features the NRCS, news production system, media asset management core, all wrapped around a collaborative, digital-first workflow. The brand-new digital editorial and editing tools enable resources to collaborate in a virtualized environment with access to the assets and modern capabilities that enable storytelling across all platforms from a single source. The cross-collaboration enriches storytelling, with many perspectives, angles and formats to deliver it in. All of the activity is well-managed through a centralized dashboard that simplifies monitoring of resources, assets and stories in progress. This is 360-storytelling: a new story-centric approach that enables teams to collaborate together at the story level.
The virtualized environment leverages cloud, enabling new levels of mobility and service including the extensive use of AI to better manage and utilize millions of assets. Agile SaaS models mean shorter release cycles and transparent upgrades that ensure operators have the very latest capabilities. Combined with the increased usability, operators will be able to lower their TCO.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the need for media organizations and especially news outlets to be more flexible and allow a distributed workforce to continue to be productive and deliver the content expected by the audience, even if they could not be in the same room. This crisis is dramatically accelerating the transformation I am illustrating in this article.
During these last few months, we have helped many of our customers adapt to the new conditions and adopt different work practices to cope with the challenges of lockdowns and social distancing. But it is time now to embrace this approach in a more systematic way: build the platforms and invent the new applications that will allow media organizations to positively transform their business and work practices for the long term. Not just to address the recent crisis, but explore new work models, and deal with the challenges of an industry that sees rapidly changing news media consumption habits.
Let’s talk about Mobility and Collaboration
These are key aspects of the virtual newsroom of the future. Mobility means that all functions can be accessible from anywhere with web-based interfaces and mobile devices: wires, planning, script editing, audio and video editing, playout and publication. The virtual newsroom is also a collaborative space: whether you are planning, editing the stories of the day or preparing a show’s schedule, everything can be worked on by people from the same team at the same time. And, whether you are working from a train, a coffee shop or home, you have all the newsroom capabilities on all your devices.
Automation and AI
The complexity of producing and distributing news in the modern world is not decreasing but increasing. The news cycle has become a 24x7 cycle for everyone in the news business – not just the 24-hour news channels – and that means being present on so many platforms at the same time. The technical process of producing and distributing news – whether live playout or multiplatform publishing – requires thousands of small steps. Fortunately, a lot of those can be automated so that reporters and producers spend time on creative tasks and writing compelling stories.
As it is already today, the virtual newsroom is built on the foundation of a Media Asset Management system and is powered by a workflow engine – at the end it is both a creative space and a set of organizational tools that orchestrate human tasks as well as automated technical tasks to optimize news production and distribution.
AI technology can contribute to that revolution: today there is a constant flow of information that comes in – wires, press briefings, recordings from reporters in the field and even user generated content (UGC). Organizations need resources to process, index and catalogue – this can be done automatically, at least in part.
Technology is increasingly improving how to perform these tasks. But more importantly, the data produced by this processing and analysis need to be part of the virtual newsroom platform, the exploitation of this data needs to be part of workflows that effectively help the journalists and other people in the newsrooms to perform their job. For instance, if a journalist works on a political story, finding the recording of a statement or a relevant picture should be automated for the most part.
As we move into the virtualized news world, these automated processes can be enhanced with an abundance of data captured and analyzed in a much more efficient manner. Cloud-based newsrooms allow operators to leverage the power of AI to automate indexing of content and recommend relevant content for story development. AI, as it matures, will also help with fake news detection. This type of agility will expand exponentially as AI models learn and accelerate automation workflows.
Collaboration Drives the Future
Cloud technologies and SaaS business models enable full experimentation of workflows and allow organizations to benchmark potential ROI and TCO. This changes the way news organizations can onboard enterprise solutions, reducing the need to invest in physical infrastructure and minimizing risks before overhauling their business strategy.
In this environment, vendors need to pivot and refocus internal efforts. They need to employ customer success managers and environment managers to partner with their customers more closely. Combined with a solid DevOps approach, vendors are in a unique position to provide the agility and adaptability that 360-storytelling news operation requires.
A virtualized newsroom with its ecosystem of tools will change the way journalists work to produce compelling stories: this is what newsmakers and vendors can achieve together.
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