UK: Convergence is the answer?

In a recent post I picked up on an article an article in the Washington Post about the break-up of the relationships between newspaper and TV companies. Mindy McAdams, amongst others, had also picked up on this and offers a perspective with her typical clarity, and experience.

Many people, including me, had few or no hopes for the happy couple back in the days when the engagement announcements came out. We scratched our heads, thinking, “TV will help the newspapers get into this online thing? On what planet?” Another curious thought: “TV reporters will help the newspapers learn about video? I don’t think so!”

In her experience convergence, merging TV and newspapers, doesn’t work.

When you listen to the people in your newsroom, you might hear a lot of resistance to the idea of change. Some of that is simple fear, an act of trying to hide from what must be done. But some of it is absolutely spot-on — based on realities that are perfectly clear to people who live online. Some people in the newsroom really DO get it — they KNOW what’s going to work and what isn’t.

Do we have news executives who are smart enough to recognize those people and listen (this time) to what they are saying?

In the UK, it would appear that we don’t.

As part of the strategic desire to maximise impact, Mr Wood said one of the group’s goals was, during the next year, to move the Channel M news operation from its present home and into the MEN newsroom.

That’s from a Journalism.co.uk interview with Ian Wood, assistant editor of Manchester Evening News (MEN). The piece looks at the MEN’s ‘unique’ take on convergence.

“This is convergence with a purpose rather than doing it just because everyone else is doing it . . . my purpose is to make sure that the first people to benefit [from a story] are the others in our group. If that is going to be Channel M, MEN or online or weeklies that’s something we decide on a case-by-case basis,”

You could be mistaken for thinking that Wood’s take on convergence is a print preservation strategy:

“We should be excited by the new tools that are available but it’s important that we don’t forget all aspects of media. I don’t subscribe to the view that print is dead. Print is a vital component of the convergence strategy.”

But it seems that the principle here is to create a multi-media editorial hub where all mediums play a part in creating the story.

“It’s not about looking at the individual ways of interacting with people, it’s about looking at an entire audience. Once you consider it like this then the responsibility of the newsroom is to think ‘how do we serve, but also how do we manage, that audience’. What we want is for people to find everything they want within our group.

It seems like a positive move. Identify what you do as a brand not the individual mediums. But it’s convergence and there is more than a whiff of the failed efforts Mindy and others experienced to the approach to make me wonder.

It will be interesting to see if it works.

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