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Newspapers Should Ditch the Traditional Newsroom

A common theme I continue to hear over and over again after attending newspaper industry conferences is that one of the biggest challenges facing newspapers today is the unwillingness of journalists and sales people to work together.

There’s a crossroads coming up in the newsroom. Billions of dollars in revenue depends on whether sales and editorial can operate in a cohesive work environment. It’s predicted that by 2015 Native Advertising ad spend will be upwards of $15 billion. Native advertising is the convergence of sales and editorial and the success of this new product can only happen with total cooperation.

It seems like the BuzzFeed and these other new media companies have this native content thing figured out, but what about the day-to-day operations in the traditional newsroom?

The key to solving this challenge could be as simple as a little office reorganization. The open office workplace trend started with tech startups and is quickly spreading to companies that have been around for decades and I believe something newspapers should consider adopting. There are pros and cons to this, but I’m going to focus on how the pros can reshape the culture of a newspaper.

When a significant divide exists in the workplace, it’s often caused by a lack of empathy. In a fast moving environment built around high pressure deadlines, it’s natural for people to get wrapped up with their own jobs and priorities and forget other people in the organization have the same crazy workload.

Selling advertising space at a newspaper is not an easy job. Product overload, competition from new media companies, digital, Google AdWords, etc. all make a newspaper sales rep’s job much harder than it’s been in the past.

Now let’s hop over to the content perspective. A journalist’s job is hard too. The constant stress, deadlines, and sporadic schedules make this a very high risk, high reward position. The newspaper would not exist if there weren’t dedicated passionate writers to take on this task.

Having an open environment invites collaboration and fosters empathy.

Putting a journalist next to a sales person that spends 95% of their day getting rejected is powerful. That same sales person will then listen when a journalist prepares to go interview the family of a shooting victim.

At the end of the day, the relationship between sales people and editorial staff must be symbiotic. A newspaper is a business, and advertising dollars are imperative to the survival of the publication. On the flip side, the product is a daily artistic masterpiece and without a talented and hardworking editorial team sales would have a much tougher time pushing ad space.

This isn’t just for sales people and journalists by the way, this could be anyone at the company. Circulation, digital managers, IT, etc. There’s also something to be said about managers, directors, and editors sitting in that open environment with the troops. It creates a feeling of camaraderie and overall makes the work place a more honest and comfortable place to work if everyone is on the same page.

Do you have an open office environment at your newsroom? If so, I want to hear from you for the episode of Broadsheet: The Business of News. Email me your thoughts at [email protected]

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