When Mette Bugge talked to Girl Geek Dinners Oslo on how to make a story Faceball (see this blogpost) it was also to present Aftenposten’s «Digital Spearheads»-project, launched to «increase reading and engagement by empowering our reporters» and nominated for INMA2015 awards, category "best idea to grow digital audience or engagement".
She was presenting in her capacity as one of the «spearheads», or digital ambassadors if you like. The job of such an ambassador was to be an ambassador and motivator for digital development , and the «spearhead group» was made up of more or less one reporter from each department in the newspaper.
Crucial to the success of this project, Aftenposten-journalist Hanne Mellingsæter told the annual conference of Norwegian Online New Association (NONA) last May, was that the journalists in each department could identify with «their» digital ambassador.
The project was introduced like this in the nomination text for the INMA 2015 awards:
«Our challenge: How do we educate and empower our reporters, so they can make more visual, interesting, stickier and better digital journalism? How do we create a culture that encourages out of the box-thinking and an experimental approach? And how do we make sure that better digital storytelling results in more people using Aftenposten’s products more often - and spend more time on each visit?
«Historically, we have tried various approaches in order to increase the digital competence and build a truly digital culture in our newsroom. Honestly, most of them with limited success.
«Solution: This time we decided to do it differently by establishing a group of “digital spearheads”. We picked one reporter from each department who were asked to experiment, learn and share by using new tools, and making and presenting our content in new ways.
«The "spearheads" should be both front-runners and provide support for the other reporters in the department. This group meets every week to discuss challenges and methodology. From the beginning, the idea has been to spread the techniques and tools that we see have an impact on reading and engagement.» Read the full nomination text here.
The days of taking «the early adopter approach to digital transformation», by bringing in early adopters to engineer digital transformation and perhaps train the rest of the organisation, seems – luckily – to be long gone. In this day and age it takes the concerted commitment of the entire organisation.
Now as to to what extent that really is happening, I’m uncertain. I’ve heard of at least one other news organisation where the initial result of setting all the «most digitally skilled» to train those not so skilled or inclined was to stifle innovation, so all stories of success in this respect is heartening.
Key effects of the «Digital Spearhead» project per May 20015:
- Increased digital skills: massive increase in editorial staff mastering various digital tools and systems, resulting in better articles and more effective production
- Building a digital culture: increased adaptability, higher motivation and a more widespread eagerness to improve oneself
- Improved reading time on selected articles
- Better Google-ranking
- Improved click-through-rate
- More shares in social media on selected articles.