In the Chinese zodiac, 2015 is the Year of the Sheep.
For us, it will be the Year of the Tablet.
We are entering a period of fabulous life-changing non-stop revolution.
More. More. More.
And more … of all that.
We had an exciting and provocative fall as the newsroom began understanding the tablet project and what it will mean for us. A lot of smart work has already been done by a lot of people, among them our department heads, members of the newsroom tablet committee and those who’ve been to Montreal to get an early look.
But the real work is just beginning. We have been deeply engaged with this project, but not to the extent and effort that will be required over the next nine months.
As a recap, here are the objectives we’re established for the project, in consultation with our journalists:
· We will develop and launch a tablet edition of the Star that is successful both journalistically and financially
· This edition will become a vehicle for sustainable long-term $ success by leading us to a digital audience, including people who do not currently read The Star
· The tablet edition will be consistent with The Star’s values, mission and general DNA, especially including the Atkinson Principles
· We will not abandon our existing audience – in fact, we will continue to provide value to “traditional” readers and advertisers through a high-quality printed Star as well as our online and mobile offerings
To talk about what’s in store for the next few months as we shift this project into gear and eventually into overdrive, we will be scheduling a Town Hall in the newsroom for this later this week. In advance of that, I’ll set out what’s been happening over the past couple of months and look ahead to the coming weeks.
The centre of this (mostly controlled) upheaval is our hiring of 60 or so new designers and journalists. They will bring an explosion of freshness our newsroom has never before seen in such a concentrated time. Please help get the word out to talented people – there are great opportunities at The Star.
We have already begun interviewing for two manager roles (production and design) and expect to have those positions filled by the end of this month. We will soon be advertising other tablet-specific jobs. Hiring will occur in waves through the first half of 2015.
The tablet will touch everyone. Virtually everyone’s job is going to change, mine included. Aside from the different functions and approaches that will flow from creating content for a new medium, many role assignments will need to change.
It is crucial we all understand and embrace this. Do not be surprised if you are assigned to do something different from your current role. And if you have a particular interest in a new role, tablet-specific or otherwise, please let us know.
With so many new people coming on stream, and so many new processes and workflows being introduced, proper training is obviously essential. Next week we begin training department heads on assigning and generating tablet-specific content. That training will then flow along to the journalists in each department.
We are sending more people to the LaPresse+ newsroom in the last two weeks of January to build “Edition 0” – our experimental first tablet edition, using material from the January 14 print edition. That sojourn will allow a few individuals to get early in-depth training on the production software we will be using. We will also see, and very quickly, where our content-gaps are.
In addition to getting all the necessary technical training, the new employees we hire will be imbued with our journalistic values, so that they fully understand what makes us The Star.
As we move through the development and production process in the coming months, please don’t hesitate to let us know if there is particular training you require to do your work.
Over the past month we have been projecting how the editorial work that creates the tablet edition will be done. This includes workflow, assignment and staff deployment models. Feedback from this has already triggered a number of helpful revisions.
Work on this is continuing, with Jonathan Kuehlein and JP Fozo taking on expanded new roles. Jonathan has been assigned to build a detailed workflow and production process that makes sense for our newsroom and takes into account our differences from La Presse. JP will focus on mastering the principles that drive story telling for the tablet. He will serve as a resource for us all.
A large driver in the success of this project will be ensuring that everyone knows what is going on. Transparency and sharing of information are essential.
To that end, we held a series of meetings through the fall to start what we hope will be a robust, ongoing conversation. The email you are reading, and this week’s Town Hall, are intended to further ramp up communication.
We are also planning smaller-scale town halls every few weeks to talk about what’s been happening, showcase accomplishments and breakthroughs, and introduce new members of the team as they arrive. These meetings are a chance to keep the dialogue flowing, but they are not the only avenue -- please talk to any of the managers involved in this project at any time if you have questions, comments and concerns.
We will assign a reporter to cover the tablet development and launch over the next nine months. The stories will help us all understand and learn together. Although this effort is first intended for internal use, we will publish some of the material – after all, the transformation of Canada’s largest daily paper is a story worth telling.
WHAT WE’RE ASKING FOR:
Our task is ambitious and daunting. As one senior La Presse manager said last month:
“If you think this project is big, guess what: it is 10 times bigger than you realize.”
I think that could be true. The closer I get to it, the more I understand it … and the bigger the job seems.
We need – and expect – a lot from our superb newsroom over the next year.
We need understanding and patience.
Skill and leadership.
Co-operation … with each other and with the project as a whole.
In anticipation of all of the above, THANK YOU.
This is going to be a fluid process. Adjustments and alterations will take place on the fly. Things we try will fail, and things we are doing will change, many times and in many ways. At no point will the plan be declared “done.” We all need to be agile and adaptive. We need everyone to keep talking, to us and to each other, about what is and isn’t working.
This is going to be the biggest and most challenging project most of us will encounter in our careers. Our goal should be to have it also become the most rewarding and fulfilling project we ever tackle.
The Year of the Tablet is here, and I could not be more excited about what lies ahead.