Thursday, November 02, 2006

Text of Craig Dubow's Information Center memo

From: A message from Craig Dubow
Sent: Thursday, November 02, 2006 3:55 PM
Subject: Information Center

Dear co-workers:

I'd like to talk about a Gannett innovation called the Information Center. It's being launched now in some locations around the company, and plans are being made to broaden that rollout across Gannett.

What is it? The Information Center is a way to gather and disseminate news and information across all platforms, 24/7. The Information Center will let us gather the very local news and information that customers want, then distribute it when, where and how our customers seek it. It is the essence of our Vision and Mission and a key element of our Strategic Plan.

The Information Center, frankly, is the newsroom of the future. It will fulfill today's needs for a more flexible, broader-based approach to the information gathering process. And it will be platform agnostic: News and information will be delivered to the right media - be it newspapers, online, mobile, video or ones not yet invented - at the right time. Our customers will decide which they prefer.

Plans for the Information Center have been nurtured and developed in the Newspaper Division over the past several months. Pilot projects took place in 11 locations. Three - Des Moines, Sioux Falls and Brevard - were full scale implementations of an Information Center while other sites tested different aspects of information gathering such as crowd sourcing and multimedia.

What they found is remarkable: Breaking news on the Web and updating for the newspaper draws more people to both those media. Asking the community for help, gets it - and delivers the newspaper into the heart of community conversations once again. Rich and deep databases with local, local information gathered efficiently are central to the whole process. The changes impact all media, and the public has approved. Results include stronger newspapers, more popular Web sites and more opportunities to attract the customers advertisers want.

Editors who met at our headquarters in October were given the details of how to make it happen, and were asked to submit plans by December for converting their newsrooms. Sue Clark-Johnson and her team, including Jennifer Carroll, Michael Maness, moved mountains to make the Information Center concept real, test it and roll it out to editors in a matter of months. They deserve our gratitude.

There is much more, of course, to come as we make these changes. Linking advertising with this new effort is key and you will be hearing more about that in the coming weeks. Simply, appealing to more and different readers helps bring us more and different advertisers. A key facet of the Information Center is understanding our customers in ways we never have before - and that will help our advertisers reach the people they need.

Implementing the Center across Gannett quickly is essential. Our industry is changing in ways that create great opportunity for Gannett. Innovations such as the Information Center are one way we are meeting the challenge and implementing our strategic plan.

Essential to the success of our plan is your support. We will do a company-wide audiocast on the Information Center in mid-November to explain more about how it will work. You can read more about the Information Center right now at http://gannett.gci/infocenter.

Let me close by saying I truly believe the Information Center will transform our industry. I am proud Gannett is leading the way.

Thank you and keep in touch.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is an Information Center?
A. The Information Center is a new way of transforming the process of gathering and disseminating news and information. It is the evolution of the newsroom, focused on gathering the information our readers and viewers want using words, images and video and distributing it across multiple platforms: the daily newspaper, online, mobile, non-daily publications and any other media possible to meet our readers’ needs. Creating an Information Center means retooling the newsroom, expanding into multimedia, embracing community interaction, shifting resources and rethinking the way a community is covered. Gannett’s Newspaper Division, which has conducted a series of pilot programs to create and test the Information Center concept, organized the Center around seven key information gathering areas: digital; public service; community conversation; local; custom content; data; and multimedia. (More about each desk below). Information Centers can be tailored to fit the needs of the individual operations in each division.

Q. Why is Gannett making these changes?
A. Gannett adopted a Strategic Plan in early 2006 that called for the creation of the Information Center as a way to become more customer-centric and innovative in the way we gather and disseminate news and information. Gannett’s mission under the plan is to provide must-have news and information on demand across all media, ever mindful of our journalistic responsibilities.

Q. What is the purpose of the Information Center?
A. The Information Center will enable us to gather and disseminate multimedia news and information in a way more suited to the needs of our customers today. We will deliver the content our audiences want at any time, anywhere and to any device. As print newsrooms were geared to the scheduling demands of the daily newspaper, the Information Center will be geared to the 24/7 demands of our customers. We will provide more hyper-local information, public service coverage, more databases (restaurants, entertainment, schools, local sports, etc.), more interactive opportunities, more video and more breaking news than we ever have before. And we will deliver it on multiple platforms. The Information Center also is designed to make even better use of the exceptional resources we have and to reach more deeply into our communities. Reestablishing our role as the center of our communities is a major goal of the Information Center.

Q. Why is it called the Information Center and not the newsroom?
A. Increasingly, we are realizing that our customers are interested in much more than news from our products. While news remains our preeminent mission, other information – especially local information – is increasingly in demand. Calendars, recommendations, lifestyle topics as well as neighborhood level stories are all new elements that will have ongoing coverage across platforms. We are also embracing community interactivity in our sites with increased involvement. Changing the name acknowledges this additional responsibility and emphasizes that we are gathering news and information for websites, mobile devices and other products as well as for our daily newspapers.

Q. How does the Information Center work?
A. The Information Center works by focusing on gathering news and information in multiple media for rapid digital dissemination rather than solely building a newspaper every day. The key is redeploying our resources to gather, process and publish news and information on a multitude of platforms focused on community needs and involvement. Each of the primary jobs of the Information Center represents key information-generating areas important to the emerging media environment. It changes the structure of newsroom to unleash more expansive coverage.

For example: Formerly we would cover sports to fill a once-a-day sports section in print. Now we concentrate on getting game scores posted online and mobile as fast as possible, providing constantly updated staff blogs and inviting the community to discuss the latest sports news.

Each location would tailor the Information Center to fit its particular needs – larger sites would create “desks” or teams to do particular functions while smaller operations would be more likely to incorporate multiple functions into a smaller number of combination desks. But in either case, publishing becomes a 24/7 enterprise using multiple media across diverse digital and print platforms.

Q. Will the Information Center replace newsrooms at all of our properties?
A. The goal is for all Gannett properties to adopt the concept of the Information Center. Every newspaper in the Newspaper Division will be expected to fulfill the seven primary jobs outlined in the Information Center. Larger newspapers in the Division will create actual desks to accomplish these tasks while smaller papers will combine multiple jobs into various areas. For USA TODAY and our TV stations, the concept of the Information Center currently is being studied.

Q. Does that mean jobs will be changing?
A. Many jobs are transforming to allow for immediacy, multi-platform coverage and greater interaction with the community. People will be asked to perform many new and different functions than they are used to. Schedules are changing as the Information Center becomes a 24-hour operation. Some types of jobs, such as reporter and editor, will continue but the way they are done may change to focus on more local news. The role of the copy desk is shifting to reflect the audience expectation of continuous news coverage and strong headline writing needed on mobile devices, for example. Photographers are becoming videographers, reporting stories and creating new storytelling techniques through multimedia projects. Many of the changes will occur as needs arise during the rollout phase of the Information Center.

Q. Who decides what jobs change and what the Information Center will look like?
A. The overall framework and strategy is being set across Gannett in consultation with local editors, but of course the specific decisions to implement the strategy will be made locally based on the needs of the community and the desk positions that need to be filled. An in- depth study of the community’s needs is accomplished at the outset. Based on that study, a decision on how to structure the primary jobs will be made locally in consultation with the roll-out team at headquarters. Headquarters and other Gannett divisions also provide essential multimedia support – for example, our Broadcast and Digital divisions are providing essential video training and infrastructure support. In the Newspaper Division, the seven primary jobs will form the starting point.

Q. What are the seven primary jobs?
A. Public Service. Digital. Data. Community Conversation. Local. Custom Content. Multimedia.

Q. What is the goal of Public Service?
A. This area expands our very important First Amendment and watchdog functions. It encourages community participation at each step of the journalism process. Public Service coverage examines government issues, investigates wrongdoing, uses Freedom of Information standards and applies watchdog techniques. Journalists producing Public Service efforts connect all forms of electronic delivery, the print newspaper and reprinted summaries. Searchable databases, interactive elements and community engagement are frequent components of Public Service journalism. Crowd sourcing – the use of the community in developing information for investigatory journalism -- is part of this.

Q. What is the role of Digital?
A. The Digital nerve center accelerates the speed and volume of news and information posted on multiple digital and print platforms, creating a minute-by-minute local news report. These postings are generated by the news staff, citizen journalists or by people in the community. Database work has a central role in the Digital nerve center. The Digital nerve center provides a continuous stream of information leveraged across all platforms that exist now and new ones developed in the future. The Digital nerve center is the cornerstone of The Local Information Center.

Q. How is the collection of data expanding?
A. This key job involves acquiring and managing deep local information, including calendars, entertainment, school information etc. The Data initiative results in extensive and rich calendar listings and an increased amount of deep local information that readers find useful. The Data team is responsible for pushing the data gathered out to readers through various products and platforms.

Q. What is Community Conversation?
A. This desk extends the concept of the editorial page and manages staff commentary including editorials, blogs and columns. This desk also encourages community participation online, not only in structured forums and comment sections on stories but also in empowering readers to create their own forums for discussion of essential community issues.

Q. What is the Local desk?
A. This desk expands local coverage and reestablishes sports, business and feature reporting into hyper-local areas.

Q. What is Custom Content?
A. This desk specializes in finding ways to connect with identified target audiences and looks for efficiencies in repurposing content across all platforms.
Custom content adapts magazine-like approaches to lifestyle and trends issues and focuses on a growing number of magazines and weeklies targeted to specific audiences and topics such as health, entertainment, parenting and pets.

Q. What is Multimedia?
A. Multimedia uses video and audio, rich graphics and other visual presentation techniques across digital platforms. Graphics and photography staffers work together to produce visual content such as video, Flash presentation, audio and newly emerging electronic forms. Most Gannett newspaper sites have or will be trained in video and are posting video news stories online. Some sites have local newscasts.

Q. Did Gannett run pilot programs to test the Information Center concept?
A. The Newspaper Division created Information Centers at three sites – Des Moines, Brevard and Sioux Falls – and tested the various desks at eight other locations. They found enthusiastic acceptance of the concept among employees and appreciation by the public of the improved products – more local newspapers, more timely Web sites and more community involvement. This local audience appreciation was reflected directly in increasing page views on our Internet sites.

Q. How will the Information Center be implemented?
A. In the Newspaper Division, sites that are not already up and running will submit plans by December for switching to the Information Center with the change expected to be fully implemented by spring. The schedule is very aggressive but achievable based on our experience in test markets. Before submitting a plan, sites are expected to perform a thorough analysis of their community and their newsrooms to determine the best way to organize the Center. Other divisions are studying the Newspaper Division’s results.

Q. Will there be additional hiring done to fill the Information Center jobs?
A. The Information Center transforms, repurposes and refocuses the resources that exist now. Newspapers are training for new skills in multimedia, assessing needs for library science and archiving expertise and updating job descriptions. Many sites are assessing, updating and training to ensure everyone has the right tools and expertise to transform into Information Center employees.

Q. If I’m not sure I will fit into the new Information Center structure, to whom should I talk?
A. First, talk with your supervisor. Also, your Human Resources representative is knowledgeable about the Information Center changes and should be able to help you sort out the issues. Finally, find out about the process and what it means for your location as you’re considering your role in the Information Center. During the test process, many employees who expressed skepticism at the outset, were pleasantly surprised and eventually excited by the changes.

Q. What is the connection between the Information Center and advertising?
A. Concurrently with the creation of the Information Centers, advertising sales forces at each location will be getting training in how to make the most of the changes happening as a result of the Information Center. As we strengthen and grow our local products, there will be more opportunities to sell ads around these products and to find new advertisers. The Information Center is designed to make us more customer-centric – that is appeal to a broader base of customers. If we are bringing in more and happier readers, viewers and users, we will be able to make our advertisers happier. Through our Audience Aggregation project, we will be able to take the products produced by the Information Center and get better results for our advertisers.

Q. What is Audience Aggregation?
A. Audience Aggregation is a way to show the depth and breadth of our reach in our communities by combining the audience reach of our multiple publications – our daily newspapers, our non-daily publications, our Internet efforts and our mobile efforts. Our studies have shown we reach as many as 85% to 90% of the people in our community with our suite of products. We are now refining those studies to show the ways we reach different audiences within the communities. As a result, we are becoming able to show advertisers how our offerings can directly reach the audiences they want.

Q. How will sales people be able to find out more about these changes?
A. Training programs are being developed company wide to help sales associates and executives. In the next few months, programs will be rolled out that changes sales departments in much the same way as the newsrooms are changing.


Audience Aggregation — Creates new ways of working with customers to create results. Audience aggregation extends a unit’s footprint and the brand in the market by finding and filling gaps that are in market audiences. The major components that drive the model are local-local content, enhanced distribution, and selling the right product to local businesses with the right frequency. Audience target groups can be demographic and/or geographic.

Backpack Journalist — Similar to MoJo. Uses some combination of text, still photos, animated, graphics, video and audio for multimedia storytelling.

Community Conversation — Combines the voices of the newspaper and the voices of individuals in the community to establish a local dialogue.

Crowd Sourcing — Enlisting the community in investigative reporting by providing them with ways to interact with your Web site.

Customer-Centric — Not "1 size fits all." Customer-centrism means letting customers interact with you just the way they want.

Information Center — This is a company-wide initiative that changes the way news and information is gathered, packaged and distributed. The editorial side of Gannett daily newspapers is organized into seven primary job areas: digital, public service, community conversation, local, customer content, data and multimedia.

Local, Local — Extremely local reporting — down to the neighborhood level.

MoJo — Mobile journalist who carries digital cameras, MP3 recorders and wireless laptops. Mission: to find and tell stories that don't make it into the typical newspaper and to train members of the community to file directly to the Web site.

Multiple Platforms — Making content available to as many people as possible in as many practical ways as we can, including on the Internet, TV, radio, wireless and in newspapers.

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