A Spot-on Blueprint for Digital Transformation - From Where?

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Most of us aren't in school anymore, but that doesn't mean we can't learn from a top-flight professor. Mike Reilly, digital production bureau director at Arizona State's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, penned a column for the site MediaShift a couple months back about their website redesign titled 7 Tips for Building a Mobile-First, Multi-Platform Newsroom.

With BIMS on my mind—our Business Information & Media Summit starts Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale—I harked back to last year's event for quotes that put Reilly's transformation through a B2B prism.

1. Assemble a small team to run the project but be transparent. They formed a 5-person, web-redesign committee, but here's the key. "...the group didn't work in isolation," Reilly wrote. Digital production worked on design concepts, news directors were invited to weekly meetings. "Always be open about changes as you're implementing them."

"You're never going to stop transforming. How your vision ends may not be the way [it starts], but that's fine. As long as you're still making progress, then you're okay... Don't protect your ideas—open them up for criticism; you'll get more buy-in and better participation."

Brent Reilly, president, Randall-Reilly

2. Play to your strengths but explore what your news outlet isn't doing digitally (their emphasis). "...we wanted to better showcase the Cronkite News broadcast on the site and expand our data visualizations," Reilly wrote.

"Mae West [used to tell audiences]: 'I was once pure as snow, but I drifted.' We feel the same way as publishers. We came out of the content side—8 years ago were mailing once a month. Then we made a life-changing decision to go to twice a month. Then we went to a daily 4 years ago. But we're still really careful about what we put out there every day."

Tom Gale, president, Gale Media

3. Remember that mobile design is only a small part of a larger mobile strategy. In rebuilding the site, the Cronkite School went with responsive web design rather than an app, "so it could work anywhere." Reilly wrote. "And we continue to build our mobile strategy beyond just the design, looking at various ways we can package public affairs stories that appeal to the on-the-go audience."

novak3"We've gone from single-channel world to an omni-channel world...63% of the people who had a bad mobile experience believe that organization will not meet their expectations. ...Elements of your digital experience need to meet the expectations of your customers."

Kevin Novak, founder and CEO, 2040 Digital

4. Create a digital workflow, and newsroom geography matters. Daily news meetings became multi-platform discussions. Stories were planned in a visual frame and were less set in stone. The geography Reilly talks about was having departments on different floors. For smaller publishers, the equivalent might be virtual workers. BVR's daily, seven-minute 9:53 a.m. meeting for all employees—onsite and virtual—serves as one unifying answer.

Arundel_Patricia"We want to bring tools to people to make their work easier—to come together in ways they haven't done before. ...Digital companies must think differently; they don't have traditional silos. In collaboration, we need to find people with common aspirations and projects."

Patricia Arundel, head of media & high tech for Google for Work

5. Make analytics a routine in your newsroom (my emphasis). Reilly requires all of his students to write weekly analytics reports that they share with the directors. "We measure web traffic and social media, and use many tools to analyze how our social media accounts are affecting traffic." They use Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, YouTube and Twitter analytics, and Chartbeat to measure web traffic in real time. "Social media analytics tools such as MozTweepsmap and Tweriod give our students and faculty insight into followers and their behaviors... This insight gives us new perspectives when we enter news meeting discussions with our students."

"You have to understand the habits of your consumers. What are they doing at what times of day? Where can we reach you on what device? It's getting into the rhythm of your user."

David Kieselstein, CEO, Penton

6. Write a primer and establish guidelines as you go.

"Give your promoters a simpler message to make word of mouth easier. They don't want all the jargon." Matt Bailey, founder of SiteLogic, author and consultant

7. Innovate ... and keep innovating. They created interactive videos using the Touchcast iPad app and built data visualizations in Tableau Public, Google Chartbuilder and Datawrapper. "We built interactive quizzes, designed dozens of static infographics and built maps in Google Fusion Tables and CartoDB," Reilly wrote. "Some projects turned out better than others. But with each graphic or experiment, we learned something." SIPA members CredSpark (quizzes) and edCirrus (games) can help here.

"You're never too old to learn."

There's still time to register for BIMS and hear more spot-on quotes this year! We have a great list of attendees.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…