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A look inside the digital world of the media industry

A look inside the digital world of the media industry

How media companies are making the transition to digital

Broadcast TV online and social media

When it comes to television, most people often want to watch their favourite shows online at a time that's convenient for them, said Matt Costain, digital platforms and services at SBS, who managers the On Demand online service. But watching TV online should be the same seamless experience as watching it straight from a TV, he said.

“We've started dipping our toes into the world of server side ad insertion. That improves the overall viewer experience by reducing buffering and so on when we play advertising, particularly in the middle of the video content.”

When paying video ads, the player pauses the video on a TV show to then fetch and play the ad, and then returns to the TV show. This is a fairly disjointed experience, Costain said.

“The calls are all made on the server side, then those ads are stitched into the video so it appears as a continuous piece of video. It removes the need for the player to go off and seek it from another destination.

“Users are not used to buffering when watching normal broadcast TV so we try to replicate that experience on the digital platforms.”

With the bulk of SBS viewers coming through social media channels, the broadcaster also integrates its social media feeds with its broadcast TV shows. Eurovision, one of SBS's largest televised annual events, is an example of this.

“Last year and the year before there was a SBS Eurovision hashtag that encouraged social media users and anyone watching the show to use. We would accept photos and comments that we pulled from the various social media channels, moderate them and push to display on the TV. So the audience could see their online interactions on TV, which was great. This was really well received,” Costain said.

News Corp Australia is also leveraging social media to add to its own content. Having acquired Storyful, which verifies if user generated content on social media is correct and credible, News Corp was able to identify, surface and re-distribute video footage of the November 2015 Paris attacks that people had taken on scene and uploaded to their social media accounts.

Storyful was able to validate whether the footage was real or fake and manage the rights of the content in terms of attributing the owner, or acquiring full rights so that it may be redistributed.

“Their job is to monitor all of the social media content that is being uploaded to all of the channels – they have hundreds of feeds that come in. They monitor that, they look for the stories that are trending," said Bowen.

"What is unique is they verify the content for its authenticity and credibility."

Supporting content producers

At the very core of media businesses are the content producers themselves – the journalists, the video editors, the photographers, or anyone who creates content. This means they need to be equipped with the right tools to do their jobs effectively.

At Bauer, the editorial teams each have their own visual dashboard, which is displayed on a wide screen placed in their section of the office space. It displays real time reporting of pageviews, trending articles, and so on, as well as how they are performing against their set targets. It was built using the Periscope dashboarding tool,” Rumble said.

Rumble also holds a twice a week analytics training session for editorial staff, so that they can not only get more familiar on how to use Google Analytics and Chartbeat, but also how to obtain more meaningful information from these tools so they can better shape their content strategy, or see which topics or types or content are working or not working with their audiences.

By putting the tools into content producers hands and providing the basic training and support to properly utilise them, it empowers them to take more initiative and make better decisions in their everyday work environment, Rumble said.

“Of course my team does deep dive analysis when we are asked to, but we are very strong on giving our editorial teams the tools they need to understand their audiences better and make changes and understand the impact of those changes.

“In my team, we are a bunch of data geeks. And even though we love content and media, we are definitely not the experts in that space. We are all about upskilling our editorial teams to do this stuff themselves because they are the people in the position to get the insights and do something with them,” Rumble said.

For Paul Russell, director of technology at Yahoo7, he understands the work of the editorial staff and the importance of meeting deadlines, especially as breaking news online first can pull a lot of traffic to the site. This means designing and building on a content management system that makes the journalists' task of uploading and publishing content as simple as possible.

“We are currently at the early stages of building our next generation of the editing interface in our content management system to optimise the work that our journalists do, to gather information from various sources as fast as they can so they can get breaking news stories up as fast as possible.

“It is optimising that workflow and pulling in information they would ordinarily have to go to multiple places to get. A lot of editorial is also video-led, so being able to pull a video into a text article in a really efficient way is a key part of the editorial process, so we can optimise how they do that,” he said.

News Corp Australia's innovation culture
Every quarter, News Corp holds a company wide 54-hour hackathon, where proof of concepts and prototypes are turned into real products and services that are pushed out into the market.

Having helped procure and set up an ideation platform to support the hackathon program that started in 2014, Alex Freeman, who is now CEO of Cloud.Co Asia, said the idea was to cultivate a culture of collaboration.

“Two developers progressively would realise they would need to make friends with somebody in user experience and marketing to have any chance of winning,” he said.

“It was initially just run in the digital business but then progressively scaled out into other parts of the business. The first one had 200 participants. It has extended into relationships with Fishburners and some of the startup incubators.

“We had people coming in from the startup incubators, from Twitter, Facebook and Google, to come and give talks on various things like how to use the Twitter API, etc. So it was really a good opportunity for people to effectively use it as a form of career development just by learning how to do these things.”

Freeman also helped build a voting system, which filtered down the projects that would be considered developing into live products and services.

“Every person gets 10 votes to use for each campaign, so if you see an idea you really like, you give all of your 10 votes to. These things run over a few weeks, so next week you might see another idea you like and take 7 votes back and allocate them to the other idea."

Before starting the next hackathon, an idea has to have made some progress, or be seen in the company to have further developed and gone live. This is important to keeping the momentum up and motivates participants because they can see their ideas really will be followed through, Freeman said.

“We are trying to create a culture of innovation at News Corp, and we think that's important because from that comes the conditions for creativity and collaboration between different groups. I think that all organisations need to be making time in employees remits for innovation and experimentation, as well as the big heavy lifting on transformation,” Bowen added.

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