How Nine's Ink platform delivers efficient workflow with lists and flags

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Lists are at the heart of Nine's Ink platform, which now brings together the 'daily miracle' of producing two print newspapers and four subscription-led websites.

Sydney-based head of Nine Publishing's editorial product and Ink editorial system Ben Woodhead says that while substantial, the newsroom team of more than 500 is only a fraction of similarly high-profile mastheads in the US. "Efficiency, coordination, and cooperation are key," he says in an INMA post.

Woodhead says journalists who produce Nine's capital city mastheads, The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, Brisbane Times, and WAtoday, meet that challenge every day. "At WAtoday, that means a reporter might file breaking news, update the homepage, and edit a colleague's copy in a single shift," he says.

"The national business editor, meanwhile, is tasked with planning pages for two print mastheads, maintaining the Business section's online presence and feeding each of the four Web sites' five daily homepage editions."

A similar situation arises at Nine's flagship national business daily, the Australian Financial Review, with a daily output of about 100 original stories. He says integrated workflows are critical in delivering its trusted business journalism across print and very high value subscription digital channels.

Woodhead says Nine - formerly Fairfax Media, and now brought together in a single Sydney location - built the Ink system to help mastheads deliver digital subscriptions growth while stabilising and sustaining multiple print editions. "Ink makes it easier to deliver digital content across multiple platforms," he says, "bringing together integrated print-digital planning, content creation, production, homepage editing, newsletters, video publishing, and machine learning in a single, consistent platform.

"Journalists move easily between tasks and roles thanks to an emphasis on intuitive design that requires little to no new learning. Ten minutes of training has production journalists, whose legacy is print, subbing newsletters alongside newspaper copy."

At the heart of Ink are discoverable newslists that allow the planning of print and digital channels to take place side-by-side, sometimes even in the same list. Lists are integrated with the masthead websites, Atex's CyberPage, and Adobe's InDesign, allowing editors to plan clear, curated hierarchies regardless of channel.

Colour-coded workflows and custom flags signal at a glance when a story is ready for a page, without the need for messaging. Digital and print editors drag content directly from the newslist to web, newspaper, or magazine pages.

Colour-coded workflows and custom flags let digital and print editors know when content is ready for them to work on.

Newslists support all story formats as well. Videos, live blogs, newsletters, and photo galleries can live equally in plans alongside standard and feature article formats. When it comes to getting the right content to our subscribers at the right time to maximise both audience and newsroom value, no story is left behind.

Nor is any channel, with a deliberate choice not to hive off print into an entirely separate team, as some organisations have done. Innovative print cut markers and the provision of print and digital word counts mean a columnist can confidently fit their words to a shape without leaving the authoring environment. Quality is consistent across channels, with highly visual editing ensuring both text and presentation are front of mind.

Woodhead says the results speak for themselves. "The migration of newsletter editing into Ink in 2019 reduced the time taken to write, edit, and produce The Age's and the Sydney Morning Herald's flagship morning newsletters by 60 per cent.

"Ink's syndicated video publishing tool reduced the time taken to prepare and publish AP video from as much as seven minutes to under one minute, while also aligning video workflows with text. The Herald saves more than a shift a week copy-fitting, thanks to Ink's integration with print.

"These are just some of the benefits."

He says that by working closely with the newsroom - hearing what journalists need, and ensuring all channels have an equal place in planning, editing, and production - Ink is driving new efficiencies and transparency for Nine's mastheads.

"For the product and technology teams that build and maintain Ink, this holds true to our mantra - every minute wasted in an inefficient platform is a minute that could be spent making journalism worth subscribing to."

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