News commits to $60 million editorial upgrade in Australia

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News Limited will spend a reported $60 million to install a new cross-platform editorial system across its Australian print and digital publishing businesses.

A two-year rollout has been set for the ‘project streamline’ implementation of EidosMedia’s Méthode solution. However, chief executive Kim Williams says he will press for an earlier completion.

Williams – appointed from Foxtel at the end of last year – has picked up a project which has been under consideration since the revolutionary Italian-developed technology went live at the ‘Wall Street Journal’ in New York soon after its acquisition by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation in 2007.

While it has since been adopted by News’ ‘New York Post’, it was widely expected that News Limited would be Australia’s first Méthode site. Instead, the publisher was pipped by arch rival Fairfax Media for its Financial Review Group – which includes the ‘Australian Financial Review’ and ‘BRW’ – in 2010, during the tenancy of then FRG chief executive Michael Gill.

An EidosMedia team has worked steadily on the project since, with group chief executive Gabriella Franzini announcing the establishment of a new Sydney-based subsidiary last September, along with the appointment of former manroland executive Lodovico de Briganti as general manager.

In an email to staff, Williams describes the order as "the most significant and complex upgrade to our editorial technology in the company's history".

A single editorial system based on Méthode will beused by all newspapers across print and online.

"We'll be able to break news faster, from more places, and more easily watch stories develop. We'll be able to collaborate on stories, and easily share content," he says.

"For our business, the programme will mean one single content creation system. It will deliver a 'create once, publish many' capability, greatly reducing duplication of effort and improving speed to market as we publish across all our channels.

"It will eliminate many of the frustrations of the current systems that we all know only too well.”

In a report in the Media section of News Limited broadsheet ‘The Australian’, Simon Canning speculates that the upgrade will fundamentally change the way in which the group’s publications interact with social media.

He says the new platform will “feed relevant tweets and other social media updates directly to journalists as they draft stories, just like a wire service”. Twitter and Facebook streams will be piped to journalists’ screens, he says.

A News Limited spokesman had declined to comment on the specifics of the system, but Canning says the social media integration is unlikely to make the first stage of the Méthode roll out.

“Several newsrooms have screens constantly scrolling through Twitter feeds focusing on tweets about finance and politics, while some journalists also keep social media streams running on a second screen as they work on stories,” he says.

Méthode’s popularity with the financial publishing community has already seen it installed in the Australian office of WSJ publisher Dow Jones, and is reported to be using Tweetdeck software to keep abreast of Twitter commentary. Canning says the move paid dividends when NAB announced a rate cut first on Twitter.

Apart from the News Corporation sites, EidosMedia has Méthode clients in the UK, Europe, India – for financial daily ‘Mint’ and its website – and South Africa.

The ‘Financial Times’ and ‘Lloyds List’ use the system in the UK, while ‘Le Figaro’ and ‘Le Monde Magazine’ are among more than 30 print and online publications in France.

In North America, customers include the ‘Washington Post’ and the ‘Boston Globe’. The Boston daily launched a new (second) Méthde-based website a year ago, and has since been named for the Society for News Design’s top award. Its design enables page layouts to be tailored to the pixel size of the viewing device, from desktops to tablets and smartphones.

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Developed by a Milan-based company which included many former Unisys people, the new-generation EidosMedia system allows XML-based content to be published simultaneously through multiple channels using an object-orientated Versant database. A first adopter was the UK’s ‘Financial Times’, which placed an order in 2002 after an Atex project in which it was a partner was aborted. But even allowing for the design and implementation, it has taken a while for Méthode to gain momentum.

‘Le Figaro’ in Paris took the system for a non-integrated workflow, with HT Media – New Delhi publisher of the ‘Hindustan Times’ – using it for ‘Mint’ from early 2007.

In 2008, the ‘Seattle Times’ became the first US newspaper to pick up the system, followed by the ‘Wall Street Journal’. Michael Gill, who at one time worked for the ‘Financial Times’ in London, told GXpress at the time that he heard from a friend about the Méthode system in use there, and took the next available opportunity to check it out.

See GXpress May 2010 ‘Leadership role… Méthode at FRG’

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