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Unlocking The Newsroom Potential

Newsrooms are being tasked with serving the web and mobile first, and broadcast second. Although regularly-scheduled TV newscasts still matter, viewers are expecting their local broadcasters to have telecast available online as soon as news breaks.

Over the past few years, newsrooms have accommodated dramatic changes to viewership habits. Newsrooms around the world, whether large or small, are in a period of digital transformation. No matter what region of the world one is in, newsrooms are expected to not only produce traditional scheduled linear newscasts, but also go live to Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, and YouTube. The digitization of content and new digital communication technologies have significantly reshaped the media landscape. Organizations in the news industry have restructured their processes and workflows to optimize digital delivery and efficiently reach out to their audience in the digital marketplace. Today, news production also requires live, mobile micro-channels and video-on-demand (VoD) for broadcaster websites and mobile apps, and syndication to major news portals. Audience engagement is becoming an increasingly important metric, and newsrooms are moving their focus from growing reach to enriching the relationship with the audience.

The traditional newsroom computer system (NRCS) was seldom used (other than for the linear newscast), giving way to a production asset management (PAM) platform and file-based video switching to going live on a single story or multiple stories on a specific trending topic, while also using VoD segments of the microcast to publish, with extended play, content for more in-depth coverage. This required social media platform monitoring and searches on related topics within the media asset management (MAM) and online content management systems (CMS) to address multiplatform 24×7 newsroom requirements.

As newsrooms and other news production facilities adapt to the way audiences consume content, they are now looking for scalable, customizable solutions that help them efficiently gather and manage it, as well as distribute it wherever it needs to go. From the move to more virtualized production and use of social media channels to the rise in user generated content (UGC), the ability to deliver breaking news demands a fast, efficient transcoding workflow and reliable automation to handle updates from the newsroom computer system (NRCS).

Accelerating speed-to-air
As news organizations settle into life on file-based IP workflows, their next quantum leap is on the horizon. It is the cloud – the same cloud that is already beckoning their media asset management, ingest, and playout operations. By leveraging the cloud’s media processing and storage capabilities, newsrooms can have greater production elasticity and scalability to ramp up or scale back as productivity demands. And cloud platforms make content contribution and remote collaboration easier, especially from mobile devices, while putting newsrooms closer to social media, OTT services, and the other online destinations they increasingly feed.

While top newsroom vendors are building out their platforms with the cloud in mind, they recognize that broadcasters would not make the leap without assurances that their internet access will be sufficiently robust and reliable, and that their valuable assets will be secure from internet threats. Despite these challenges, newsrooms will likely be enticed by smart cloud processing, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and cognitive services (like facial and voice recognition) that will make it easier for them to mine the media gems their newscasts require.

Deep search and social media relevance
Manufacturers are enabling newsrooms to move quickly and handle a broader range of IP content and tasks. This includes browser-based search and access to a deep, indexed library of content, locally and across the group, while extending newsroom resources and workflows to field reporters. The cloud is also essential to aggregating and leveraging user-generated content in a way that makes newscasts more relevant, engaging, and personalized for viewers.

Today’s new consumers view news from dozens, if not hundreds of online sites, smartphones, tablets, TVs, laptops, and other mobile devices. This often requires mixing standard video with non-standard video formats in their native orientation and aspect ratio into the final product. If a broadcast news organization is not actively publishing its branded content to leading social media and web platforms, they could be dead in a matter of months. This is because the consumer will look elsewhere for another news supplier that does provide the news they want on their preferred platforms.

However, transitioning to new capabilities in cloud-based environments takes time and agility. It is not realistic to expect TV news teams to completely up-end their complex workflows, and jump into the deep end with an all-new cloud or virtualized-based workflows. The key is to allow them to migrate to virtualization and cloud configurations gradually, while maintaining their familiar workflow experience.

Also, it is unrealistic to have a one size fits all mentality about newsroom workflows since customers have unique preferences and want to work in different ways. For example, some larger entities might have sufficient staff, equipment, and networking resources to control and manage their own local and/or cloud newsroom, while a start-up with a small team that often works remotely might want to have a newsroom in the cloud that is managed for them.

Newsroom workflow, UI, and monetization
The challenge remains unaddressed of not just simplifying the workflow, but also managing the many UIs and interconnects it takes to address all applications. Many believe the NRCS should really be the system of record for a newsroom; after all, it is the place where planning and stories are crafted. But NRCS systems are increasingly hampered by the limitations of the MOS standard and how it was traditionally implemented. Enhancements to MOS integration and additional traffic between the NRCS, PAM (and MAM), coupled with powerful business logic (to allow the system to create and manage different versions of stories for targeted end-platforms) would allow journalists to truly repurpose content without having to duplicate their effort.

Improved MOS interaction between the PAM and NRCS will go a long way toward making this a reality, so that metadata can flow back and forth automatically rather than via manual processes as is often the case today. These improvements will have real implications to efficiency, both from a commercial and time perspective — both critically important to news organizations. That said, one can quickly see why so many broadcasters want to reinvent the platform of choice, and its associated workflow, to address today’s requirement for breaking live, scheduled live, mobile micro-channel playout, and VoD publishing. Complicating this further, stories are required to be told differently depending on the platform destination, targeted audience, and the desired level of interactive engagement.

Monetizing all of these workflows and destinations is also challenging. Closing the business cycle between traditional traffic and billing systems, supply-side platforms (SSP) and server-side dynamic ad insertion (SSDAI) must also be tightly coupled with production systems. Metadata management becomes paramount throughout the production chain starting from the camera through production and delivery such that the content has all of the necessary unique ID and information for downstream systems to make intelligent decisions for discovery and targeting.

Story level monitoring of what the viewer likes on multiple platforms allows broadcasters not only to focus their editorial output on the market(s) they wish to address, but allows them to genuinely address the tricky issue of monetizing and assigning cost to their operations, bridging the gap between the content creation systems and the financial systems in live news. Therefore, it is paramount that news organizations and departments seek out and identify broadcast vendors that have the necessary solutions, vision, and roadmap to address these expectations.

Moving forward
The broadcast news landscape is going through incredible changes, leaving newsrooms to figure out the best way to keep up and stay competitive. Manufacturers are focused on providing news solutions that do two important things – bring the newsroom to the field so reporters can capture and report from anywhere, and create compelling content that engages audiences on every platform with contributions from a wide variety of sources.

Futuristic capabilities, such as AI and cognitive services, have the potential to enrich the news product and further streamline the news production process. But this intensive processing requires accelerated, scalable computer power that is best found in the cloud. To do this, premises would require a massive server farm to perform AI and cognitive processes on huge datasets. There is also a need to teach machines what we want them to do, such as identifying specific individuals, voices, locations, foreign languages, and other aspects of media in large databases. Newsrooms will inevitably migrate to the cloud because of its many operational benefits. But there still are security concerns. The cloud holds the key to unlocking today’s newsroom potential.

Journalists want to work in one place. Federated search across connected systems (the PAM, NRCS, MAM, and others) would allow a reporter or producer to work in one place but access content and metadata across the system seamlessly (or as seamless as an internet connection would allow). The move from large applications to web-based technologies will make this simpler, but better communications across systems with standard formats would allow better interaction without costly project customization.

News is a key application for the manufacturers and broadcasters as new ways are being developed to streamline the process of creating and delivering content that meets viewers on their terms and keeps them coming back for more. It is imperative to understand what the market needs.

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