TV newsrooms create news content for much more than their newscasts these days. Social media, mobile and digital are just as important in reaching viewers as TV newscasts as the public increasingly relies on these distribution platforms. Even while vendors of newsroom computer systems race to transform their systems for use in news operations where the story, not the linear rundown, is the centerpiece of the workflow, a couple of companies are suggesting it’s too late, and it’s time for the NRCS to go the way of the IBM Selectric. Click here to access TVNewsCheck’s NAB 2017 Resource Guide listing of NRCS vendors and products or here to download it as a PDF.
Newsroom Systems Evolve, But Is It Too Late?
The newsroom computer system (NRCS), like the television newsroom itself, is undergoing a period of rapid evolution in an effort to remain relevant while viewers increasingly rely on a broader mix of media to remain up to date on the world around them.
“The idea of a broadcast newsroom went away a long time ago,” says Andy Wormser, director of product design and operations-Americas, at Associated Press/ENPS.
“The newsroom is now a content production house with multiple channels — one for TV, one may be for radio, another for social and yet another for digital.”
The overarching theme for newsroom computer systems at this year’s NAB Show (April 22-27) appears as if it will be the way in which vendors are responding to this reality.
Many will offer tools that put the story — not the linear newscast rundown — at the center of workflow, and at least a couple will recommend bypassing the NRCS altogether to pursue a new newsroom workflow, according to sources.
However, each in its own way will be grappling with the challenges journalists and news producers face to work smart and efficiently in an environment where their organization is expected to be always on and available to the public.
“Broadcasters now break news on social media, digital, web and mobile phones,” says Pam Gill, senior marketing manager for broadcast and media at Avid. “That creates a 24/7 news cycle.”
Adapting to this new environment is changing how journalists work, says Arnaud Elnecave, VP marketing, at Dalet, which will feature its Unified News Operations solution based on the Dalet Galaxy platform.
“Journalists, more and more, are becoming multimedia editors who create a story and craft it for distribution on different outlets,” he says.
Two types of specialists are emerging in the newsroom, Elnecave says: One devoted to content creation with editorial skills and experience focused on making a story “more interesting for the audience who views it”; and the other who specializes in distributing what audiences expect on every outlet.
“So, by cooperating they are better able to take that great piece of editorial and shape it in the way that the audience expects it on that outlet,” he says.
While the linear newscast remains the primary news-related revenue generator, it still is only one among many of the outlets that must be served in the newsroom.
This reality is largely responsible for driving the concept of the story-centric workflow, where video, audio, graphics, scripts, wire stories and other news resources reside on centralized storage and are accessed by reporters building stories for various outlets.
“We’ve adopted a topic-centric workflow,” says David Couto, marketing manager at Octopus Newsroom, which will show its Octopus 8 newsroom system at the NAB Show.
“This is a virtual container that brings together all the elements necessary to create, identify, modify and forward a unit of news that can be delivered through many different channels,” he says.
Avid’s Gill echoes Couto description of this new way of working in TV newsrooms. “It’s about aggregating information around a story and using it in a collective way, then distributing whichever angle to the appropriate delivery screen.”
At the show, Avid will highlight its Social Media Hub, an aggregation tool that’s part of its MediaCentralUX user experience, she said.
Although not an NRCS, Sony’s end-to-end production system Media Backbone Hive is capable of doing everything from ingest and workflow management to playout to air and social media, says Ali Amoli, director of the Sony products solution team.
(Note: Click here to access TVNewsCheck’s NAB 2017 Resource Guide listing of NRCS vendors and products.)
The system can do traditional play to air where it is connected to a newsroom computer, such as ENPS or iNews, accepting the rundowns via MOS command and sending back status to the NRCS via MOS as the rundown is executed.
“We also can publish to all of the social media services directly using our API integration,” Amoli adds.
While the number of distribution paths is growing, newsroom staffing isn’t.
“The biggest frustration we see when we go in and do a workflow audit of newsroom operations is the end users are being expected to do more than ever,” says Jenn Jarvis, Ross Video marketing product manager, Inception and Streamline.
Compounding the problem for broadcast newsrooms that haven’t yet adopted a story-centric workflow is that the tools journalists use for the linear broadcast, web and social media are different and separate from one another, she says.
“What that means is the journalist and the news producer must remember dozens of log-ins. They have to go to all these different tools and have different windows and tabs open,” Jarvis says.
A major push for Ross over the past year has been consolidating this disjointed workflow using its Inception NRCS, which the company will highlight at the NAB Show, she says.
Assignment editors and news producers “have their heads in the newsroom computer system all day long,” says AP/ENPS’s Wormser. At the same time, they are increasingly relying on apps “to do niche solution type things,” and accessing NewsWhip alerts, PR messages and emails from their screens, he says.
Typically, journalists must copy and paste incoming information from those sources into their newsroom computers, but at the NAB Show AP/ENPS will show app integration with the NRCS that makes it possible to drag and drop wanted items into the system, Wormser says.
While multiple vendors at the show will demonstrate how their NRCS solutions are evolving to reflect the story-centric approach in a world where news must be distributed via multiple paths, at least a couple have a more radical idea. Ditch the NRCS altogether.
“Broadcasters are focusing their whole support on the idea of a story and connecting information, and sharing that to be able to collaborate with others on every platform,” says Arne Berven, CEO of Wolftech Broadcast Solutions, which will show its Wolftech News planning and collaboration platform in Las Vegas.
Driving this approach is recognition that a new emphasis is being placed on the panoply of platforms used to distribute news, he says. Vizrt sees an opportunity to work with companies like Wolftech to take the traditional NRCS out of the newsroom equation.
“Broadcasters are looking for alternatives to the newsroom computer system,” says Knut Andersen, Vizrt production product manager. “They want to be very present on social media, on Facebook and on Twitter, but the traditional newsroom computer system doesn’t help to facilitate this,” he says.
At the show, Vizrt will feature its Showmaker rundown creator. With it, broadcasters can create rundowns for linear newscasts, including automated commands to playback video clips, graphics and other elements, which can be executed by the company’s Mosart or Opus, he says.
“What we see is broadcasters now have the possibility with the planning tools and our Showmaker tool to get rid of the entire NRCS and save money,” he says.
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