Andy Richards was responsible for successfully implementing mobile journalism infrastructure and strategy at the KM Media Group.
Since starting a partnership with Publisher’s Toolbox and its application MojoReporter, more than 2 000 stories have been published by more than 100 journalists using iOS and Android devices. These stories are used across all of the KM Group’s portfolio.
Describe what KMTV’s digital landscape looked like in the early days of its inception.
When we started we had a website and content management system in place. We were doing some user generated content via email to our organisation, which we would then edit and publish in a very basic way. We also had content coming in from reporters across our various newsrooms via mobile phones but it wasn’t very coherent. They were submitting content in lots of different ways – Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Drive or by email – and because of that lots of stories were getting lost. There was no clear infrastructure to deal with these great stories we were getting. This made it more difficult for us to use this content on our own platforms, where we wanted most of our content to live, rather than on social media.
KM Media Group is an organisation with a history that dates back 300 years. What were some of the challenges in changing the printcentric mindset of such an established organisation to one that is digital-first?
One of our main challenges is educating the reporters to have a total multimedia outlook when it comes to the content they’re creating – that has been the big challenge. The education we’re trying to give our reporters is that it’s so easy to embrace mobile journalism and really own that byline on a full multimedia piece, rather than just supplying the words. It really allows them to bring their stories to life.
When did KMTV first take the decision to embrace mobile journalism and what were the key factors in making that decision?
I met a guy called David McClelland through a previous role; he’s a big advocate for mobile journalism, and he really turned me on to the idea of implementing it across our newsrooms. It was around 2012, when streaming really kicked off as something not just reserved for massive media broadcasters, when mobile phones really started to gain traction as a professional piece of equipment. One of the other big changes was the hardware and software of the phones, which became more capable. Data also became more cost-effective and so we saw it as a way of properly creating and sharing the content – it just got so easy.
Did you face any sort of resistance from your field reporters to start working in this way or was it something they embraced?
There have been surprises. There have been some reporters in their 50s and 60s who you’d expect wouldn’t want any kind of involvement in mojo, but who have really embraced it – they’re some of our best multimedia reporters. There have also been some young reporters coming out of university and college who realise they need to have those multimedia skills to do well in this industry, so they do come on and show a lot of enthusiasm. A lot of reporters do a year or two with us before moving on to bigger organisations in the industry, so we need to constantly educate them in how to use the phone to capture good content and how important it is to attribute multimedia to their submissions. But once they realise how easily it is, people seem to be very receptive to it and enthusiastic.
What effect, if any, have the use of mobile phones had on the newsroom and the type of stories that are being filed?
I used to work for ITV and in those days there were very few mobile journalists. As an on-screen reporter you would go out with a crew for every single story you did, using huge cameras and complicated audio equipment; that was just the way we worked. Then the video journalist position started to take off; bigger newsrooms started to disappear as broadcasters tried to get as much out of their journalists as possible. One of the other changes in my mind is to do with the people, who are more comfortable in front of cameras now. They’re used to seeing themselves in video because they film so much of their personal lives. They Skype, they FaceTime, they take clips of their children, friends and families, so they’re used to seeing themselves and hearing their own voices. It’s opened up more stories and it’s very seldom when we’re doing a piece now where someone objects to being filmed. Years ago you’d find that very difficult.
How did your association with MojoReporter come about?
I decided to go off to Mojocon a couple of years ago, where I met Richard Cheary and Clinton Bosch from Publisher’s Toolbox. They showed me the MojoReporter app, which at that stage was in the infancy of its development. Since then we’ve gone on to develop this relationship which has really changed and shaped the way KMTV delivers its content.
What was it about Publisher’s Toolbox that made you want to strike up a working relationship?
What I really liked was the idea of developing MojoReporter with the Publisher’s Toolbox team. I think we were a great case study for Publisher’s Toolbox because we had content and were at the same point in our journey in terms of trying to establish this one centralised system that all this content was coming in to. What I also liked from the start was that the Publisher’s Toolbox crew would implement our suggestions really quickly. One day we’d say, “This doesn’t quite work for us”, and the next day it would be changed, it would be part of their development. That’s how quickly our situation at KMTV changes on a daily basis; we’re adapting to our environment all the time, so right from the get go as we conducted our first trials with MojoReporter we would give feedback and it would be implemented straight away. It was more of a partnership than us simply being customers receiving a service; we were able to play a role in developing the tool. We started with the MojoReporter app, which then expanded into an entire content management system, and now we have a new public-facing app which we’re in the process of launching. It was just a natural progression through each stage.
“It was more of a partnership than us simply being customers receiving a service; we were able to play a role in developing the tool”
Your digital ecosystem has matured to the point where you now successfully live stream content 24 hours a day, seven days a week and offer video on demand (VOD) on your website and mobile app. How satisfying has it been to see KMTV’s digital capabilities develop to this point?
It’s been really satisfying. Having a freeview terrestrial TV channel is a very traditional form of media and it was always going to be a challenge for us to combine the two and develop a digital platform. And again, if you think back to not so long ago, the cost of streaming a channel 24 hours a day, seven days a week for an organisation of our size was unheard of – but we’ve been able to do it by enhancing our capabilities with Publisher’s Toolbox and MojoReporter. The VOD platform has also been crucial, not only to our output, but also for our archives and workflow. I think it’s quite an achievement that we’ve been able to adapt the traditional forms of media with this exciting digital space that we’re in now.
How do you keep traditional audiences happy while reaching new markets via your digital platforms?
I think what’s key is that the content is the same; we just repurpose it for different audiences. For example, a video package that we make for our TV show, Kent Tonight, might get chopped into a two-and-a-half minute square video with subtitles for our Instagram account. We might take an in-depth interview with a politician and make it into a 60-second tease for Twitter, so we’re catering for two completely different audiences. It will be interesting to see how our traditional audience takes to our mobile app. We’ve only done a little bit of promotion on our app so far before we execute a proper marketing strategy. I think it will open up a completely different audience to what we’re serving at the moment.
What advice would you offer to other organisations looking to evolve their own digital ecosystems?
The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you’re only as good as your content. The quality of your content and how you collect it, repurpose it and publish it to your various platforms is key. Your content has got to be compelling but you’ve got to have it in a space that everyone understands. Something I always say is that users aren’t administrators. Your UX has got to be so clear in showing the user what to do – they don’t want to go in and have to tick a box, or change a setting. I upload to MojoReporter, collect it in a CMS and then it’s published – it’s got to be as simple as that. You’ve got to take as many steps out as possible so that the story doesn’t get lost. Someone might send 15 clips through on Google Drive … I’m telling you now, it will get lost because there’s just to much other stuff to do: go back into Google Drive, get the permissions, preview them, bring them in to an editing software, edit it all together, then export it and publish it to your platforms … you need to take as many of these steps out as possible.
What is the greatest challenge KMTV will have to overcome in the next five years?
Like everyone, the big challenge is to start generating revenue from all this great content. This is something we’re looking at more and more with Publisher’s Toolbox. We’ve got pre-roll advertising but I think it’s got to be more innovative. It’s that cat and mouse story between social-media platforms and your own digital environment. It’s all good and well putting your content up on your social channels but how are you going to generate revenue there? All you’re going to do is generate brand awareness. That is the conundrum we all need to think about because at the moment the print space and the more traditional revenue generating areas are still propping up the digital space and at some point that’s got to give because the digital space has got to become the driving force in your business.