Fairfax trials radical traffic-light system to deliver news

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 26 May 2015

The Fairfax-owned Brisbane Times has overhauled its newsroom to reflect the mobile and social first environment of its readers, with the online news offering even getting rid of the journalist staple, the round.

Journalists at the online-only publication now work in teams, to a traffic light system, red is breaking news, green is important news that needs to get up as soon as possible and amber is news that is saved for a peak traffic times.

The site now also aims to make publishing as streamline as possible, so when a piece of content is created rather than thinking first about the homepage, one URL is created and put across mobile and social first and then the desktop and iPad is thought about.

Editor-in-chief Simon Holt said that being online only the publication was ahead of the curve in online however now others are catching up.

“Everybody is catching up to us, everybody is getting digital now, we wanted to find a way that we could set the curve and better serve our audience,” Holt said.

“We created a really strong breaking news team, and that's all they'll do. We've cut the rounds based system, we're covering the gaps. In a round system there's always going to be gaps so we're giving people the best news of the day,” he said.

Holt explained that while these processes are mainly internal, the aim is that the Brisbane Time's audience will notice a change in how the product is delivered.

“It's in-line with people's consumption habits,” he said. “They're consuming via Google search, social media, whatever avenue they've got to consume news. People talk about death of the homepage, if that's actually happening, we've got to get our heads into the mindset that stories are a piece of content, and we need to ask ourselves what do we do with it, how do we maximise it?”

While the overhaul was not created to be rolled-out to the entire Fairfax stable, Holt explained that his learnings will be analysed to see what other newsrooms could take out of it.

“What we've done doesn't necessarily lend itself to a newsroom with a newspaper. I’m sure they'll [Fairfax] look at what we're doing to take ideas and thoughts and processes and analyse the successes and failures,” he said.

A lot of what the Brisbane Times is doing is streamlining the publishing process, which almost mirrors the recent Facebook roll-out of Instant Articles. A tool, which allows publishers to publish direct to the social network, and also have the option to generate a larger amount of revenue from their content.

Holt, however told AdNews that they're not using the service yet.

“We wouldn't rule anything out – we haven't considered it at this point, but like any business person, if it stacks up you do it,” he said.

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