Chaired by Andrew Rogers,the session sets out to debate the best way of organising for online publishing: a dedicated team or using one team to do both.
Damian Carrington, online editor of New Scientist, set out the key questions for organising editorial teams around innovation, focus, work culture, product type, rivalry, efficiency, cost, staff development and retention and secondments and “virtual reporters”.
Jane King Editor of Farmers Weekly, puts the case for integrated teams. She says it is “utter madness” not to use the talent we already have on our teams. The key is developing a fluid and flexible approach and it’s all about leadership. She says there are dangers in having staff who only do one thing – “one trick ponies”. And there are real benefits in having “joined up thinking” which suits the readers/users better and avoids “wasteful competition”. Past evidence shows when we split teams we have “lost the plot”, she says.
Kieran Daly, group editor of Flight Group fights back. “Look at this from the competitor’s point of view” he says. When we already have a starting point in the form of a large, legacy product we have a problem, he says. Cannibalisation becomes a major worry which a competitor doesn’t care about. It’s a full time job concentrating on the e-products with freedom to develop without worrying about our print business. You want people who are obsessive and can implement, even if they have occasional failures. They need to understand conceptually how the emarket is working. Understanding the dynamics of this are too complicated and fast-moving to leave in the hands of people who are doing other things. If you have a day job running a print magazine “it’s just not going to happen”, he says. And the irony is that these experts can produce “stacks of content” which can go back into the magazine and very little cost. The more we put in, the more serious money we will make. Working “off the side of a desk” won’t work.
From the floor Rob Willock asks whether there isn’t a middle ground where you can have product champions leading integrated teams.
A vote from the floor goes slightly in favour of Jane’s argument for combined teams.