After considering why newsrooms need to change to stay relevant, I have three newsrooms that are changing, and a fourth that re-sets the bar completely. All of the newsrooms represent brands with big investments in owned media and media relations.
1) Starbucks: With 19,555 stores in 58 countries, Starbucks generates a ton of media interest every day. To the brand's credit, its newsroom is well-organized and uses visuals to help tell stories. It offers visitors a feature story and related content, including video and photo content -- all armed with sharing tools. Plus there's a media request form, key links and a subnav with a search engine to access more relevant assets on the site. Clearly there's a strong information hierarchy at work as it's all done on a single page.
Opportunities to improve Starbucks news blend involve curation and highlighting its social presence. Some rotating feature banners could highlight content from the brand's passionate consumers, and more of Starbucks' consumer-facing, social content. Both help reinforce the brand's social media focus. And right now, that's the only thing not clearly called out on the page.
2) Walmart: The square footage of every Walmart store combined is bigger than the island of Manhattan. But it serves up news for the polarizing brand plain and simply. Walmart's quick and easy request for visitors to connect with them on Facebook and Twitter blends in well with other contact information. And rotating visual features make great use of the page.
The first view of your newsroom is a store window through which the media are looking. Whether they're browsing, or they have a specific need, the media are interested. What should they see first and how frequently should the window be updated with new content to keep the media coming back?
But as the brand heads into its 50th anniversary, investing in a curated brand site highlighting yesterday, today and tomorrow, no connections to this milestone or the related content are apparent in the newsroom.
3) GE: The company is so big, it can't even fit into a single category, noting at its highest level it is "a diversified infrastructure, finance and media company." But its newsroom is well-organized and perhaps almost too simple. It's a great mix of all the concepts we've enjoyed in the Starbucks and Walmart newsrooms.
Simplicity: Don't overwhelm the visitor with content...no matter how much you have. Make sure your page has a good information architecture with a clear hierarchy so visitors can tell what's most important.
Multimedia: Many sites have multimedia content. But not enough of these newsrooms show it in a seamless manner. Putting images, videos and stories into silos may help organize the content. But does it help tell the story? Rotating feature content is also a helpful way to show more of what's beyond the first page.
Social: I think there's a ton of opportunity to integrate consumer-generated media about the brand, as well as integrating a brand's social content. GE's Pinterest boards show a very visual side of the brand. Should they be showing more of it in their newsroom?
Search & Share: Search engines and sharing tools should be standard issue for every newsroom, but there's more opportunity here. Consider letting user traffic rank the most popular and most shared news stories. Consider letting positive brand search results (via Google vs. the newsroom) be used as content. And if we want folks to share the content with others, using it to fuel news stories and pass around their social networks, we should also enable comments on each piece of content. This will increase visitor engagement with the newsroom.
Red Bull's Un-Newsroom
You may think Red Bull is an exception to the rules we must consider. As an extreme brand, their newsroom doesn't hold realistic lessons for other brands.But Red Bull's being singled out for taking an approach to its newsroom that has nothing to do with its brand.
While Starbucks, Walmart and GE make the most of a fairly standard newsroom design, Redbull's Content Pool leverages the drink's massive investment in owned media -- online and offline. While other newsrooms are a menu of ingredients the media can access to cook up their own story, Red Bull takes it a step further and shows the possibilities for storytelling. It's recipes bring the content to life and may be more of a cookbook than a content pool. But the name is a constant reminder to media as to its role.
Visitors are immediately greeted with instructions that quantify the brand's metric ton of content. "Explore now more than5.000 high quality videos and also more than 50.000 amazing photos. All on one platform and ready to use for your communication purposes. Stories and the latest news of breathtaking action sports, athletes, international events or unique culture topics."
It follows this with quick tips on how to swim through the pool -- search, select and download. The initial splash page doesn't even use the word news in the copy. And in about 100 words they've given context and instructions to any English-reading audience that visits the site.
From there, the site encourages registration. I'm on the fence about this, but it's used as more of an opt-in than a security checkpoint. It was simple to set up and allows the Content Pool a more granular tracking of what stories are getting the most interest.
Redbull's design is much different than the other newsrooms. And it is a smart approach for a brand heavy with lifestyle content. It turns the newsroom into more of an active resource for a variety of audiences. It also helps with search -- as other newsrooms also assist. But other newsrooms also feel more like an owned media bank where content is deposited. Redbull's news site feels like more of a dynamic investment. And the site will continue to help the brand's owned media investment flourish.