How Brazilian media company Grupo RBS transformed its newsroom

In part 2, Andiara Petterle unpacks how the publisher drove success through data

REUTERS

By Chaymae Samir |  Sep 9, 2019
In Part two of this case study, Andiara Petterle, SVP of Audience & Product Development, discusses how RBS radically transformed its newsroom to adapt and compete in the digital age. If you missed it, we recommend you discover Part 1 on how the media company successfully shifted from print to digital, before reading further…

In 2016, RBS undertook group wide transformation that has seen them merge their main businesses, television, radio and newspapers, sell off five of their eight newspapers and change most of their senior leadership.

Besides a shift in the business model, the new reality of the digital transformation brought along new changes in the commercial and operational side of all media properties. We discuss how RBS used design thinking to facilitate newsroom transformation.

The right people in the right place

“We created a mantra, the first part of which is ‘the right people in the right place’, and we brought in people from different industries, such as a VP of sales from Facebook as well as from Dell and telcos,” Petterle said. “We brought in amazing people. Most of them weren’t from the media business, but people who would ask the right questions and make the company question itself and its processes, and come up with ideas.”
They even created a new role, one of Brand Manager:

‘’This person is from marketing and is responsible together with the newsroom to evaluate every single piece of product that we have using data. Whenever we’re deciding on a new product, designing the weekend edition or even changing columnists, marketing is involved to make sure our brand is aligned with those decisions taken with the newsroom.’’

Having implemented a structure that combines marketing within the newsroom, Petterle insists that although it was a hard process, it ultimately paid dividends for the publisher. Now, marketing shares all product decisions with the newsroom, and the latter has no total power over what to launch: everything must be supported by data and market research in order to optimise their editorial offering.

“Consumers are our king,” she added. “We began using the design thinking process, especially in our newsrooms, because we have to understand what our audience wants, and what our clients and our advertisers want, and once you start doing that, you can’t stop.”

“Marketing used to be a support area and we’d only see results after a few months of implementing a campaign. Now we built these squads that work all together to make changes to the campaigns on a daily basis with the sole focus on acquiring users.’’

Petterle does clarify that although the newsroom has lost editorial power over distribution, their autonomy over content production remains completely intact: ‘’We have so much data related to the reader journey that we know exactly what kind of content that people are looking for, and when (for example, what kind of content to push out at 4 p.m.). The editors have the call to decide what is in the front page and the stories that they do, but they have to follow the guidelines and they have to listen to the data that we have.’’

Read further: You need hard facts to change newsrooms 

Reshaping the newsroom: from agile to design thinking

RBS shifted to an agile team organisational structure to support its new business goals, bypassing traditional bottlenecks that would hold them back
‘’We really are one company, which was hard at the beginning, but is fun and interesting now. Integrated TV, radio, digital and newspaper. We had to redesign how the newsroom operates, how we integrate all the areas and how we do business. We’re experimenting with a lot of different things in terms of operations.’’ says Petterle.

‘’I used to be the managing director of the newspaper business unit. Now I take care of television, radio and newspapers, products and operations and then all the subscriptions.” This change to a unified offering seems to be the key to their success. 

Last year, RBS started implementing the agile methodology with all the other areas of the company, especially for marketing which they integrated with the newsroom, thus trying to change the way they work in an innovative way that’s constantly adapting. This has transformed the way RBS designed their newsrooms as well as how they decide on their portfolio of products.

Read further: How has design thinking propelled Le Monde forward 

Next, we’ll discover how RBS is sustaining print, using it to fuel the growth of its digital assets. 

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