A few years ago, the publishing division at Nine, one of Australia’s largest national media companies, embarked upon a radical digital transformation. The division produces some of the country’s most established news titles, including The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review, but the era of the 24/7 news cycle demands a new strategy. Moving away from its legacy publishing environment, the division looked to Slack to increase the transparency of newsroom processes and improve collaboration across teams, time zones and news stories.
In the past, email was the publishing division’s primary communication tool, but massive email chains and distribution lists caused frequent disconnects between journalists in the newsroom and reporters on the street. Senior leaders became bottlenecks when questions, issues and review requests got buried in overflowing inboxes. Now editorial, product, technology, operations and leadership teams across the division collaborate in Slack.
“The most efficient form of communication is face to face. If you can’t do that, I would argue the next most efficient is Slack.”
Keeping up with breaking news in Slack channels
Editorial processes and newsroom operations are no longer a manual, email-driven workflow. Instead, teams in Nine’s publishing division use Slack for everything from coordinating breaking news coverage to monitoring performance analytics for the company’s many publications.
As a case in point, Slack has changed the way journalists at The Age respond to breaking news. Instead of sending out mass emails looking for help, they now ask for support in the #ed-age-breaking channel in Slack. For example, if there’s a fire in central Melbourne, a journalist might post, “Is there anybody else nearby?” That call to action goes out to all journalists in the channel, who can respond near instantaneously with their availability.
“This type of visibility extends beyond isolated incidents,” says Damian Cronan, CTO of Nine’s publishing division. “Slack has become a way in which we can more readily distribute information. It’s also a way to keep the newsroom aware of what reporting is happening across the organisation.”
“Historically what might have taken a couple of days to iron out is now generally something we can jump on within 30 minutes. That’s helped a lot with the openness and transparency around what issues are present and where people might need help.”
Apps and integrations optimise newsroom operations
Outside of its editorial teams, Nine’s publishing division uses Slack to manage internal business operations. The marketing team have replaced ad-hoc emails with the #marketing-news channel, which is used to share what’s being said about the company’s brands.
There are also channels dedicated to tracking statistics on which campaigns are driving subscriber growth. “Now you don’t have to go looking through [slideshows] to find out what the latest stats are,” Cronan says. “You can drop into the #subscriptions channel and see automated reports on a weekly basis.”
The division also integrated its content management system with Slack, allowing team members to seamlessly share data and find information on published content. This gives employees more visibility on what’s being published across the company’s many platforms and how that content is performing.
Should a publishing issue come up, the division has a dedicated service channel for editorial teams called #ed-tools. Here, team members can post problems they’re having with internal tools or the CMS, or ask questions about how to do something.
Cronan and his team have also automated several manual processes to help team members get the information they need when they need it. Via simple slash commands and custom Slack integrations, employees can report incidents, request transcripts, bring up data dashboards and more.
The division’s custom slash commands and integrations include:
- @incident-monster: Reports new incidents and helps the team manage them
- /transcribe: Allows journalists to quickly request transcriptions for audio files right from Slack
- /dashboards: Brings up a library of available dashboards so employees can access data and insights on content performance
- /roster: Provides a list of the engineers and technical team members on call for any given service
Slack enables deeper collaboration across the division
Bringing teams, data and processes together into one Slack workspace has led to a more integrated and productive division, Cronan says. Moving from email to Slack has fostered faster communication across teams, while also empowering employees to collaborate more often.
And with work organised neatly into channels, managers can keep an eye on multiple conversations and jump in whenever necessary, versus being copied on hundreds of emails that might or might not require their attention.
Slack has also improved visibility across the division, providing leadership teams with a previously unavailable level of insight into the organisation’s health, while also freeing employees to act without waiting for approvals. “Slack lowers the management overhead because things don’t need to traverse through me or my management team for work to get done,” Cronan says.
By removing management roadblocks, connecting newsrooms and streamlining business operations, Slack has enabled Nine’s publishing division to push content forward in the digital age.