Distributed Newsrooms

What’s the Deal with Distributed Newsrooms?

Quarantines, lockdowns, and social distancing measures pushed millions of people to work from home during the height of the pandemic in 2020. For digital publishers with distributed newsrooms, the changes that came about were a bit more nuanced.

More than half of all Americans were working remotely during the earliest days of the pandemic, back in April 2020. Slowly, many of those workers have trickled back into their offices, with 33% continuing to “always” work remotely by the fall. While just 13% of executives say they are prepared to “let go” of the office for good, the nature of what it means to work in an office setting is evolving. This is especially true for digital news publications, where distributed newsrooms had already become the norm before the Covid-19 pandemic.

For most companies, deciding whether to bring people back into the office isn’t always an easy—or straightforward—decision. Through surveys, researchers from PwC found that more than half of employees (55%) would prefer to work remotely at least three days per week once the pandemic is gone.

Are employees as productive when they’re working from home? What happens to team collaboration and communication? How are technology glitches handled when people are working in a remote environment? These are all questions that digital news publishers are working to answer right now.

What is a distributed newsroom?

Distributed newsrooms are newsrooms that don’t function around a physical space. Rather than working together in an office building, a publication’s staff works remotely. Distributed newsrooms are also sometimes called virtual newsrooms. Writers, editors, photographers, designers, publishers, sales teams, and marketing teams are using distributed workflows and structures to get their work done from nontraditional environments.

The most successful digital newsrooms are well organized and well structured, with publishers having implemented the right technology platforms to allow employees to work productively from virtually anywhere in the world.

Given the success that many digital publishers have had with allowing their employees to work from home during the pandemic, and particularly now that most publications have invested in the infrastructure to make this approach a success, it’s unlikely that distributed newsrooms will go away once the Covid-19 crisis is over.

What are the benefits of distributed newsrooms?

During the Covid-19 crisis, the benefits of having employees working from home were clear. Working from home makes it easier for people to isolate and socially distance, which ultimately keeps people safer and healthier. But the benefits of distributed newsrooms should last well beyond the pandemic.

Distributed newsrooms are infinitely cheaper to run and manage than physical spaces. The costs associated with leasing and managing a physical office space are eliminated. Insurance costs, utilities, security, and maintenance all decrease, as well.

Distributed teams do come with some extra costs, like subscriptions to new software and technology platforms, and equipment for some employees. However, those costs should be significantly less than the cost of maintaining a physical office space.

Attracting and hiring qualified talent becomes easier when your search isn’t confined to one geographic region. The media industry has been criticized for its lack of diversity in the past. Distributed newsrooms could help to combat that issue. Writers and editors can work from wherever they are, allowing entry-level reporters with limited financial means to get into the industry without having to relocate.

Best Remote Work Tools for Distributed Newsrooms

The distributed newsroom model only works when publishers are willing to invest in collaboration platforms and creative workflows. Publishers today have thousands of options to choose from. The ubiquity of remote workspaces now means there’s software designed to solve virtually any problem a distributed newsroom could face.

If you’re looking to get started with your distributed team, these remote work tools are a good place to begin:

  1. Slack Slack helps teams communicate in a way that’s faster and better organized than email.
  2. Basecamp Basecamp is a project management platform that puts everything you need to get work done in one place.
  3. Asana If Basecamp isn’t your speed, then Asana is another project management option. Asana keeps remote teams focused on their goals and tasks.
  4. Zoom Zoom’s popularity as a cloud platform for video and audio conferencing comes from its ease of use and low cost.
  5. Miro Miro is a visual collaboration platform that’s great for virtual team brainstorming sessions.
  6. Google Calendar Google Calendar is a straightforward solution for teams looking to collaboratively share schedules and plan meetings.
  7. Google Drive Google Drive is a file storage and synching service that’s popular among digital newsrooms.
  8. IFTTT IFTTT helps teams do more with the apps, platforms, and devices they’re already using.
  9. 1Password Having employees login to company platforms remotely increases the need for strong passwords. 1Password is a password manager used by more than 75,000 businesses.
  10. CrowdTangle CrowdTangle is a content discovery and social monitoring platform for publishers.