Beyond Print Toolkit: Content and workflows

Newsrooms must transform their workflows and how they engage with their audiences

By Anita Li

June 27, 2024

A hand holding a microphone coming out of a laptop screen on a pink background
beast01 / Shutterstock

As the media landscape continues to evolve, legacy print newsrooms face the critical challenge of transitioning from print-centric operations to dynamic, digital-first platforms. This shift is not merely about changing the medium of content delivery and workflows, but about transforming the way newsrooms engage with and grow their audiences. For traditional publications, particularly those with a longstanding presence and a loyal reader base, the transition involves a strategic reevaluation of how they create and disseminate news. This process must be approached with a deep understanding of both the existing audience, who may still prefer print, and potential new readers, who primarily consume digital content.

For legacy print newsrooms aiming to enhance content and resonate with a broader audience during the transition from print to digital, the following key strategies are essential:

  • Adapt to Digital Consumption Habits: The Seattle Times excels in blending timely news with detailed enterprise stories, a strategy that maintains relevance and captures wider audience interest. By releasing stories in stages, the Times keeps readers engaged over longer periods, making content both timely and compelling. This approach not only maintains a fresh news feed but also capitalizes on the audience’s peak interest times, driving higher engagement and subscription rates.
  • Leverage Data for Engagement: By equipping reporters with real-time data on which stories resonate most with subscribers, The Seattle Times tailored its journalism to audiences more effectively. This strategy involves the formation of specialized teams that combine journalistic instincts with digital analytics and business insights, ensuring content not only attracts but also retains audience interest, thereby maximizing revenue opportunities from digital subscriptions.
  • Focus on Upgrading Digital Infrastructure: The Seattle Times emphasized upgrading its technical capabilities, specifically enhancing e-commerce and content management systems to better manage subscriber relationships and reduce churn rates. These upgrades support a robust digital infrastructure that accommodates evolving consumer behaviors and preferences in the digital space. 
  • Adapt Workflows for Digital: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s “Stop Doing” list exemplifies a proactive approach to streamlining operations. By identifying and discontinuing less effective tasks, the newsroom reallocates resources to high-impact activities, fostering a more agile and responsive workflow. This ongoing process involves regular reviews and adjustments to ensure the newsroom’s efforts are aligned with strategic objectives and audience needs. For example, if your core audience is online, it makes more sense to move deadlines to when online audiences are the largest, often in the morning, instead of the evening for traditional print deadlines.
  • Maintain Engagement Across Both Digital and Print: Legacy print newsrooms like The Philadelphia Tribune manage the balance between traditional print formats and the growing demand for digital content. By understanding and adapting to the preferences of its aging 70+ print readership while gradually introducing digital formats, it ensure a seamless transition for their audience to digital platforms. This strategy involves careful audience segmentation and targeted content strategies that cater to both print loyalists and digital natives.

Key Indicators

Key performance indicators related to content and workflow strategy should focus on areas critical to digital growth and sustainability, such as audience engagement, content reach and operational efficiency. 

  • Content Engagement Rate
    • Execution: Implement analytics tools such as Google Analytics or Chartbeat to track how readers interact with articles (e.g., time on page, comments, shares). 
    • Measurement: Set up dashboards to monitor these metrics in real-time and hold monthly reviews to discuss trends or successful content strategies.
  • Digital Subscription Growth
    • Execution: Use CRM systems to track subscription sign-ups. Integrate this data with marketing campaigns to identify which efforts are yielding new subscribers.
    • Measurement: Create monthly reports that compare new sign-ups against set growth targets to evaluate the effectiveness of different promotional tactics.
  • Subscriber Churn Rate
    • Execution: Analyze subscriber data to identify common drop-off points or reasons for cancellations. Employ exit surveys to gather additional insights.
    • Measurement: Calculate monthly churn rate by dividing the number of lost subscribers by the total number of subscribers at the start of the period. Use findings to adjust retention strategies.
  • Workflow Efficiency
    • Execution: Introduce project management tools such as Asana or Trello to track the progress of articles from conception to publication. Adjust editorial workflows to prioritize content publication times when analytics show the audience is most active.
    • Measurement: Regularly audit the time taken from content ideation to publication and compare against efficiency goals.
  • Audience Feedback Incorporation
    • Execution: Regularly deploy tools like SurveyMonkey for audience surveys or use social media polls to gather feedback. Ensure there’s a structured approach to integrating this feedback into editorial meetings.
    • Measurement: Track changes in audience satisfaction and engagement before and after implementing feedback. Review these metrics quarterly to assess if changes are positively impacting reader experience.


To help manage workflow efficiency effectively, here’s a Digital Content Workflow Efficiency template you can use in Excel or Google Sheets, designed to track the progress of articles from conception to publication. This template is designed to streamline the tracking of digital content from inception to publication, ensuring timely releases and effective management of digital platforms.

Instructions for use:

1. Date & Content Title: Enter the date and title of the digital content piece.

2. Stage of Production: Note the current phase of content creation, including specialized stages like multimedia integration and SEO optimization.

3. Assigned To: Specify which team member is responsible for each stage.

4. Start and Target Release Dates: Track the initiation and planned release dates to monitor scheduling accuracy.

5. Actual Release Date: Record when the content actually goes live.

6. Platform: Indicate where the content will be published (e.g., website, social media).

7. Comments: Use this column for additional notes or observations on the workflow process.


Below is a template for you to test the effectiveness of your digital content. You can fill in the blanks with the relevant information for your specific content strategy or experiment.

Digital content engagement experiment

Objective: To assess the impact of [Adapted Content Release Strategy] on [Audience Engagement Metric] and [Subscription Metric].


  • Content Selection: Choose a sample of [Number] articles or multimedia content representing various [Topic/Format] produced by the newsroom.
  • Release Strategy Implementation: Implement a staged release strategy for a subset of the selected content, releasing content in stages over [Duration] period.
  • Audience Engagement Tracking: Use [Analytics Tool] to track key engagement metrics, including but not limited to:
    • Pageviews
    • Time spent on Page
    • Subscriber Engagement
  • Comparison with Traditional Release: Compare engagement metrics of staged content with traditionally released content.
  •  Feedback Collection: Gather feedback from your audience through [Feedback Method] to gauge preferences and satisfaction.
  • Data Analysis: Analyze collected data to evaluate effectiveness of staged release strategy.
  • Reporting and Recommendations: Prepare a comprehensive report summarizing findings, insights, and recommendations.
  • Iterative Testing: Based on results, iterate on staged release strategy, making adjustments as necessary.

Below is a description of each of the terms you need to fill in for your specific experiment.

  • Adapted Content Release Strategy: Describe the strategy used to release content (e.g., staged release, real-time updates).
  • Audience Engagement Metric: Specify the engagement metric being tracked (e.g., pageviews, time spent on page).
  • Subscription Metric: Specify the subscription metric being tracked (e.g., subscription rates, retention).
  • Number: Specify the number of articles or multimedia content to be included in the experiment.
  • Topic/Format: Specify the topics or formats represented by the selected content.
  • Duration: Specify the duration over which the content will be released in stages.
  • Analytics Tool: Specify the analytics tool or platform to be used for tracking engagement metrics.
  • Feedback Method: Specify the method for collecting feedback from the audience (e.g., surveys, comments, social media interactions).

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