World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

New Products, New Jobs: Spotting new talent within and beyond

World News Publishing Focus

World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

New Products, New Jobs: Spotting new talent within and beyond


For publications like Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (SCMP), this means being open-minded about who might fit the bill.

“It’s being prepared to rewrite job descriptions around individuals,” said Zuraidah Ibrahim, SCMP’s deputy executive editor.

“I think of myself in competition for talent, not eyeballs. How do we retain the best?” she said, adding that this philosophy applies to a wide range of skill sets - from search engine optimisation (SEO) experts to video specialists, many of whom have never worked a day in print, but still have plenty to offer the newsroom.

This also means that editors have to abandon the “conveyor-belt mentality” and be more collaborative in the way they operate.

“We shouldn’t confine people to preconceived boxes, otherwise we will never know the range of their talent,” she said, speaking to a room of about 100 media professionals at the recent Newsroom Summit Asia 2019 conference in Singapore.

While journalism’s core purpose has not changed, Zuraidah contended that quality content alone does not sell.

“Content may be king but you need a whole palace of workers to push out that content,” she noted, stressing the importance of seeking out and retaining the right talent.

Sometimes this could mean looking right under one’s nose. They could be journalists with radio experience who volunteer for podcast projects, or veteran columnists like Luisa Tam and Yonden Lhatoo who develop a new fanbase as video darlings.

“Don’t assume old dogs cannot be taught new tricks,” said Zuraidah. “Look outwards for new skill sets but also explore hidden skills within (your) existing talent pool.”

Experimenting with new products, collaborating with new talent

In a bid to stay relevant, media companies have also experimented with new products.

Pocketimes, for example, has been Sin Chew Media Corporation’s online video answer to current affairs and lifestyle coverage since 2016.

Its content includes live shows where multimedia journalists constantly engage with the audience while moderators encourage them to ask questions.

“You have to do social listening,” said Tan Lee Chin, Sin Chew’s Chief Operating Officer (Content & Commercial), noting that her publication has audience engagement editors that have their fingers on the pulse of public response.

“Look at the numbers and see what kind of content really resonates with readers.”

Tan added that such a product should be built from a “content point of view” and further bolstered by talents outside of the company.

Sin Chew’s branded content team, for instance, has people from creative agencies.

While finding the right talent to sustain a product can be tricky, Tan listed specific qualities that she has found indispensable: Agility, grit, a can-do attitude, and a belief in news and meaningful content.

“There’s no end to the journey of finding the right talent,” said Tan. “Things can be different if you try to walk and talk the millennial language.”

At the end of the day, being open to experimentation and collaboration is a huge cornerstone of moving forward, according to Zuraidah and founder of Dig Deeper Media Fergus Bell.

“Collaboration is not going away. It can push the needle forward,” said Mr Bell. “Get involved in collaborations and don’t just play it safe.”

Working with people who still understand stories is also key.

“We are not pushing out data, we are still pushing out stories,” he said. “Make sure your staff understand the economics of the business of news.”

“Listen to their ideas. Listen to the consumers who are using the technologies.”

Citing new SCMP products like Abacus, Inkstone and Goldthread, which are targeted at digital natives in the US market, Zuraidah encouraged attendees to experiment with new projects and formats.

Even if these experiments flop, they are great opportunities to laugh and learn from, she said, referring to SCMP’s Facebook Live videos a few years ago that “bombed”, but were not “mission critical”.

“If you give people enough room to grow and stretch themselves, they can come up with meaningful products.”

Will robots take over?

When asked if newsrooms will require different talents in five years, Mr Bell said this was hard to pinpoint.

“We have absolutely no idea what we’ll need in five years. Think about all the roles that exist now but didn’t five years ago,” he said.

Zuraidah and Tan, however, hinted at having artificial intelligence (AI) as colleagues.

“I do want AI and robots to take over some of the jobs so we can do higher level stuff,” Zuraidah said.

But she added: “In five years, one core skill that won’t go away is storytelling. The modality will change, but the craft and skills won’t. We’ve just got to adapt to new technologies that present themselves.”


About the author: Yeo Sam Jo is a correspondent and video producer/presenter with The Straits Times



Kimberly Lim's picture

Kimberly Lim


2019-05-14 12:39

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