CNN: 'Our News Meetings Start by Talking about What's Popular on Digital'

03 December 2014


Print media groups are certainly not the only ones having to make the digital switch. CNN is no stranger to innovation: they were the first on the 24/7 cable news scene. They are still innovating today by adapting to changes in consumer habits. Meredith Artley, Editor-in-Chief of CNN Digital is taking us through those changes.

Do you foresee more interaction between CNN and CNN Digital in the future or less interaction because mobile platforms will have more specific content?

What’s most important is that CNN is on the screen that matters most to you when you need it. That is increasingly a mobile screen. But it can also be a desktop, laptop or a TV screen. So to that end, we are thinking about our stories with all of those platforms in mind and working more closely than ever across the organisation worldwide. That’s a big shift for a big brand like this, and one that is happening now.

[Meredith Artley will be one of our speakers at the GEN Summit 2015, for the session 'Web Traffic is 50% mobile. How can your newsroom adapt?']

For example, on a story like Ferguson, we have journalists on the ground focusing on certain social platforms, like telling stories in photo and video on Instagram. Some of those people do live reports for CNN US and CNN International TV. Some write full stories or provide quotes and color back to the team in Atlanta who weave that into stories for our sites, apps and air. Some create video that is edited for digital and TV platforms, and others write pieces that make it to our biggest social accounts or the homepages of our mobile and desktop sites, both domestically and internationally.

CNN’s reach across social, mobile, desktop and TV – and our many journalists who can play across those platforms – is one of our biggest differentiators. And we are increasingly editing, producing and programming those stories for each of those platforms. A story can take different forms and language on Twitter versus Facebook versus Instagram. A video can be edited for a mobile audience differently than one for a TV audience. It's not that those audiences are always totally separate groups of people, but we are taking into consideration that how you experience CNN on your phone is different than how you experience CNN on TV, etc. Our scale across our digital platforms means that we get to think about how to best tell those stories in each of those places. It's a huge creative opportunity for a global brand and a new way of thinking about the arc of one story.

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What percent of your traffic coming from mobile platforms? What does it change for the content production? How is reorganised the newsroom? Do you create specific job positions?

We have passed the 50% mark – more than half of our digital audiences come to us on mobile devices. That’s a huge testament to the brand, to the product and tech teams who have built a strong foundation over the past many years, and to the mobile-centric journalists who programme for our mobile site and apps. We pay close attention to audience usage on our mobile platforms, just as we do on desktop and social. Our news meetings start by talking about what's popular on digital and how we are doing on the key metrics, which are increasingly focused on mobile.

We have a small number of people with 'mobile' in their titles — not as many as we had a few years ago. The thinking is that we need to make the whole organisation mobile focused and not leave that to a distinct team of people. But this is a matter of hot debate — the reality is that content management system and many other critical tools, including real time metrics, are still desktop-centric so we will keep evolving on this front.

How is CNN, a 'traditional cable channel', adapting to social networks?

It's not accurate to describe a brand that draws in more than 15 million unique users worldwide, every day, as a cable channel. It's our past, but only part of our present. It's worth noting that we are proud of that past — if you were to listen in on internal conversations, you'd hear many mentions about how the disruptive, innovative act of launching at 24/7 cable network is something that is in our DNA and needs to fuel us for today and tomorrow.

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CNN has a long track record of innovation in the digital space. When it comes to social, we are the most followed and fanned news organisation globally. Our flagship Twitter accounts are in a class of their own — when it comes to followers, we compete more with Taylor Swift than other news organisations. Same with Facebook —CNN has more than 15.5 million likes – more than any other news brand.  Which is not to say our work is done — we have a wonderful new head of social media, Sam Barry, who is leading the entire organisation to do even more creative and engaging work on social to the benefit of people who see CNN on all screens.

Similarly, we are not resting on laurels in the mobile space, where our mobile web site has been number one for seven years, according to Nielsen. There are more changes coming to those platforms to make them truly central to what we do.

What are the upcoming innovations at CNN.comCNNI.com or CNNMoney?

We have a big redesign coming at the start of 2015 for CNN.com and CNNi.com on desktop and mobile, and another redesign coming soon after for CNNMoney, being led by Ed O'Keefe, who we brought on this year as the VP of CNNMoney and Politics. We are immensely excited about not just the new look, which is cleaner and easier to navigate, but also about creating a more mobile and social and video-centric experience that will be shared with and by millions worldwide.

Learn more about CNN numbers here.

Photo: Charles Atkeison