Online newsrooms in the digital era

May 3, 2010

Imperial Sugar Company’s online newsroom succeeds where many others do not.  The site surpasses typical newsrooms and media centers, functioning as a vibrant news portal for the sugar refining industry.

Imperial’s newsroom is guided by journalistic style and dynamic content, which is central to its success.

David Henderson, author of “Making News in the Digital Era” and partner in The News Group Net, a strategic communications and corporate journalism advisory, helped create Imperial’s newsroom. He encourages communicators to return to journalistic roots when developing news for online consumption and insists that newsrooms are not only for the media.

“The core audience for an organization’s newsroom includes shareholders, business partners, customers, donors and volunteers in non-profit instances, employees and, then, the media,” Henderson says.  “Static newsrooms are the least-visited part of a Web site because most are just graveyards of old press releases.  Your newsroom needs to present the spectrum of all the things that your company is doing within its industry, and hanging press releases there kills credibility.”

It comes down to identifying and understanding the people who care about your company, according to Henderson, who advises clients and practitioners to develop journalistic writing skills. To reach your audience, replace formulaic writing with a style that draws interest.

“Nobody cares what your company does unless you tell them in a way that adds value,” Henderson says.

Newsrooms need to sustain a supply of articles, photos, videos and industry observations. Imperial employs freelance writers and photojournalists who post two or three stories daily.  The company understands that its audience seeks credibility and transparency, so stories often cover competitors and include information that challenges the industry, such as an American Heart Association report examining the negative effects of sugar.

Think like a journalist
Ed Lallo, News Group Net partner, says that a newsroom’s tone should not be directly about your organization. Instead, he suggests that you view your newsroom as a daily newspaper covering the industry.

“If something runs in The New York Times almost everyone else picks it up to some degree,” Lallo says. “So write stories for your core audience, which can include media who may take them whole or use pieces to expand on an idea.”

Building on the right foundation is also critical. Henderson and Lallo say that WordPress has evolved into an ideal content management system. Even The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal use it for their blog networks.

Other essentials for your online newsroom include:

  • News articles (300-500 words)
  • Short videos (HD for B-roll)
  • Links to company facts and contacts
  •  Search capability

What elements comprise your ideal newsroom? Have your say in the comments below.

Ryan Zuk, APR

Ryan Zuk, APR, is a media and analyst relations professional, Phoenix PRSA Chapter member and Sage North America representative. Zuk can be reached @ryanzuk on Twitter. He also blogs at

Email: ryanzuk at gmail dot com


Georgia Marszalek says:

Hello and Thank you. Your online newsroom tips are great. Georgia, ValleyPR LLC

May 6, 2010

Ryan Zuk, APR says:

Thanks for reading Georgia -- and thanks to David and Ed for relaying some sound advice about applying journalistic style.

May 12, 2010

Heine Manush says:

Some interesting developments going on with the News Group Net -

Sept. 23, 2010

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