Editor’s note: Today’s guest post comes from William Davis, Director of Research and Innovation at the Bangor Daily News, a 4th-generation family-owned online and daily print publication covering news from around the state of Maine.
The Bangor Daily News has witnessed and reported on quite a long list of moments in American history since it first went to press back in 1889. From world wars to local fires, peace protests to suffrage laws, we’ve covered it all — keeping the people of Maine up to date and in the loop. And we’ve kept it all in the family along the way: our current publisher, Richard J. Warren, is the great-grandson of our founder, and his sister is our chairman of the board.
The last decade has been especially tumultuous as our business has changed rapidly. With people reading news online instead of in print and the rise of the 24-hour news cycle, we’ve re-evaluated how we define ourselves as a newsroom. And our legacy systems were holding us back as we tried to compete with a new wave of digital-only publishers.
One of the biggest issues we faced were slow, expensive systems that kept reporters in the newsroom instead of finding and researching stories in the field. With a large newsroom flung all across the state, traditional desktop and local server-based programs just didn’t cut it. To file a story, reporters often sent their editor an email with a Microsoft Word attachment, and the story would have to be copied and pasted into our local system. To push the story to our website, someone copied and pasted it into WordPress, added images and hyperlinks, formatted it, and published it. If the reporter filed a newer version of the story, the process started back from the beginning and all changes were lost. The process was painful for everyone involved.
That all changed when we moved to Google Apps. Now we use the Drive API to complete the process in a single click. We connected Drive, WordPress, and Adobe InDesign to make a tedious and slow process easier and faster.
In our new system, reporters and editors write their stories in Docs, using collaborative real-time editing, comments and revision history to make process quick and painless. We then use the Drive API to capture the text of the story, strip out comments and editing notes, and push it directly to our website — no copying and pasting. The text also flows into InDesign fully formatted, making the production of our print newspaper easier, faster and cheaper as well.
We also use the Drive API for project budgeting, which is how our newsroom tracks and prioritizes articles using metadata like wordcount, category, story importance and estimated submission time. Editors use the budget to plan our online content strategy for the day and decide what will go in the next day’s paper. As a reporter submits a budget line to let his or her editors know to expect it, a Doc is created via the API, keeping everything tied together and easy to track.
Google Apps costs next to nothing and lets us work the way we want. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on complex systems, we can spend that money on reporters. And in an industry where seconds, pennies and flexibility matter, Google Apps has helped our business focus on what’s really critical — breaking news that matters to Maine.