Communication
May 7, 2012

Not fit to print: A new format for delivering the news

For decades, governments around the world have relied on the news release to spread the word about programs and policies. About a year ago, communicators in Ontario took a close look at their own news releases and realized that the format for this essential communications tool hadn’t changed since the 1940s.

Despite massive global change in communications trends in those 60 years, the news release stayed the same. It was way behind the times in a world where news is decentralized, immediate, 24/7 and mobile. Gone are the days when television broadcasters and newspapers were the only sources of news. Bloggers, podcasters – citizen journalists – contribute to a communications landscape that is vibrant and ever-changing. Today, people want information quickly in easy-to-digest bits.

So Ontario set out to modernize the way it communicates with citizens, changing its news format and delivery to reflect the new ways people consume information.

Paperless news release

A recent Nielsen analysis found that people read about 20 percent of the text on an average web page. They don’t read everything, and they don’t read start to finish. Instead, they scan content, customize it, and jump quickly, from section to section.

So out went the decades-old news release with its long, dense style, acronyms and jargon. In came a brand new format that speaks to today’s audiences.

Now, releases are rarely more than one page and begin with headlines that tell the story. The new format separates information into four clear sections: News, Quotes, Quick Facts and Learn More. Hyperlinks are used extensively to connect readers to in-depth information. The paperless “news-you-can-use” style is also social-media ready, allowing readers to share with others. Most importantly, it aims to banish “bureaucratese” and provide people with information in plain language.

Social media newsroom
Next came a new home for the new release: the Ontario Newsroom (www.ontario.ca/news). The newsroom gives media and the public access to government news any way they want it: on the web, via email or using RSS. For the first time, news from 27 ministries is all in one place.

A Top Story section highlights major announcements. A news ticker chronologically lists the most recent releases. A features section provides a behind-the-scenes look at government programs. Content is organized by subject and community of interest, not by ministry, so it’s more intuitive for visitors and easier to find.

Canada is home to some of the most voracious consumers of online video in the world, and the newsroom has also brought the government firmly into the video age. Canadians watch about 10 hours of video online every month, with news and current events a top viewing category, so major announcements feature video stories alongside the news release.

Ontario is using its newsroom to help it establish a social media presence. The 90-second stories are easy to share and embed in external websites. Users can subscribe to RSS feeds, post Ontario news to Facebook accounts, and use sites like digg and del.icio.us to organize and share stories with others. Owners of other websites can embed newsroom videos and import content to their sites using RSS feeds.

The newsroom also provides direct services to the media such as customized emails, either as it happens or in a daily digest.

Smart IT solution
Working in partnership with IT colleagues, the team found a smart and affordable solution using open source software that required only minimal changes and hosting infrastructure. Ministries no longer need to use an external wire service to get their releases out because the media can sign up to get them directly, which results in more cost savings.

David Nicholl is Ontario’s Corporate Chief Information & Information Technology Officer. He thinks the newsroom is an excellent example of what’s possible when government looks beyond traditional approaches when developing new platforms.

“Agile development and low cost are the keys to success in our rapidly changing work environment,” he says. “The Newsroom shows us that efficient, leading-edge enterprise solutions can be achieved with the innovative use of open source software.”


Rhonda McMichael is ADM, Cabinet Office Communications and Maria Pontikis is newsroom coordinator, Cabinet Office Communications.

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Communication
 
The ways governments engage with citizens have gotten a lot more...
 
It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and just moments...
 
In this episode of CGE Radio, J. Richard Jones speaks with...
 
You could hear the oxygen leave the room after I asked...
 
Today on CGE Radio, John Jones interviews Alex Miller the President...
 
There is growing pressure on governments around the world to be...
 
The Trudeau Government’s decision, in August 2017, to split the Indigenous...
 
As social media becomes ever-more prevalent in the lives of today’s...
 
Evaluation is performed for a range of reasons:  to improve programs,...
 
Radical candour sounds rather outré as a prescription for government executives....
 
In 2016, Deloitte undertook a global internal audit research study on...
 
As the face of the Association of Professional Executives of the...
 
One of the writers in this month’s issue started a note...
 
Excellence in leadership is instrumental in serving the public interest. New-age...
 
At this time a year ago, the 88,000 displaced people of...
 
During the general election in 2015, Justin Trudeau, the leader of...
 
“Former Metro banker stole $73,000.”  “Enbridge sues ex-employee.”  “Woman stole $51,000...
 
The recent introduction of the new Government of Canada (GC) IT...
 
The way forward to engaging Millennials in the public sector Passionate,...
 
Innovation is prized and praised these days at work, even in...
 
An Interview with Joe Friday and Craig Dowden The Office of...
 
Leading the Unleadable By Alan Willett Your team probably includes some...
 
In this episode J. Richard Jones examines the rise in international...
 
Currently, there are ten organizations at the federal level that function...
 
Imagine a Canadian government that shares best practices in service delivery....
 
If you want to learn from mistakes in how to handle...
 
In 2015, the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED)...
 
Since 2010, experts and academics eager to connect “systems thinking” and...
 
We curse meetings, but they are essential to today’s collaborative leadership...
 
When Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message”...
 
Words, words, words. Blah, blah, blah. Our days – our work...
 
Government executives are writers. Maybe not like Margaret Atwood or Joseph...
 
Rehabilitating the West Block in considered the most complex restoration project...
 
David Graham, Member of Parliament for Laurentides–Labelle, is on a mission...
 
Global market trends are accelerating to increase the pressure on commercial...
 
Dispersed organisations can be very powerful structures. There is ample evidence...
 
The fact that Shared Services Canada (SSC) has struggled mightily under...
 
The agency responsible for safeguarding the Pentagon and several other buildings...
 
The annual APEX Symposium, which is the largest gathering of federal...
 
The government is spending $3.5 million to improve an existing immunization...
 
Years and years ago when I was unemployed, being able to...
 
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today begins a public...
 
Professors are obliged to set regular weekly office hours, something most...
 
The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it has managed to...
 
Declining TV revenues caused by a growing shift in viewing habits...
 
Written by Tim Wacker Almost a quarter century ago, when most...
 
Written By Jason McNaught Contrary to what you may have heard,...
 
“Public institutions are the cornerstone of our democratic system” is the...
 
Written by  Brady G. Wilson You may not realize it, but...
 
Written by  Roxanne Descôteaux When I first became a manager over...
 
The good news is that the Government of Canada recognizes the...
 
given the article is mainly about briefing decks. Thus...
 
As politicians prepare for the upcoming elections, leveraging mobile devices and...
 
As the social media field changes and expands, Veterans Affairs Canada...
 
If there is one world that has changed dramatically for public...
 
For the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), bidding for the 2010 Winter...
 
Smartphones and tablets have fundamentally changed how information is created, managed...
 
Canada is seen around the world as a leader in science...
 
They have been hard to miss – TV commercials with colourful...
 
Many emergency responders in Canada, including members of the Canadian Forces,...
 
Presentations can be nerve-wracking at the best of times, even for...
 
It should matter to citizens that governments in office continue to...
 
Chances are good your organization has a crisis communications plan. Sitting...
 
Smart phones now account for 40% of all internet usage, and...
 
Too often emailing is used to dodge conflict; why not use...
 
It’s painfully ironic how difficult it can be for communicators to...
 
Last week, Queen’s University held the Third Annual National Public Administration...
 
commentEmail””:””llevesque@iog.ca””...
 
By using existing technologies such as Facebook and Twitter, Veterans Affairs...
 
The lines between our professional and personal lives are blurring: we...
 
If there is one function of government that has undergone significant...
 
Last week, I announced that I would be retiring from the...
 
On April 21, 1992, a group of 225 people gathered in...
 
We are told that the web is where it’s at when...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 Much has changed since SARS struck...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 Cela fait près de neuf...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 In the past decade, Ontarians...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 "A nation’s ability to solve problems...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 Reaching out – it’s been...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.3 March 2008 Kevin Lynch is Clerk of the...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 You may be a generalist,...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.4 April 2008 Fancy yourself a bit of...
 
Nicole Vienneau disappears in Syria three years ago and, according to...
 
For decades, governments around the world have relied on the news...
 
La phase d’expansion initiale qu’a connue l’Internet dans les années 90...
 
Depending on what stage you are in your public service career,...
 
In my long experience watching and working with many ministers of...
 
With the initial Internet boom of the 1990s now firmly behind...
 
Il y a cinq ans à peine, deux administrations municipales néoR09;zélandaises,...
 
Bien que la majorité des Nord-Américains ne se déplacent pas tellement...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.6 June 2007 Is it 1995? Sometimes I think...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.8 October 2007 A landmark conference at Ryerson University...
 
D’ici 2017, les minorités visibles représenteront presque 29 % de la...
 
Au moment où s’amorce la présidence d’Obama, les spéculations vont bon...
 
As the Obama Presidency begins, there is much speculation as to...
 
Our work life is a series of conversations. And those conversations...
 
When Steve Jobs unveiled the new iTab earlier this year, the...
 
This past June, Don Head, commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada...
 
The Government of Saskatchewan dove into a social media experiment with...
 
When you hear the word “collaborate,” do you yawn? Do you...
 
New professionals across Canada are developing novel, more effective approaches to...
 
In a time when communicators are almost universally under pressure to...
 
The communications community of the Government of Canada plays a central...
 
Governments face increasingly complex issues that often involve inter-related environmental, social,...
 
There is an old joke about two passengers on a cruise...
 
Four years ago, we suggested people, service and trust – three...
 
Not to be too dramatic, but information is like a raging...
 
Over the last few years criticism of Canadian human rights commissions...
The ways governments engage with citizens have gotten a lot more...