Since 2020 the German news site, ntv.de breaks the monthly billion-page impressions mark on a regular basis. In this interview, we talk to Samira Lazarovic about remote work on the news desk, the relevance of user experience, and the advantages of a strong publishing platform. The Head of Editorial Product Strategy and Product Owner CMS at ntv Digital gives us insights into the digital strategy of the German market leader for news apps.
The pandemic posed challenges for large media companies like yours. How did you manage to remotely connect the editorial teams that would otherwise sit at one news desk?
Samira Lazarovic: The lockdown in March 2020 hit us at a demanding time because we were just about to switch the newsrooms from Escenic to CUE as a platform. We then had to react overnight and train all colleagues completely remotely. The first weekend, I had several colleagues sitting on my sofa at home and I supported them during the setup. With the exception of a core editorial team in the newsroom, all colleagues switched to the home office on March 13, 2020. And that has worked out pleasingly well.
How has your day-to-day work changed as a result of this new situation?
Samira Lazarovic: Even before the pandemic, our product team was working mobile and remotely, with developers located all over Germany. For our news desk, however, the situation meant a major change. Looking back, the move to the home office was not difficult for us thanks to browser-based CUE. We communicate differently with each other today, and most agreements are made quickly via Slack. We have been working hybrid since March 2020. Our biggest takeaway from this time is, that we can work completely from the home office, if necessary. On a lighter note we experienced, that night shifts from home are much more comfortable. And that everyone can easily take part in editorial conferences, even when one is not on shift or has, for example, a sick child to look after.
How exactly do you work with CUE?
Samira Lazarovic: All our content is stored in CUE. But we don't just use the platform to create new articles, we also use it to build our website. This ranges from classic page building with big teasers, small teasers to daily flow. Our managing editors populate the site completely from within CUE, set orders, prioritize, and even sometimes make the page grow in "breaking news mode". Our construction kit in CUE is set up so that we no longer need a developer for major changes like that. We also have dashboards in CUE that show us which articles are performing best and how we can thus optimize the site.
In your opinion, will hybrid working models remain firmly anchored in editorial departments in the future? What trends do you see?
Samira Lazarovic: I think we will keep the hybrid options, because they are also easy to reconcile with challenging family situations. At the same time, it will be very nice when we will be able to work together more in the editorial team again. For example during major editorial events like a federal election, it's good if the political editors can sit together on election night and communicate directly. I also think that office spaces will offer more opportunities for collaborative working in the future.
How has the way you produce stories changed with the move to a home office?
Samira Lazarovic: With the fast-paced news business, it's surprisingly easy to generate the stories digitally and also intervene quickly. When big news events happen on the weekend, for example, you can now support the colleagues on duty much more straightforwardly and quickly. In the past, we used to travel to the newsrooms to do that, but today it's easy to do from home.
What do you think are the advantages of a central platform for content creation in all editorial offices?
Samira Lazarovic: At ntv.de, the editor doesn't have to worry about the different channels. He creates an article and the channels take the parts of the article that they need for playout. All relevant channels from RSS feeds for an Alexa or car entertainment to Teletext are integrated in CUE for this purpose. This also includes breaking news and the associated push system for cell phones and web browsers. Colleagues open CUE once in the morning and can then fully concentrate on creating articles. Within our media group we currently use different systems, but there are thoughts about a closer exchange of content.
The streaming market has completely changed the media behavior of the younger generations in particular over the past few years. What effect does that have on your work?
Samira Lazarovic: We practically invented streaming! Since we have a strong TV station behind us, we've always had strong visuals. From videos to live streams or event streams, There is a continuous expansion at ntv.de and new formats are always being added. In our media group, streaming is also a very big topic with the new RTL+.
What are the next big technical steps for ntv in your digitization strategy?
Samira Lazarovic: Improving the user journey will determine our digital development over the next few years. Examples are user surveys or more fine-grained tracking. How can we make the digital experience even better for users and integrate it more into their daily lives? We are happy when a user survey shows that our gut feeling was exactly right, but at the same time you always find processes that you assessed differently than the users. Incidentally, this also applies to CUE. Because there, our editors are the users and should be able to concentrate as much as possible on their actual task, the content creation. We also have some ideas and suggestions for CUE on how the user experience can be further optimized in order to improve the daily work of our editors.