The trend of broadcasters implementing some degree of cloud news production to complement their increasingly decentralized workforces—a movement accelerated in many cases by the COVID-19 pandemic—was explored in a recent Avid webinar, "The Future Vision of Cloud News Production."
Moderated by Craig Wilson, product evangelist for Media and Cloud at Avid, the session featured contributions from Craig Dwyer, vice president, Global Cloud & SaaS at Avid; Chris Lawrence, director of consulting, Global Cloud & SaaS at Avid; and Stuart Almond, director of industry, Media & Telecommunications at Microsoft, with whom Avid has a long-term strategic partnership.
In his opening presentation, Dwyer provided context on the adoption of cloud news production and distributed workflows. While it might be tempting to view the pandemic as the sole catalyst, the reality is many news organizations were heading in this direction before COVID-19 as they worked to optimize use of their assets and resources across different services and outlets. Increasingly, organizations had been prompted to address their disconnected silos and consider how they might be able to work more efficiently—this goal was one of the influences in the development of Avid's MediaCentral.
It's become clear that the cloud will play a huge role in delivering this new era of production. "One of the things we have heard a lot is that [news broadcasters] want a lot of flexibility and choice about how they deploy their workflows—whether it's on-premises, in existing environments, or in a hybrid solution where they can burst a workflow to the cloud for an event or a short-term project," Dwyer said.
Recognizing the need to deliver a "continuum" for customers, regardless of their workloads and workflows, Avid has been working on multiple scenarios for cloud news production, Dwyer said. These include backup and archive, in which an organization might initially focus on copying material to the cloud for the purposes of business continuity and disaster recovery. In the past year, Avid's product teams have launched a cloud-based service called Avid | Edit on Demand, which is essentially a combined Avid NEXIS and Media Composer in a SaaS, subscription solution for remote editing and collaboration.
Moving News Organizations to the Cloud
In his presentation, Lawrence addressed some of the key questions that news organizations should consider when planning cloud migration and distributed workflows. Beginning with the role the cloud can play in enabling a news organization to transform its operations, he cited factors including greater speed and agility, breaking down silos and delivering to more platforms, and managing costs more effectively.
He admitted, however, that calculating total cost of ownership now and in the future can be challenging. Of course, it depends in part on the size and nature of the organization, as well as how much the company wants to enable its staff to work remotely. Once an organization defines its technology roadmap and assesses the business value of cloud adoption, it can draw sound conclusions.
On a purely journalistic level, however, Dwyer said it's easy to highlight the universal benefits of cloud news production: easier access to tools that allow correspondents to work independently and remotely, the opportunity to collaborate more and make use of others' content to enhance reporting, and easier delivery of content to a digital platform or back to the newsroom.
These observations underline one of Dwyer's key takeaways: The greatest long-term benefits of the cloud come from working differently, not by replicating existing operational practices. Organizations that are most receptive to fresh ideas, he said, will adapt most seamlessly to these new approaches.
Closing out the session's individual presentations, Almond highlighted the advances made by Microsoft and Avid in recent years as a result of their ongoing strategic partnership in the development of screen-to-screen content workflows. He emphasized the need for news organizations to consider factors such as the target audience, the type of content requiring production, the methods of delivering and engaging audiences with content, and the methods of monetizing that content.
"Cloud news production is on the road to decentralizing the newsroom. It removes limits on editing and helps with story-centric production," said Almond, who also underlined the continued global reach of the Microsoft Azure cloud.
Pandemic Pressures—and Benefits
In the closing Q&A, session participants considered the impact of the pandemic more explicitly. Both Microsoft and Avid speakers said strategies around distributed workflows have accelerated in recent years as organizations kept pace with changing consumer behavior and produced more content, more quickly.
While customer roadmaps vary, Dwyer said, the pandemic—and in particular the sharp rise in working from home—has "really catalyzed organizations moving much faster. [Some have said that] they delivered one year's worth of change in about five days." Some of those changes might be quick fixes—subject to refinement and more permanent solutions when time allows. But in terms of reshaping the "muscle memory" that can sometimes inhibit adoption of new technologies, the accelerated change has been beneficial; in particular, more people are now aware of the advantages of working in a more cloud-oriented way than they were before COVID-19.
Also, as newsrooms become increasingly comfortable with remote work, there's likely to be greater focus on "the next generation of news customers [who want to be] 'radically decentralized,'" said Dwyer, depicting a scenario in which journalists are largely based remotely, only meeting their colleagues on an occasional basis in streamlined, hub-style facilities.