JUNE 30, 2022

Cloud Workflows and the Future of News Production

Media Podcast with guests Morwen Williams-1862

The events of the last two years have reshaped news workflows forever. What has traditionally been a studio- and facility-based operation for so many years was forced to undergo a rapid transformation.

Finding ways to keep productions going while dealing with local lockdowns and travel restrictions became the order of the day. Broadcasters had no option but to adapt their workflows so that increasingly distributed production teams could work and collaborate remotely — an area in which the cloud excels.

Now, many news operations around the world have recognized the increased level of flexibility and cost-efficiency that cloud-based workflows provide — not to mention the ability to seamlessly collaborate with different teams and creatives based anywhere in the world.

To shed more light on this shift, we recently spoke to two news production experts based on opposite sides of the Atlantic: Morwen Williams, director of UK operations for BBC News, and Andrea Owen, director of D.C. Bureau operations at ABC News. Here’s what they had to say about the cloud revolution and what to expect in the next era of news production.

New Thinking, New Workflows

If there’s one thing we can say about the pandemic, it’s that it forced people to think in new ways. It forced producers and creative teams into workflows that they simply wouldn’t have considered pre-COVID. Combine that pressure with the need for rapid innovation, and it’s almost inevitable that what would otherwise have been an evolution became a revolution.

“We moved on so much farther than we ever thought we could do in such a short period of time,” said Andrea. “We put in a lot of workflows that really allowed people to work from home. Not only was it just people working on their laptops, but it was also people editing remotely and tunnelling into our systems. Being able to work with content, turn the content around and send it out to the platforms that needed it — all from anywhere.”

The BBC went through a similar transition. While some editors and studio teams kept coming into facilities, having more people working remotely and restrictions on how many people could physically be together meant the BBC had to completely rethink certain productions. Some had to streamline, physical audiences became virtual audiences, and remote workflows took on a newfound importance — all of which was enabled by cloud technologies.

“It all changed,” said Morwen. “Things people didn't want to try or didn't think would work had to be tried, because it was the only way we could get things on air. We had to take those opportunities and think ‘we can do things differently.’ But I think people probably wouldn't have put certain things forward as ways of working had it not been for the pandemic.”

Ultimately, major broadcasters had to rapidly adapt at a time when linear news programming was more important than ever. People relied on their local news to inform them of the situation. This triggered the widespread adoption of cloud-based workflows which, when we consider the multiple benefits on offer, will pave the way for the future of the news production industry.

Speed, Agility and Accessibility Assured

One factor any organization that has embraced cloud platforms and workflows over the last few years will recognize is the empowerment that comes from using the cloud. At a basic level, it gives production teams easier access to tools that they can use to work independently and remotely. But it also goes a step further, empowering editors, correspondents, and other stakeholders to collaborate more effectively from any location.

The cloud breaks down silos in a way that hasn’t previously been possible. Now, collaboration across teams is simple and fast — injecting greater agility and efficiency into the entire news production process without hindering the quality of the content being produced.

Andrea explains: “A key thing was the innovation that people can do remotely, especially with editing and turning content around. Having that ability to work across multiple different locations really no matter what your location is, was really something that is fantastic and that's going to be something that hopefully going forward we can continue.”

This thought is echoed by Morwen, who gave the example of a story in the Middle East that perfectly captured the power of remote collaboration: “The people that came together for the job were from three different continents, so they went home to three different continents to edit in that workflow. So, we've learned an awful lot. You don't have to be in the same place to do things.”

Is Cloud the Future?

In a word: absolutely! While some may adopt a hybrid approach, cloud adoption for news production workflows will continue to increase over the coming years. The world’s biggest broadcasters are already using cloud for many of their most important workflows, and there are still plenty of opportunities for smaller players as they progress on their cloud journeys.

As Morwen says: “Anything we are looking at in the future, we would hope would be cloud-based so the old anytime, anyplace, anywhere saying could be true. More web-based tools as well, absolutely, has got to be the way forward.”

Organization roadmaps will always vary — that’s a natural part of any technology shift. But the universal truth across the industry is that the cloud is increasingly being seen as the ultimate destination for news production. The advantages of working in a cloud-oriented way are there for all to see. All that’s left to do is dive right in.

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