Online newsrooms: 4 to emulate

See how Starbucks, Walmart, GE and Red Bull keep their newsrooms relevant in today’s digital world, and how you can do the same.


After considering why newsrooms need to change to stay relevant, I found three newsrooms that are changing, and a fourth that completely resets the bar. All of the newsrooms represent brands with big investments in owned media and media relations.

Starbucks

With 19,555 stores in 58 countries, Starbucks produces a ton of media interest every day. To the brand’s credit, its newsroom is well-organized and uses visuals to help tell stories. It offers visitors a feature story and related content, including videos and photos, all armed with sharing tools.

Plus, there’s a media request form, key links, and sub-navigation with a search engine to access more relevant assets on the site. Clearly there’s a strong information hierarchy at work as it’s all done on one page.

Starbucks could improve its newsroom by curating content and highlighting its social presence. Some rotating feature banners could highlight content from the brand’s passionate consumers, and more of Starbucks’ consumer-facing, social content. Both would help reinforce the brand’s social media focus. Right now, that’s the only thing Starbucks doesn’t clearly call out on the page.

Walmart

The square footage of every Walmart store combined is bigger than the island of Manhattan. But Walmart serves up news plainly and simply. Its quick and easy request for visitors to connect with them on Facebook and Twitter blends well with other contact information. Rotating visual features make great use of the page.

But as the brand faces its 50th anniversary—it invested in a curated brand site highlighting yesterday, today and tomorrow—no connections to this milestone or the related content are apparent.

The first view of your newsroom is a store window through which the media are looking. Whether they’re browsing or have a specific need, the media are interested. What should they see first and how frequently should you update content to keep them coming back?

GE

GE is so big it can’t even fit into one category. At its highest level it is “a diversified infrastructure, finance and media company.” But its newsroom is well-organized, and almost too simple. It’s a great mix of all the concepts we enjoy in the Starbucks and Walmart newsrooms.

Here are a few tips to apply to your newsroom:

Simplicity: Don’t overwhelm visitors with content, no matter how much you have. Make sure your page has good information architecture with a clear hierarchy so visitors can tell what’s most important.

Multimedia: Many newsrooms have multimedia content, but not enough of them show it seamlessly. Putting images, videos and stories into silos may help organize the content, but does it help tell the story? Rotating feature content is also a helpful way to show more of what’s beyond the first page.

Social:
There’s a lot of opportunity to integrate consumer-created media about the brand, as well as a brand’s social content. GE’s Pinterest boards show a very visual side of the brand. Should GE show more of it in the newsroom?

Search and share:
Search engines and sharing tools should be standard for every newsroom, but there’s more opportunity here. Consider letting user traffic rank the most popular and most-shared news stories.

Why not use positive brand search results (via Google, not the newsroom) as content. And if we want folks to share content, use it to fuel news stories, and pass it around their social networks, we should enable comments on content. This will increase visitor engagement.

Red Bull‘s un-newsroom

You may think Red Bull is an exception to the rules we must consider. As an extreme brand, its newsroom doesn’t hold realistic lessons for other brands. But I single out Red Bull for taking an approach to its newsroom that has nothing to do with its brand.

While Starbucks, Walmart and GE make the most of a fairly standard newsroom design, Redbull’s Content Pool takes advantage of the drink’s massive investment in owned media-online and off.

While other newsrooms are a menu of ingredients the media can use to cook up their own stories, Red Bull takes it a step further and shows the possibilities for storytelling. Its recipes bring the content to life and may be more of a cookbook than a content pool, but the name is a constant reminder to the media of its role.

The site immediately greets visitors with instructions that quantify the brand’s metric ton of content:

“Explore now more than 5,000 high quality videos and also more than 50,000 amazing photos. All on one platform and ready to use for your communication purposes. Stories and the latest news of breathtaking action sports, athletes, international events or unique culture topics.”

Red Bull follows this with quick tips on how to swim through the pool: search, select and download. The initial splash page doesn’t even use the word “news” in the copy. And in about 100 words Red Bull gave context and instructions to any English-reading audience who visits the site.

From there, the site encourages registration. I’m on the fence about this, but Red Bull uses it as more of an opt-in than a security checkpoint. It was simple to set up and allows the Content Pool a more granular way to track what stories get the most interest.

Red Bull’s design is much different from the other newsrooms, and it is a smart approach for a brand heavy with lifestyle content. It turns the newsroom into more of an active resource for a variety of audiences.

It also helps with search, as other newsrooms do. But other newsrooms feel more like an owned media bank where the company deposits content. Red Bull’s news site feels more like a dynamic investment, and it will continue to help the brand’s owned media investment flourish.

Kevin Dugan is the director of marketing at Empower MediaMarketing. A version of this article originally appeared on the Bad Pitch Blog.

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Topics: PR

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