I’m going to keep referencing the “Full Van Dam,” but I realize the term requires explanation for those of you who weren’t at the Missourian editors’ retreat a few weeks ago.
Graduate student Andrew Van Dam was at the retreat to represent the views of Team Junit, the group of students working with Tom Warhover and Joy Mayer to plan our transition to a new Junit online content management system. The team had crafted a series of recommendations for transforming the Missourian in anticipation of the system’s arrival. One of Andrew’s salient points was that to really transform the rhythm of the newsroom into a “Web-first” (or “online-mostly”? or “platform-independent”?) organization, we needed to compartmentalize print operations into a segregated team, freeing most of us from having to worry about it. Andrew suggested that print work was “infecting” our thinking about our product and said we had to “do the full Van Dam” — totally isolating print work — to get where we want to go.
Today, I just discovered that we’re not the first to think this way. The Middletown (Conn.) Press came to the same conclusion and has tried it — with, it seems, success. Hat tip to Joy for this post from the blog of Journal Register CEO John Paton. Editor Viktoria Sundqvist does most of the talking. An excerpt from her on the results of their experiment with isolating print production work, freeing desk editors to work online only:
We noticed a significant growth in web traffic during our experiment, but this slowed somewhat towards the end of the week. However, the drop-off rate from the early morning traffic into the afternoon slowed significantly, and the amount of time each person returned to the site increased dramatically. The amount of time each visitor spent on our site also increased.
Those outcomes would be very welcome at the Missourian. I think there’s a lot for us to learn from this. Note that Middletown just did this as experiment. Sundqvist herself handled all the print duties for a few days while the copy desk tried this out. She has since returned some print duties to the copy editors. But even as a temporary shift, it seems to have succeeded in resetting rhythms and perceptions. And it suggests this might be worth trying here. I urge you to read the post on Middletown. Then weigh in here. Should we try this?