Newsroom everywhere with Sony's Media Backbone Hive

September 28, 2021

The age of cloud has meant a third generation of newsroom systems: flexible, accessible from anywhere and scalable. Dave Hedley, senior product manager at Sony Professional Solutions Europe, explains: “Customers were starting to say, ‘I don’t want to have all this equipment ticking over on my premises. I’d like to move this off-premises into data centres.’ ” Customers also need their systems to scale – and scale big.

“What we were seeing was an increasing number of small work groups building up, but a difficulty with them sharing content,” continues Hedley. “When social media and web content kicked off, newsrooms had to set up completely different systems in completely different departments in order to run them.

”There was a clear need for newsrooms and journalists to be able to collaboratively share content from the very beginning.

“We had customers who had contracted with Sony for building on-premise systems, where we deliver all the professional services, all the software, all the hardware. We test it, get it running, hand it over to them and then support it.

“But we saw the business models were changing. Because we had started to move into cloud-based technology, we’ve got a platform we can run either on a customer’s data centre – or private cloud if you will – or on public cloud. The customer can buy, or we can provide the computing and the storage, wherever and however they want to deploy it.

There's a real drive now for Television news sources to become that trusted provider, rather than just the first to break the story.

Agile models

Changing how you do things is always anxiety-provoking, but when you have hosts of journalists trying to meet lots of deadlines, adding a new set of processes can look downright threatening.

Sony often does a proof of concept with its customers, who want to get a clear sense of how the system will work within the business and on their own premises. They may even want to try a pilot implementation to see how their journalists interact with the new system and give them some opportunities to experiment with the tools before they finally move into the real production.

“There’s usually a proof of concept,” explains Hedley. “‘Does this actually work? Can I do what I need to do with this system? Will my journalists be able to do their jobs reliably?’ They let them play with the tools so they can get a real sense of what they can do and what they can’t do. “What we are seeing is that once journalists start to work with it, they see the benefits. They see they really can do what they need to do from remote locations.

Through this process, they are also starting to drive more interesting workflows and more interesting operations.

“But it is about giving the journalists and operational teams access and understanding what is possible, rather than just telling them what’s going to happen.

The never-ending story

Newsrooms need to be dynamic. When something big happens, they need to be able to access a lot of resources very quickly. This means having everything from the ability to upload and share images, to giving multiple journalists in multiple locations the ability to files stories with different types of media attached. Operating a global, cloud-based system also allows a news organisation to have a 24/7 newsroom operating in shifts around the clock.

“For the larger organisations that have more international footprints, the ability to access the same content from wherever they are around the world and to be able to update that story is really important. And these are the organisations that have their operations fully in a data centre or cloud.” The number of organisations resourced to do this kind of 24/7 storytelling is still relatively small but, as cloud adoption expands and tools become simpler and easier to access, the only real barrier in the future will be the forethought and planning about which collaboration strategies to use.

“We are seeing a whole transition away from having to be in the news building to actually being able to file, edit and publish a story remotely – whether it’s in an internet cafe, a hotel, my home or the front lines. The question we’re seeing in every other industry about remote working is also now critical to news operations,” explains Hedley.

You've got to bring the operational teams and journalists on board with you in the transition as you change the platform.

Expanding the region

Some of the key customers for Sony’s Media Backbone Hive are the regional broadcasters. They are not – or not yet – among the handful of top-tier global networks, but are producing news and filing stories in volume and often across large areas. One of the biggest areas they have to cover is the online world. These broadcasters are looking for improved workflow, especially among their social media teams and web teams. Until now, these organisations have had multiple systems interacting, but are at the point where they need to share content much, much faster.

“The goal of news has now moved from being the first to air on television. It’s the first to publish now. It’s becoming really critical to get the story, even if it’s just text, out and onto social media or onto the website straightaway – then the story evolves,” says Hedley. It’s a hard truth that TV news is not the first to break a news story. Now, stories usually break on social media – and are frequently broken by members of the public instead of journalists. When speed is not going to be your USP anymore, which quality is going to keep people tuning into a news brand?

“There’s a real drive now for broadcasters to become that trusted provider, rather than just the first to break the story. I think they see real value in effectively curated news and being the source people go to because they trust the people writing it. There’s a real battle against the whole ‘fake news’ phenomenon. “The drive from our side is to give them access to the content and access to newsfeeds, so their editorial teams and their journalists can actually build those stories for them,” concludes Hedley.