Digital Innovation New Publishing Tech
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Q&A: Sourcefabric, co-creating journalism’s open-source newsroom CMS

Founded in April 2010, Sourcefabric has grown to become Europe’s largest developer of open-source software for the news industry. WNIP recently caught up with Sourcefabric’s Karel Petrák to learn about an innovative program designed to bring major news agencies together to co-develop a common newsroom CMS.

Can you give us some background about your company?

Sourcefabric z.ú, a nonprofit organisation headquartered in Prague, Czech Republic, creates software and digital solutions to help strengthen the editorial and economic independence of news organisations worldwide. Sourcefabric’s products include Superdesk, an all-in-one digital newsroom tool; Live Blog, a professional live blogging platform; and Airtime Pro for online radio automation.

What business problem is your company addressing?

For much of journalism’s history, competition has been the defining relationship between – and even within – newsrooms. For publishers, competition has been profitable; scoops are valuable commodities. But for those managing newsroom technology, competition is inefficient. Bespoke CMS solutions are costly, and increasingly unnecessary. That’s why our tools are open-source and collaboratively created by journalists. When news organisations work together to improve technological efficiencies and share development costs, the entire industry benefits.

What is your core product addressing this problem?

The core technology powering this vision is Superdesk, a content management and newsroom workflow system developed in partnership with leading news organisations – including the Australian Associated Press (AAP) and the national news agency of Norway (NTB). As a “headless CMS,” in which the front end has been decoupled from the content processing back end, Superdesk is a more flexible digital publishing system than many other CMS’s on the market. Superdesk is also built on an open-source code base, which allows partner media organizations to collectively make improvements.

To facilitate these collaborations, Sourcefabric has launched a new executive forum for news agencies called the Superdesk Wire Club. The club’s goal is to bring Superdesk clients together to guide the software’s development and ensure it continues to serve the particular needs of its users. Founding members of the Superdesk Wire Club include AAP, NTB, and Belgian news agency Belga.

Can you give some examples of publishers successfully using your solution?

Since Superdesk’s public release in early 2016, nearly a dozen publishers have adopted the CMS or are transitioning to the software, including some of Europe’s leading news agencies – such as ANSA in Italy. Every month, the platform delivers more than 300,000 news items to over 80 million readers on four continents. Additionally, publishers around the world are increasingly presenting content using Superdesk Publisher, the digital output controller made for Superdesk. Brasil 247, one of Brazil’s leading independent media outlets with 57 million page views per month, is the most recent news outlet to migrate to the platform.

Pricing?

There are three tiers of Superdesk implementation: Self-starter, Pro, and Enterprise. Because Superdesk is open-source, a Self-starter implementation is free to download with the option of adding managed services to help with installation, configuration and hosting; Pro and Enterprise rates vary depending on organisational needs.

Members of the Superdesk Wire Club are agencies using Superdesk and will pay an additional fee to have a seat at the software-development table. Additionally, agency members will be able to purchase discounted development coupons and pool funding with other members to jointly pay for new features, enhancements and components.

What are other people doing in the space and why?

News agencies are already cooperating on technological innovation. For example, a group of six European news agencies – led by the Dutch agency, ANP – is developing data-driven publishing tools to determine what content users find most engaging. Another initiative, a collaboration between the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur and STT, the Finnish news agency, aims to help news agencies track and match content to reader preferences, insights that could drive revenue growth. But the Superdesk Wire Club is the only forum in the world that we know of that is designed for news agencies to collectively develop a common open-source newsroom CMS.

How do you view the future?

With many of the world’s media organizations facing commercial, political and technological challenges, collaboration is essential. At the moment, however, most collaborative journalism is centered on editorial projects. Going forward, partnerships in the digital trenches – the alliances forged to improve the tools and software that deliver journalists’ work – will be just as important to ensure that struggling media organizations survive, and hopefully, thrive into the future.

Thank you.

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