Having spent my pre-Google profession as a reporter and editor at legacy media organizations, I can inform you that digital transformation within the information business is difficult. Even when information organizations have the desire, sources and technical experience, the obstacles to transformation may be daunting.

In Asia, few information group have plunged headlong into digital transformation like South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s prime English-language every day newspaper. With a every day weekday circulation of roughly 105Okay, SCMP is a midsize paper, however its language and geography give it outsized affect.

For greater than a century, SCMP has been documenting Greater China for the English-speaking diaspora throughout Asia-Pacific. Before the web, expatriates and guests would decide up the paper, typically days outdated, on airplanes and in inns throughout the area. For these residing in mainland China (like I did within the 1990s), the paper supplied a window into the place the place they lived, from a well-known but discrete vantage level.

Now, SCMP makes use of the net to achieve the rising international neighborhood of readers eager about information about China, and experiment with new strategies of storytelling alongside the way in which. After its buy by Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma in 2016, the newspaper all of a sudden had a mandate to evolve, and was given the runway and sources to experiment.

“Culture and identification are massively necessary if you end up making an attempt to show round a 114-year-old firm … till you have got an organization that is able to experiment, prepared to fail, and in a position to transfer with agility … you possibly can discuss all day lengthy about transformation and the place you’re heading however you’ll by no means get there,” mentioned SCMP CEO Gary Liu in an interview with Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Policy.

That entrepreneurial spirit led SCMP to tackle an immersive digital actuality challenge that may hint the historical past of Hong Kong from British rule to the current day, mining a century’s price of archival images and illustrations and presenting them alongside modern-day 360-degree video and drone footage. The challenge was Google News Lab’s first immersive storytelling partnership within the Asia-Pacific area, a part of the crew’s broader effort to speed up immersive storytelling throughout the information business.


“It needed to be large, daring, and delightful—and leverage new codecs, applied sciences and platforms to inform the story,” in keeping with SCMP on-line editor Brett McKeehan, who helmed the challenge and talked in regards to the course of at a current Google News Lab occasion.

In order to make the challenge accessible to as many readers as potential, particularly within the smartphone-dominant Asian market, the SCMP crew constructed a responsive web site that was optimized for cellular, pill and desktop. Animations of 3D Google Earth imagery helped to inform the story and orient the reader throughout time and house all through the piece.


One of Hong Kong’s wettest Junes in historical past.

They set a deadline to finish the challenge inside two months—an eternity for a newspaper used to every day deadlines. “What can’t you do in two months? What may probably go improper? Two months—I assumed, we may do something in two months,” McKeehan mentioned. Shooting and manufacturing schedules had been set, everybody was able to go…

And then it rained. And rained and rained—for six straight weeks—one in all Hong Kong’s wettest Junes in historical past.

While it rained, the Hong Kong authorities modified its drone restrictions, rendering sure deliberate photographs unlawful. Meanwhile, SCMP’s developer crew of three discovered tips on how to construct, for the primary time, a responsive HTML webframe that may work for each iOS and Android.

SCMP_Back 2017-07-10 at 3.19.46 pm.png

A drone is being readied to seize footage throughout Hong Kong.

In the top, Brett and his crew needed to change their challenge scope and push again their launch date to beat the numerous unexpected logistical and improvement challenges that sprang up all through the method.

“It’s not a story of of pixies and rainbows…It is a story of toil and frustration, and the complications that include doing one thing new.”

Despite the ache, Brett mentioned the expertise was worthwhile, as a result of it introduced new expertise that had been now embedded within the newsroom. But for anybody embarking on the journey, he supplied the next suggestions:

  • Embrace the medium: 360, VR, AR supply unimaginable storytelling potentialities. The sooner you make the leap, the higher. 
  • Experiment with new applied sciences, however begin small earlier than taking over extra bold tasks.
  • Don’t outsource: Bite the bullet, purchase your individual tools (get low cost stuff and play). Own your concepts and develop your individual expertise.

“We’re an aspirational writer. We’re doing one thing for the primary time. So we made it; we’re pleased with that,” McKeehan mentioned.

And that’s success, Gary Liu, SCMP’s CEO,  instructed me after it was printed. “The level was to do it and be taught within the course of.”

This article sources data from The Keyword