March, 1st marks my 3rd anniversary working for Blick, the somewhat infamous Swiss tabloid newspaper. I’ve never planned to work there. However, looking back on the past years, it’s been a wild and exciting ride.
Also, tomorrow, I’ll be leaving the newsroom – but just a little bit. After being a project manager for nine months and establishing the community team in the past two years, I’ll start as product owner for Blick.ch.
I’m looking forward to this new challenge, and this wild and exciting ride will definitely continue.
But today is the time to reflect on the things I learned.
Ignore the superiors
I vividly remember the 12th of April 2019. I cannot remember the occasion, but there were drinks in the newsroom. The community team was just my co-worker Andy and myself.
A couple of hours earlier, I had a meeting with a senior manager discussing the community team’s content strategy. He wasn’t too fond of the things we’ve planned for the day. We had prepared a call to find the best kebab shop in Switzerland. “This won’t work,” he said.
During drinks, the call attracted more and more readers and finally made it to the first place of concurrent readers.
You can imagine the satisfaction we felt. It was our debut success. Today, the resulting article is still placed in the top search results in Google.
Sometimes, it’s best to trust your gut and ignore the superiors. Sticking to the overall understanding of community-driven journalism wouldn’t have helped us create the stories we told.
Implementing Human-centered Storytelling enabled us to change the perception of what community journalism can be.
Collaboration leads to success
Getting taken seriously for a new editorial team is a hard thing to accomplish. There’s the news desk that drives most of the traffic. At Blick, sport is essential. Obviously, you’ve to fight for recognition and exposure.
Although this process is nowhere finished after two years, the key to internal success is collaboration. Working together with the other teams was also necessary for us as two journalists and an intern cannot deliver a massive output.
So we’ve collaborated with all the other teams to push the community-driven approach. Stories with the economy team, sports, or the interactive department attracted large audiences, and therefore, contributed to their success.
Furthermore, collaboration extended to the developers. We’ve created a lean tool to moderate the incoming comments on Blick.ch and steadily improved on the features for our commenters. Since January 2019, we could increase the number of comments by 500 percent.
Team is everything
It was a huge privilege to lead the new community team, and I’m thankful for the trust that was put into me to take on this task. Still, it’s hard to rate my work as a team leader.
However, I don’t think the job I did was too shabby. Half of the 16 comment moderators still belong to the very first hired ones back in August 2018. And we could add a full-time employee to the team last June.
For me, leadership means creating an environment where everybody can perform at their best. Extremely put: I shield the team from attacks and stand to the side when praise comes along.
These are just three learnings that were on the top of my head. Obviously, there are many more, but I don’t want to stress your attention span.
Leaving the community team feels weird as I’m not really leaving the company. And in the past few months, the team has proven to be self-leading, as many other projects occupied me.
On the other hand, my departure actually helps the team as I will be replaced by a journalist who will work fully on stories, not being stuck in meetings.
Nevertheless, I will certainly miss the regular contact with the team—the remote drinking a couple of beers while playing skribbl.io.