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How to Multitask in the Digital Age

Libby HoppeAt the ASBPE National Conference in July, two experienced digital editors gave their advice on how to multitask in an era of too-much information.

By Libby Hoppe

“Ability to multitask” isn’t exactly a standout skill on a resume or job application anymore because — let’s face it — everybody’s multitasking. And in the digital age, multitasking isn’t an option. It’s mandatory.

Chris Murphy, Editor, InformationWeek
Chris Murphy, Editor, InformationWeek
Photo Credit: Phillip M. Perry

At the ASBPE National Conference in July, two experienced digital editors talked about the new working reality for journalists who get too many emails, have too many deadlines and are faced with too many platforms on which to deliver content. “Everyone is distracted by everything all the time,” says Ladan Nikravan, senior editor at Human Capital Media. People check their phones 150 times a day, and working at a computer isn’t much better where distractions come, on average, every 10.5 minutes. Chris Murphy, editor at InformationWeek, knows firsthand how important multitasking in the digital age has become: InformationWeek shuttered its print magazines last year, moving to an all-digital approach. “Multitasking is kind of our business model now,” he said. Murphy and Nikravan shared a few ideas on how to manage time, content and resources in an increasingly digital journalism universe. Here are some of their top tips:

  1. Establish a digital strategy. In addition to an editorial strategy, magazines need a digital strategy. At Human Capital Media, Nikravan and her team have developed a three-pronged approach to digital. Everything shared online is focused on content, community and curation. Blogs, social media, video, analytics and web development are the key pillars to that three-sector strategy.
  2. Have a formal process. It’s not enough to simply share content on social when it’s convenient. Editors need a plan. Nikravan and her team have a number of established processes. For example, lead newsletter stories are shared twice a day for four days straight on Twitter, and once on Facebook and LinkedIn. “Because you have to multitask, you need to have a process,” she says.
  3. Set quotas. Murphy requires members of his editorial team to share content on social a set number of times each week to meet a social quota. “It helps get everyone more involved in the conversation,” he says.
  4. Ladan Nikravan discusses multitasking
    Ladan Nikravan discusses multitasking
    Photo Credit: Phillip M. Perry

    Understand content escalation. “When big news happens, we drop everything and focus on it,” says Murphy. That’s called escalation: moving a news story to the top of the deadline list when everyone is talking about it online.

  5. Invest in a digital staff. The days of handing social media off to a new intern are over. “You need someone who’s digital first,” says Nikravan. “Not digital only, but digital first.” That key staff member should also be the lead editor who communicates with the web development team.
  6. Try new things. What’s digital journalism going to look like in 10 years? Or five? Or even one? We don’t know, and that’s why we need to be trying new things all the time. InformationWeek launched a radio program recently that streams online. Whether it sticks around for a long time or creates monetary value is yet to be seen, but opening up new potential revenue streams is important in the digital age where advertisers are trying to figure out where to spend their dollars.