News delivery is a core mission of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation — the ABC — Australia’s most trusted source of local, national and world news. But coordinating the delivery of news across hundreds of brands, channels and audiences is not an easy business. Thus, we embarked on a discovery journey into how the ABC breaks news, learning along the way how this national institution comes together to deliver such a service in an seemingly seamless fashion.

Amongst all the different types of news delivered by the ABC, we chose to focus on breaking news because of the clear and linear path it plays out over the natural content lifecycle — from when a story happens, to when it breaks, then live coverage and follow up over time.

By choosing breaking news we could create a time–based framework mapping each and every step taken by the ABC to deliver this service — from teams’ mobilisation and content creation, to information flows and the tools used in the process.

Practically speaking, we followed the death of pop music icon Prince as a proxy to understand how the ABC breaks news because of the reactive nature of the event but also because... Prince.

Prince tweet, 2016 ABC | what we made | future ensemble

Prince’s death was totally unexpected, especially on the back of his successful Australian “Piano and a Microphone” tour. Additionally, the array of content created across all of ABC’s divisions — television, radio and online services — provided extensive research material. This enabled us to understand the many back–of–house processes and complex interactions between people and technology in order to cover this event. The fact that Prince’s death occurred in the middle of the night in Australia also added an extra level of pressure, as ABC Newsrooms are typically running with limited resources at night.

Studio, 2016 ABC | what we made | future ensemble

After weeks of interviews in Brisbane and Sydney and putting all the pieces of this puzzle together, we delivered a service blueprint exploring how the ABC became aware of, broke and covered Prince's death.

This strategic and operational tool maps the current state of ABC’s editorial workflow and processes and represents a depiction of the events as they unfolded across the main ABC’s divisions. It also provides eight divisional and four organisational key opportunities to design new products and services, and improve the ABC news delivery ecosystem.

Poster, 2016 ABC | what we made | future ensemble