Business Genius

I moved to Denmark from the UK, this is my blog.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

New media ramblings

Wow, a whole week and no posts. Maybe I'm disheartened by the fact that I don't appear to HAVE ANY READERS?!? HELLO?! I know, I can hear you, 'write something worthwhile and we'll comment!' Fair enough. I'll try. I read the other day on Media Guardian that the Daily Mail has incorporated its online team within the general newsroom. I laughed because when I was last there I asked some colleagues on the subs' desk who all the new people squeezed in inbetween the foreign and specialists' desks were and no-one had the foggiest idea. The article mentioned that Paul Dacre (Daily Mail editor) was now taking a special interest in new media and was looking at ways of creating more of a synergy between the online and regular news operations. I've thought about this a lot and have yet to come up with any ways in which a daily paper can offer any kind of worthwhile online service without damaging its primary product, the paper. News is instant now. Or so we hear. Since the advent of rolling news channels, people now expect information on demand. But a paper will not put tomorrow's splash on the web the night before because that would wreck sales. The Guardian is different though and is streets ahead of the competition. Its comment is free section has re-invigorated its online service giving people a platform for their own views and opinions. It has dedicted bloggers and opinion formers working solely on the net. In short, it has unique content. When I worked on The Sun Online as a staff writer we were always told what stories to upload. We'd all be scanning the wire services for juicy stories and waiting for the word to do a re-write and then post it. I remember on one occasion there was a heart-rending story about how a bomb had killed a family in Iraq or something equally horrific but just below it was a story about how Brian from Westlife had lost his wedding ring while surfing in Australia. No prizes for guessing whcih one we used. The stories that were chosen usually came out of the morning conference between senior staff. Some stories that came off the wires were used ahead of publication but nothing major. All of which made me question what a paper's online service was for. This is a grey area. The online service could, theoretically, make its master redundant within the space of a generation. Pretty soon everyone will have broadband, soon after that everyone will have wireless, then everyone will probably have remote access instantly (pdas). Will people still buy papers then? But until then a paper's website needs to think of something original to offer. Even if a few columnists were only available online it would give readers a reason to log on. There has to be uniqueness, not just repetition between online and paper. An old colleague at The Sun told me that Rupert Mudoch has hiked up the online budget. He knows what's coming and is trying to stay ahead of the game. The Sun Online is a technical marvel now compared to when I was there but ultimately it's still The Sun, online. In my opinion, online teams need greater resourcing and a clearer vision. For most papers it's just a case of staffing it with a few tech-heads and trainee writers and then best forgotten about. But if papers want to shape the new media revolution as opposed to being shaped by it, they need to start paying more attention to their own sites. Sayeth the Lord.


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