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WHO'S IN CHARGE HERE?
Magpie is a former journalist, attempted historian [No, you can't ask how her thesis is going], and full-time corvid of the lesbian persuasion. She keeps herself in birdseed by writing those bad computer manuals that you toss out without bothering to read them. She also blogs too much when she's not on deadline, both here and at Pacific Views.

Magpie roosts in Portland, Oregon, where she annoys her housemates (as well as her cats Medea, Whiskers, and Jane Doe) by attempting to play Irish music on the fiddle and concertina.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Putting the online readers first.

In US journalistic circles, one of the big arguments is whether mass-market print newspapers will survive for long. Newspapers have faced stiff competition from TV news for decades, and newspaper circulation peaked over 15 years ago. As online versions of newspapers appeared, the circulation slide for print papers accelerated, with readership now down to numbers last seen in the late 1970s. Web readership, however, continues to climb, with 28 percent of the US public now getting their news online. The changing nature of the news audience is shown well by the NY Times. While the printed version reaches an average of 1.1 million readers per day, the online daily readership is over 13 million.

Newspapers in the UK are facing the same circulation problems, and two of the country's major papers are taking opposite paths to ensure their economic health. One, the Telegraph, has decided to hold back breaking news stories from its website in order to increase the sales of the print paper. The Guardian, on the other hand, has decide to become(I think) the first major English-language newspaper to decide that its primary audience is its online readers, not the people who read the printed version. From tomorrow, the main task of the Guardian's editors and reporter will be to feed stories to the website:

Some of these developments became inevitable the moment the Daily Telegraph became the first British paper to publish to the web 12 years ago. The internet is not a static medium. There's not much point in a website with a newspaper headline "Troops poised to go in" once soldiers are engaged in hand-to-hand fighting. News sites had to update, which is why they were soon ordering live agency feeds for breaking news. Then it seemed a good idea to get specialist correspondents to offer fast analysis on breaking stories, then it seemed strange to wait for the paper to print when the copy was already available ...

So in many ways, tomorrow's development is a logical extension of what has been happening already. Calming messages to that effect have been going around the editorial floors. A lot of the detail will be worked out as the process goes on. Some exclusive stories will be held back for the paper to give the paper a competitive edge at the newsstand. Editors must decide which breaking stories can be covered with agency material and which require the attention of staff reporters. How, for instance, do you ensure that your specialists have time to make calls for new information if they are providing instant analysis to the website?

Yet the symbolism of making website publication the primary purpose is hugely important. It immediately raises a fascinating question about readers. Are they the 360,000 people who buy the paper or the 13.3 million unique users who see it free on the internet? Has a reader more right to insult a writer on the Comment is Free website when he has paid 70p for the paper or clicked on the website for nothing? It raises too the biggest internet question of them all, which is how to make money — enough money to fund proper journalism — out of that online readership....

Via UK Guardian.

| | Posted by Magpie at 10:34 AM | Get permalink




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