For a web journalist to blog about the future of newspapers on the internet is unexceptional. When the blogger is the online news editor of the Telegraph on the day after the man who is supervising the move to the new integrated newspaper is made editor of the daily paper, it looks more like a job application or a manifesto.
It is difficult to see how Shane Richmond’s present job of news editor of telegraph.co.uk can survive the introduction of the integrated newsroom. There can be only one news editor.
Yesterday’s post is the second installment of Richmond’s “News from nowhere â€“ a survival guide” in which he postulates that there are “more changes to come and they are likely to be bigger than the ones we’ve already seen”.
He writes about three problems: how do newspapers remain relevant when readers have more choices and less time, how do they continue to make money and how do you maintain ownership of material?
Most of what follows is sensible but may shock many journalists, not only at the Telegraph, who have failed to understand, let alone come to terms, with the huge changes in the industry.
He starts with remaining relevant. He suggests:
Remember, different people want different things from you. If it’s a big story, use audio and video to vary the perspective. If it’s a complex story, provide backgrounders and in-depth factfiles – let the reader choose how much or how little they want to read. Tell the story in pictures if it suits.
Don’t be afraid to take a different approach. There are no space constraints online and the rise of broadband opens up possibilities for new approaches. The reason newspapers don’t tell stories through interactive flash graphics is because they aren’t used to it, but then we didn’t used to tell stories in pictures either.
That is fine advice but a tad insensitive when the savings coming from integrating the newsrooms at the Telegraph are being applied to cutting staff rather than redeploying them to write the extra backgrounders, fact files and interactive flash graphics he wants. Those are all time-consuming and expensive jobs. Successful newspapers are going to have invest heavily in extra content.
Under the sub heading “Be first, or at least be fast” he suggests that for print journalists working to a rolling deadline is a new approach which comes as a shock. I am fairly sure there are quite a few old hands on the Telegraph who will not find this a shock.
It seems to come as surprise to him that “in a world where readers can access news from a range of sources, they will go with the fastest”. (Here I have to admit that when I started as a reporter news vendors in London still shouted “Star, News and Standard.”) Most journalists with any experience know that being first is important.
On making money Richmond makes very sensible comment on subscription, micro-payments and advertising and mentions a prediction that UK online advertising revenue will overtake national newspaper ad revenue by the ed of this year. Then he concludes the section by writing:
If you get the editorial right, you’ll have several small audiences rather than one mass audience. Quality, rather than quantity. Those selling ads will have to be more creative and get used to selling smaller, more valuable audiences.
For all those people who have been producing niche content for all those sections of daily and weekend papers for years this will smack of teaching grandmother to suck duck eggs. So far as web sites are concerned, the Guardian is already there.
I have been critical of some of the points that Richmond makes although I feel his general thrust is right. I just feel is would be a great loss if some of the experience which made the Telegraph a great newspaper was thrown away through a revolutionary zeal.
And I agree completely with Richmond’s conclusion:
Without a doubt, the future will be difficult. But people’s needs haven’t changed. What’s changed is the way they want those needs to be met. So we have to change too.
The technology can’t be ignored and it can’t be uninvented. We must embrace it or be swept away by it.