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Wordblog revived

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First ripples of spam

Help! I fear drowning by spam. Less than 48 hours after reactivating this blog and the email address that goes with it eight spams have got through anti-spam software and into the in box.

I thought I was being careful with the address well hidden, but the first ripples are arriving before the Atlantic rollers build up to swamp me. Any suggestions for dealing with it will be very welcome.

Reinventing the wheel

Microsoft and the New York Times have announced “a great next step in melding the readability and portability of the newspaper with the interactivity and immediacy of the Web”. It will be available soon and presents stories in columns on the screen.

Somehow I don’t see it taking off. Nor does Steve Yelvington who doubts if the train will even leave the station.

We are waiting for for something new but this wheel isn’t even round.

Can "big media" meet the web challenge?

Neither of Britain’s two most successful web sites is a conventional market economy business forced to watch daily shareprices. The BBC, funded by a compulsory licence fee, and the Guardian, owned by the Scott Trust whose purpose is the maintained the daily, do not have the financial markets on their backs.

This raises the question of whether the big commercial broadcasting and print organisations around the world are capable of taking the longer view which the transformation of media demands.

Two examples do not prove a case. Yet the evidence is mounting that early investment and belief in the web is paying off for both. There are other factors, of course: liberal America looking abroad for news, the Guardian’s more compact size and the BBC’s success with Freeview digital TV on its home ground among them.

Amid the gloom about shrinking print circulations, the latest year-on-year figures show the Guardian edging up. There are many ways of presenting these numbers but with a few exceptions they show newspaper circulations declining. The Guardian’s regional Manchester Evening News is among them and is to make part of its distribution free. (Papers handed out for free are the current newspaper success story. Two in London and recently in Spain I was handed four on one street corner.)

But to say the web comes first is a big step for anyone with ink under their fingernails. That is what The Guardian is doing with the foreign and city departments introducing a “web first” policy. It means they will put up print staff stories on the web site as they are filed — no more waiting until the print edition is out.

Ian Mayes, the paper’s readers’ editor today, quotes the editor as saying: We have to look at the way in which people are choosing to read the Guardian — younger people are not reading the printed paper — and we have to respond quickly to further changes in digital technology. To put it another way, I’m committing the Guardian to being where the audience, the readership, is.” Read Ian on the converging paths of printed paper and web.

This does not mean print is dead and in another move the paper is to start printing in five US cities, although they do not appear to be thinking of circulations which will worry the American dailies. It seems to be more a matter of building on the brand image their web presence has created on the other side of the Atlantic. The Times (of London) has already begun printing in New York.

And the BBC is launching its advertising-supported BBC World TV service on cable in the US going head to head with CNN and Fox. They have had a limited presence for some time but are building on their audiences in some 200 countries and territories.

At home, the domestic digital service News 24, has marginally overtaken Murdoch’s Sky News, partly because of the the success of Freeview. Another factor has been Sky’s disastrous relaunch which is now being rolled back.

We seem to be seeing a confidence in both the BBC and the Guardian born of their success on the web both at home and abroad. The brands are becoming better known and they are building on that.

The other question is whether they would have had that confidence if they had shareholders breathing down their necks demanding “dividends now!” I suspect the answer is a clear “no”.

Expect the bleatings of “unfair competition” about the BBC to increase in volume.

Post script (Tuesday): Interesting thoughts on the cultural change in the newsroom of the Guardian on Jeff Jarvis’s BuzzMachine blog

Andrew Grant-Adamson

I teach journalism at the University of Westminster in London, UK. The advent of the web, multi-chanel TV, digital radio, mobile phones and so much more is making this the most exciting period in journalism that I can remember. I wish I was starting out as a junior reporter again.

When not in London I live in a Suffolk village in a house looking out onto an ancient green. Behind the timber frames of the houses there are poeple selling on eBay, designing web sites…. The countryside, as much as the cities, is being transformed. Only on the desolate stretches of East anglian coastline can you imagine the world is not changing faster than ever before.

Getting started… again

There is a difference between a blog which is intended to be read by anyone who might be remotely interested in what I write and a diary which is essentially private. Yet, there is also a similarity: both are started with the intention of continuing with some sort of regularity although they may both be laid-down when there is little or nothing to say.

This is my third start. At the moment there is a lot to say. I have just wished farewell to the latest group of post graduate journalism students at the University of Westminster where I teach. I hope that those who have not already found work will soon get jobs (note to employers: they have a lot to offer you).

Journalism is at one of the most exciting stages in its history. I wish I could go back 40-something years and start again. It is also a painful time for those who feel threatened and confused by the web, blogs, podcasts, multi-media. Transition is always difficult, especially when there is no clear view of what is going to happen. For me that is the thrill.

I want to express my own views, hopes and fears. Mostly it will be about journalism but the world in which reporters and editors operate is a part of it too.