Master class

It’d ironic, or possibly just odd, that one of the newest papers in Britain, The Independent, is the most stuck in the mud online. They put up pay walls and the editor, Simon Kelner, just decreed that he’d never put stories on the web first, like his competitor, The Guardian, and that he wants to raise the price of the declining print product.

In his Guardian blog, former Daily Mirror editor Roy Greenslade sits Kelner down for a talkin’-to, ink-stained wretch to ink-stained wretch:

News is widely available on the net the instant it happens. Within minutes, comment and analysis of that news is also available. As the minutes pass, the commentaries become yet more sophisticated. At the same time, the conversation between reporters and analysts is already going on. None of us, not even the most dedicated print-lover, not even an admitted flat-earther, can stop this process. It is happening. Newspapers stood aside for a while but many of them – most notably in Britain, The Guardian – have realised that they must take part. They must use their brand’s authority and credibility to build an audience for their websites. If they do not, then they cannot guarantee a future of any kind for any format. It’s not necessarily a case of wanting to say “net first”, it’s a case of having to say it. . . .

Simon, look at your own circulation. Does it not tell you a story? And look also at the very limited use of your paper’s website, due to two obvious factors – a giant pay wall and a continuing belief in maintaining a print-first policy for news. I love print. I love newspapers. But I’m also a realist. It is my firm belief that the way to save newspapers, to ensure that a title lasts into the future, is to embrace the net. That’s a paradox. It is also good sense.

  • Nancy Evans

    While I agree that Kelner has his head in the sand, there’s a nunace to his comments that I think is valid. He refers to holding an “exclusive” story over to his print edition rather than breaking it online. I have to agree with the business sense of that. Put your exclusive story in your banner media outlet to get at least a few moments of true exclusivity status from it before it goes on the web and is grabbed, link, reposted and generally swallowed into the web sphere. As long as the print product still exists you have to carve a role for it.

  • Bob Denmore

    I’m with Kelner I’m afraid. Until newspaper web sites produce profit margins of 30 per cent or more, the exclusives will be kept to print. Why would you commoditise your print content and give your competitors a free leg-up by spilling your hard work online for free?? Why give people even more reasons not to buy the print edition??

    The web hippies can keep on writing obituaries for print until they are blue in the face, but nowhere have I seen any of them – including Jeff Jarvis – explain who will subsidise serious journalism in their brave new world? All I see in his future is a network of people sitting in their home offices spouting forth on their pet theories in billions of blogs that no-one reads.

    Journalism – and by that I mean reporting and research and all those old fashioned ideas that don’t involve writing stuff off the top of your head in a semi-rage – costs money. WHO PAYS FOR IT?

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