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.