At yesterday’s Citizen Journalism conference Trinity Mirror Head of Multimedia Michael Hill spoke of this being the “garlic bread moment” for the local press – the realisation that new media and citizen journalism “is the future”.
At the same time “Local papers have been doing citizen journalism for over a hundred years – it’s always been about local people.” The battle now is to convince hearts and minds that local people want to consume – and take part in – their news in a different way. This is the “man on the Clapham Omnibus 2.0″ who checks the news on their mobile phone, picks up a free newspaper but walks past the newsagent, searches for items of interest online, and relies on bloggers as much as journalists.
“We have to accept that breaking news online has to come first,” he said, a process he intimated some journalists were finding hard to swallow. One had protested: “Why kill the goose that laid the golden egg?” His response? “The goose has got bird flu”.
The process of persuasion has already begun, with ‘Back to Basics’ presentations to Trinity Mirror staff around the country. In the process the company has discovered latent talent in some staff – web savvy journalists; writers who can also edit video – but there is a conscious attempt not to “create islands” of ‘new media teams’ or ‘digital teams’. Hill described the process as being “like turning round an oil tank,” and that some staff would never get it, “but they’ll do what they’re told to do.”
The group have a number of plans for the future. Hill argues that “Local is Web 2.1,” and work is already under way on the first five of a planned 35 ‘micro-sites’ around the country, created by key local people. Blogs are already integral to the newspaper sites, with 34,000 pages being read across the group in the last week alone, and will become more so, as the group looks to tap into the niche publishing of ‘Long Tail’ economics, illustrated most vividly (and to some attendees’ consternation) by the ‘Geordie Dreamer’.
The group are also working on technology to rank stories by the number of people viewing them. “Newsworthiness used to be a judgement of what would sell copies,” he explained, but for the website it is a judgement of what will generate page views.