Monthly Archives: April 2007

NUJ ADM: Digital Convergence: How should we respond?

Probably the most interesting part of the weekend’s NUJ annual conference was a fringe meeting on digital convergence. Speakers included Cardiff University’s Dr Andy Williams on his research into Trinity Mirror’s online strategy, The Guardian’s Len Mulholland, BBC News Online journalist Paula Dear, NUJ NEC member Adam Christie, and NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear.

Below are video clips from the event, but here are the bullet points:

  • Trinity Mirror makes more money, spends less, employs fewer, circulation drops
  • The Guardian invests in its website and training, but the web staff are often marginalised when decisions are made – for instance, when the political print team went ‘web-first’ for a conference the web journalists (who had already been web-first) were not consulted as to how they might adapt as a result.
  • There is also concern about short-term contracts for those on more ‘experimental’ projects such as vodcasts.
  • The main issue for journalists on the BBC’s website is 24/7 working patterns and the rota that goes with that.
  • News management admit they don’t have a clue what they’re doing. The NUJ is seeking to set up a commission on convergence to help establish best practice and lead the process of convergence (more on this in later posts).

Introduction (chair: Jemima Kiss)

Dr Andy Williams

Len Mulholland, Guardian

Paula Dear, BBC

Finally, go to this page to download audio of Jeremy Dear.

NUJ ADM: union to investigate web profits

NUJ members today voted for the union to investigate the profits being made by news organisations from their websites.

The motion at this weekend’s Annual Delegate Meeting in Birmingham, instructed the National Executive Committee to “compile information on the growth of web-based income of major media companies” with the view to campaigning “for the right of media workers to benefit from the large profits now being generated by many media corporations from using freelance copy on their websites”.

When completed, this will certainly make interesting reading – not just for journalists but for publishers still maintaining the difficulty of making any profit from the web. If it disabuses the common perception that the web is a loss-making part of most media companies it would not only mean claims for increased pay and conditions from union members, but also (I hope) more investment from previously hesitant media orgs.

Blogging the NUJ annual conference

For the next four days a team of student NUJ members will be blogging the annual conference. The conference is taking place in Birmingham, as the organisation celebrates its centenary (the very first conference took place here).

Anyway, full disclosure: I’m helping the students to run the blog, which is at http://100yearsofnuj.wordpress.com/ – there’s also a Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/nuj100/, and a wiki at http://nuj100.wiki.zoho.com/. It’ll be interesting to see what the students – who have quite a mix of skills and experience – will make of it.

Conference: the impact of convergence and integration on journalists and journalism

From NUJ Active:

One-day conference – Integration: The Big Conversation starts here…
An NUJ conference looking at the impact of convergence and integration on journalists and journalism will be held on Saturday 5th May in London. The NUJ wants to hear your views on the integration of new technologies in the media: the key challenges and also the lessons to be drawn from the good and bad practice already taking place. Find out more about the conference by clicking here.

Places are strictly limited so book early to ensure you don’t miss out! Email campaigns@nuj.org.uk

The NEC has produced interim guidance notes on the key issues facing members in the convergence of print and digital newsrooms. To access these click here

Members at Johnston Press have negotiated an enabling agreement for the introduction of New Media at Yorkshire Post Newspapers. A copy of this agreement is available here

Piltdown Man joins the new media fold

I’m currently in the middle of a 3-week break from computers – in the meantime, here’s an article I wrote for Press Gazette the week before last, about the past year’s raft of newspaper website relaunches:

The last Luddite has left the building. With almost every national newspaper having revamped its website in the past twelve months, Richard Desmond has finally joined the club and relaunched Express.co.uk – and the Daily Star site is set to follow later in the year.

In an industry of technophobes, Desmond was the Piltdown Man of news. Before last week Express Newspapers’ only attempt to tackle the threat of the internet was to offer an ‘e-Edition’ of the Express and Star which amounted to little more than a PDF with animated pages.

But as his competitors launched MySpace-inspired sections and video-heavy offerings – and even resorted to lime green in their attempts to appear up-to-date – something had to give.

Still, it’s something of a watershed moment that sees Express journalists moving to a 24-hour reporting cycle, plans being made for online video and podcasts, and even web 2.0 elements such as blogging and social networking.

In reality, the new site looks like it was created by someone who has had a website described to him, but never actually seen one. The ‘blogs’ are actually opinion columns with nary a link to be seen, video is being outsourced, and online journalists will work separately from print hacks.

But it’s the move into social networking with ‘MYExpress’ that represents a quantum leap for this most reluctant of online newspapers. The service, which allows readers to create a personalised homepage, blog, and communicate with other users, has the potential to create a community of Disgusteds from Tunbridge Wells that may well represent the group’s cash cow.

So how did Richard Desmond – the man who sold the Express websites for £1 in November 2000 – come to join the rush online? And why the recent rush by national newspapers generally to give their sites a makeover?

Desmond can blame his rival Rupert Murdoch. It was he who, in 2005, warned the American Society of Newspaper Editors that unless his industry woke up to the changes brought about by new media they would be “relegated to the status of also-rans.”

Murdoch had sneezed, and the whole news industry began to catch a web fever.

The Times and Telegraph websites, which weren’t even in the top ten online news destinations, have since been overhauled and are making significant ground on leader The Guardian. Tabloids began to see that there was more to the web than monetising page 3 girls. And the middle market just worried about internet chatrooms.

Murdoch wasted no time in buying up promising web properties including, most spectacularly, MySpace, a property which was then cloned on The Sun’s ‘MYSun’ feature.

The Sun’s transformation has been most surprising of all – the reactionary paper has proved technologically progressive as the paper embraced video and virals, slideshows and podcasts, created blogs that actually understood the medium, and built a ‘Lite’ version of the paper for time-starved visitors. Perhaps most tellingly, the paper realised the web presented a window into the regional classifieds market. Oh, and we mustn’t forget the legendary video version of Dear Deirdre.

The Mirror, once again, has been left playing catch up. Its February redesign was ripped apart by many observers for a range of misjudged decisions ranging from buying in video content from the US (coverage of American Idol, anyone?) to the use of capital letters on the home page. The site has five sections – news, sport, showbiz, blogs, and… ‘more’ – a vagueness which perhaps gives some indication of a lack of direction behind the scenes.

Video has been a recurring theme throughout all newspaper website relaunches as ad sales departments realised they could tap into the television advertising market. The Mail has been no exception with its ‘showbiz video’ section, while a number of newspapers have bought in content from the likes of ITN and Reuters. And the ability to encroach on broadcasters’ territory without that pesky Ofcom to worry about has proved particularly useful for tabloid exclusives such as The Sun’s ‘friendly fire’ video and a range of NOTW stings.

The three major broadsheet websites have led the way in the use of blogs and podcasts, video and galleries. The Telegraph’s relaunch focused on the systems behind the site, building a multimedia ‘hub’ and training journalists to work across print and online, video and audio. But The Times’ makeover resulted in an all-singing site that belied its staid reputation and currently looks the most modern of national newspaper sites. The Independent plans a low-key revamp this year but for the most part has sat and watched from the sidelines like a kid waiting to be asked to join in the football game.

So where do the sites go from here? Last year The Guardian’s commentisfree raised the bar for newspaper blogs, while its Flash interactives remain a unique demonstration of the possibilities of new media. But a wholesale revamp is likely to be part of editor Alan Rusbridger’s planned £15m investment, while the move into television production with Guardian Films demonstrates that the group have ambitions beyond getting reporters to read out the day’s headlines: it has already brought dividends with a series of slots on prime time ITV News.

The Sun continues to innovate in the tabloid market, and the launch of a mobile edition suggests they understand the next big challenge for newspapers: if Desmond thought his work was done with new media, he’d better think again: the battleground is moving on.