Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Redesigning newspapers for a digital future


The fantastically inspired media commentator Steve Outing (I heap praise on anyone who seems to share my opinion - and also sometimes on those who don't) writes in his blog/column that newspapers should be redesigned to support their companion websites.

His post leads me into an almost seamless follow-up on a previous post in which I concluded: "Instead of companion websites, our websites should have companion newspapers." This turns on its head the existing model which sees media organisations going hell for leather focusing on content for the print title, with the online title being a secondary concern.

Mr Outing suggests that newspapers should be re-created to act as vehicles for primarily promoting the main online offering.
Every story in the print edition should be tied to additional digital content or community. The local feature story in print should point to the multimedia graphic or online database that accompanies it on the Web. Each story should invite print readers to go online and leave a comment or express their opinions. Some stories should ask print readers to share additional information that they may have about the topic or news event online (e.g., eyewitness accounts or photos). Fast-breaking stories published in print should instruct readers how to sign up for mobile news alerts as new developments unfold.
He also suggests that 'newspaper' companies are on the road to ruin if they continue to follow the tried and trusted print path as once loyal print consumers become disillusioned by staff cuts and tighter pagination.

Instead, our newspapers should be targeted at the 'loyalists' who in turn are prompted to go online to read more, to comment, to interact, to watch the video, to see the gallery, to listen to the podcast, to do so much more, that they can't do in the paper.
The print edition as an island model that remains prevalent in the industry even today is a sure way for circulation erosion to accelerate as even the print loyalists abandon ship.
As counterintuitive as it might seem on the surface, genuine print integration with digital is the path that newspaper publishers must take in order to keep the print edition alive and avoid a quickening of print newspapers' slide downward.
The only way to save the title, is by strengthening the brand and shifting the focus.

We already have growing numbers of younger people and silver surfers flocking online, now we need to convert old-school readers into new media users.

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