Starting with IPEX 2002, this blog covers events relevant for UK print, including Seybold and DRUPA. See also website at

Monday, March 20, 2006

I may have reached a limit on what can be said through contributions to Guardian Talk and 'Comment is Free'. The immediate problem is a lack of feedback on circulation numbers for the 'digital editions'. It could be that by working more on this blog I could get more attention and some answers from other sources.

I have contributed to Talk topics on OhmyNews and the PDF versions of the Guardian.

And another thing. The Guardian still seems to be ambiguous in support for 'citizen journalism', reader feedback etc. Inside the Media jobs section today is hidden a section on 'Changing Media', ahead of a conference. It includes some opinion about 'citizen journalism' sharing characteristics with the Beast of Bodmin Moor. "It's out there...but so far nobody's seen much of it."

Neil McIntosh later states as fact that the international edition of Ohmynews "has had less success" than the base in Korea. Full disclosure, as Jeff Jarvis would say, I am a contributor to the English language OhmyNews and I consider it a great success for what interests me. It probably only has a few hundred citizen journalists, not tens of thousands, but it has a global balance that I don't find elesewhere. There may be more journalism students than might be expected from a random sample of citizens, but this also results in a discussion on web media that is remarkably informed.

It was recently announced that Softbank, a Tokyo-based technology and Internet investment firm, will invest $11 million in OhmyNews through a new international company. Some of the investment will be used for TV in Korea, some for a site in Japan using the same approach for 'citizen journalism'. The aim is to reach 40,000 contributors, the same number as in Korea. Following this investment, Softbank will own 12.95 percent of OhmyNews.

So my guess is that the next international phase will concentrate on Japan but there will still be more to say about the English language version.

Tempted to steal several thousand words from Martin Jacques at this point, but here is a link instead.

One thing I like about OhmyNews is that my reports end up on Google News as well. I have previously written reports for Acrobat Services websites, UK and .com , but these are mostly ignored by the US search engines. PlanetPDF and PDFzone are the best sources, they get interviews as well. Another problem is that less than 20% of the people visiting the UK site are from the UK, even though there is a front page suggesting the .com site instead.

Following the forum last year, OhmyNews published my story about the print aspects of online publishing. Both WikiNews and OhmyNews actually still use hard copy on occasions.

My main story on the UK Acrobat Services site has been about the 'digital editions' of UK newspapers. The ABC did issue rules for including information on the main certificates. But no UK newspaper has 'opted in'. My guess is that the numbers are still fairly small. And there still seems to be a block on publicising the existence of PDF and JPEG as a route to photography and illustration. Maybe they think that if nobody knows about this then the print will survive. I fear the actual consequence will be more websites like the current ones, based on text surrounded by Flash adverts. The option of subscription income for better content may not be working but it is not really tried out either in terms of promotion.

And now some direct quotes from the main Media pages. Kim Fletcher explains why proper journalists, the kind used to print, are worried about the idea of 'integration'. He appears to think that Rupert Murdoch cannot wite his own speeches and then speculates on which bits were written by a journalist. Not this, for example - "As long as news organisations create must-read, must-have content, and deliver it in the medium that suits the reader, they will endure." Personally I can't see a problem in understanding what this means.

Fletcher is also disturbed by a quote from a source at the Telegraph.

"We are now doing everything we can to take our content and well-respected brand into any distribution mechanism there is. We are the most successful newspaper podcasting organisation going. We must now embrace a state of perpetual change."

Fletcher comments

"No wonder journalists at the group are getting nervous. Managements need to be clear about where they are going and how they intend to get there."

So in the great mix of fact and comment, it is posible that this management clarity will come first and then circulation numbers will come later that allow a business model to be constructed. Meanwhile most of the writing about news organisations is completely missing the point, though great to read of course.

Over the next month or so I will be concentrating on IPEX and the print industry. I think the print media are a large part of this.

Before the London Book Fair there was an article in the Guardian Saturday Review objecting to Google Books and making content available online. See previous post. As I reported on OhmyNews, at the actual event the Google stand was busy and there was no sign of support for a boycott. A fortnight later the Bookseller summary reported that Taylor and Francis are now ok with Google Books as there is now a payment option.

My guess is that IPEX may follow a related pattern. Some objection to online, some exploration of how online supports print, and evaluation sometime later.

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