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

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A big welcome for Roy Greenslade as a blogger. Today in the print version of the Guardian he shows much understanding for the blogosphere, as the Guardian comment machine describes it. "Professional journalists" ( his quote marks ) must "step down from the pulpit and move among the congrgation"...."we have to admit to ourselves that we don't know everything"..more like this, it feels wrong to copy too much out of a print medium. Links from 'Comment is Free' so you can add to it as well.

Unfortunately I find the blog is made up of too many short items. I was hoping for something like the analysis Roy Greenslade used to do of circulation figures for newspapers. The ABC numbers could be compared over the years and made some sense of where each newspaper was going. One problem with this was that as the web became more significant the numbers for print only made less and less sense. The FT for example is fairly close to having more paid subscription online than print sales in the UK. What this means for the finances of the FT is a mystery, as is the financial situation of any of the news websites linked to print operations. There are some new terms, 'news organisation' used by Jeff Jarvis about newspapers with websites, 'media organisation' used by Emily Bell about newspapers with podcasts. But there is no published business model. If there is a business plan then very few people know anything about it. At least that is as far as I know.

But presumably Roy Greenslade is in a position to know a lot more along these sort of lines. If he is not allowed to state all he knows about the Guardian numbers, at least he could make a guess about the FT and then maybe the FT would estimate something on the Guardian. It needs someone like Roy Greenslade to make a start on this. At the 'We Media' event it was suggested that the transition for news organisations could be difficult for existing media and that some would not make it. So how is this to be measured? What progress is being made?

Roy Greenslade links to a report by Julia Day of a speech by Alan Rusbridger that as reported appears to ignore some aspects of citizen journalism. I am afraid I have to agree with the suggestion that "some people may detect an inconsistency" with other speeches expressing enthusiasm for new media. Actually I think the editorial policy of the Guardian is as hard to assess as the business model. There seems to be one version leaked through Jeff Jarvis to a web audience and then another version as in this recent speech presumably meant for a print audience in Oxford. A point of view about citizen journalism comes over either through ambivalent reporting or attempts to incorporate related techniques into the web site. This year "citizen journalism" has been a hype bubble about to burst, as rarely seen as the beast of Bodmin Moor, or else a horrible term in need of a replacement.

To be fair to Roy Greenslade he realises what the issues are around citizen journalism. In the UK the awards approach may turn out not to add very much except for another night out for "professional journalists".

Meanwhile in South Korea, OhmyNews are organising a conference on 'best practices in citizen journalism'. This will be based on a wide range of contributions and has already started with online text and links.

As reported, the latest view from Alan Rusbridger has no mention for the citizen journalism approach of having professional editors supporting a large number of reporters who may also be bloggers or have a similar method of working. He describes blogging as "wonderfully enabling, intoxicatingly democratic, exhilaratingly anarchic" but also states that "no internet start-up on earth would even consider matching the investment in people made by newspapers".

Sometimes a different picture appears through the news pages. On May 31st the Media Business section (not the Monday supplement) reported that OhmyNews would exchange material with the International Herald Tribune and had plans for the launch of a Japanese site. With the English language site, one target is to have 100,000 citizen reporters by 2010. The same page also reported that in the UK, net advertising will soon ovetake national newspapers by cash valuation. A related editorial discussed the future of a medium for news other than paper in twenty or thirty years time. This avoids describing what the Guardian thinks is happening at the moment or any detailed planning about the next eighteen months.

Another example of confused or possibly tightly managed messaging is the promotion of the digital editions. These are PDF or online versions of the complete content including photography and illustration. They are almost never mentioned in the print editions. the intent seems to be to keep them a secret from the UK audience who may continue to buy the print version, while promoting them online to the mostly global audience who find the print version hard to locate. In the Rusbridger worldview as leaked to Buzzmachine, the idea of subscription for web content is now rejected, at least he sees it as a mistake for the New York Times. Maybe this is why the digital editions are more or less a secret. No information is available on any numbers, although ABC have been ready to publish this for a while.

In the absence of a consistent and coherent presentation on what the Guardian is actually trying to do, the blog of Roy Greenslade is one of the best sources of random clues available. His decision to join in with the blogging approach is evidence that something is happening even if the sort of precision implied in analysing a 3% change in circulation figures is not yet available to describe it.

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