One of the most interesting points about the news that Jim Brady will be stepping down as executive editor of washingtonpost.com is a reference to the clear division of labour that exists between the online and print operations there.
The article, by Washington Post staff writer Zachary A. Goldfarb, says,
“Since the early days of washingtonpost.com, the leadership of the Web site has been separate from that of the newspaper.”
While this doesn’t surprise me, it does emphasise a misunderstanding, if not ignorance, of their own assets that afflicts not only washingtonpost.com but newspapers everywhere. The segregation of the two information streams is myopic and self-defeating. Goldfarb goes on,
“That began to change earlier this year when Katharine Weymouth was named chief executive of Washington Post Media, which consolidated the online and print operations into one unit.”
This year? This year was 2008, people. How many years ago was repurposing content a hot buzzword? How long will it take most newspapers to catch on that their staff is their greatest asset, be they editorial or technological? Your website should be serving the journalists who work for you, not existing in isolation, serving up trimmed down content in bite-size chunks. Your web team should be a creative force. Treating your website as an appendage to your main body of business is a worthless and outdated concept, and those institutions who realise this the quickest will dominate online news.
Robert Niles at ojr.org argues that,
“…[the] news industry’s collective failure to accurately portray the world over the past decade has done as much, if not more, to drive readers to the Internet than any inherent attractiveness of this new medium. If existing news businesses wish to have any hope of surviving the current downturn, in any medium, they cannot continue to perform as they have over the past decade.”
I read that claim as a call for innovation in the news industry. Technical innovation. Combining the best journalists with the best technology and tools available will enable us to portray the world more accurately than ever. Niles continues,
“But no newspaper is a monopoly anymore. They all are now just voices among many others in broader information market, grown by the Web. In this new information market, news organization must stop acting like a monopoly and instead adopt and amplify a more powerful editorial voice.”
This is exactly the time to consolidate your offerings and present a single, powerful, recognisable voice across print, online, TV, radio and any other channel to the market.