24 March 2009

Newsrooms Should Take Risks Online

Newspapers need to experiment more with their digital output in order to meet the challenges of tomorrow, according to ex-editor Jim Brady.

Brady oversaw washingtonpost.com for four years during one of its most innovative periods and he said that newsrooms need to “ratchet up the level of experimentation” in digital media while users are still relatively forgiving.

Speaking to Poynter Online, Brady asserted that it is through such editorial experiments and risk-taking that feasible business models may be discovered.

“Digital journalism is still the Wild West; the rules are still being made,” he noted.

“But I don’t think there’s much of a doubt that digital is the sandbox that future readers will be playing in, so pulling back now would seem shortsighted.

“We have to figure digital out from a business perspective if we’re going to survive, much less thrive.”

Brady also pointed out that some news websites are still lagging behind in terms of the breadth and depth of their online offerings.

“Launching blogs in 2009 isn’t innovative anymore. Launching comments on articles in 2009 isn’t innovative. But a lot of sites are just getting to that point now.”

And he refuted the suggestion that small sites cannot take as many editorial risks as big websites such as washingtonpost.com.

“My belief is that the ability to experiment in new areas isn’t really a function of staff size, though scale is.

“We can produce 20 to 30 original video pieces a week; I realise many news sites can’t do that. But there’s no reason a site can’t do four to six a week.”

Visit Poynter Online for the full interview and links to some of the online successes achieved by washingtonpost.com during Brady’s tenure.

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