Saturday, December 30, 2006

Washington Post moves
more journalists to web

Not much new in this Reuters report, but it adds to the growing consensus of newspaper response to audience migration:

Washington Post aims for
closer print, Web ties

Fri Dec 29, 2006 2:34 PM ET

By Robert MacMillan

NEW YORK, Dec 29 (Reuters) - The Washington Post Co. plans to have its veteran editors help shape the way stories appear on the Web in the latest example of how top U.S. publishers are retooling news operations for the Internet.

The Washington Post's Web site, launched more than a decade ago, has been a bellwether among online news publishers because of its early success at attracting readers online and growing advertising.

While many newspapers beef up their Internet sites to meet a growing migration of readership to the Web, their print and Web production operations remain mostly separate divisions.

The Post for example produces and packages its Web news with employees who work across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Virginia.

Starting in January, print editors will "help us at the Web site and at the paper think smartly about more three-dimensional ways that you can present that news," Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. told Reuters.

Newspaper editors have traditionally focused on assigning and editing articles, as well as questions of layout, such as where a story sits on a print page, the tenor and size of its headline or its relation to a photograph.

Web news also requires expertise in updating breaking stories through the day, drawing attention to human interest or feature stories as well as ensuring reporters make it a priority to add video, audio or commentary to the page.

That integration is key to the future of newspapers, as Internet advertising is often their fastest growing segment, rising 30 to 60 percent annually, depending on the publisher, even as print ad rates and circulation declines.

"The majority of their audience is now online," said Jeff Jarvis, media consultant and publisher of the Buzzmachine blog. "They have to serve that audience where that audience is."

Some have cut hundreds of jobs, narrowed their print page width or consolidated production plants to save costs. Others face shareholder pressure to improve returns or sell assets.


In the meantime, many newspaper stocks are sharply underperforming the wider market as the pace of Internet earnings has yet to compensate for slower print growth.

Washington Post stock has dropped 1.1 percent since the start of 2006, the New York Times has lost 10.4 percent and McClatchy Co. has shed nearly 27 percent, compared with a 14 percent rise in the benchmark S&P 500 Index <.SPX>.

Companies aiming to bridge the gap with their own Web operations include USA Today publisher Gannett Co. Inc. , which is reshaping newsrooms at nearly 90 local papers to emphasize Web and print news editions as equally important.

More publishers anticipate similar changes to their operations, trying to push sometimes reluctant print staff to outline how they will do their jobs in the future.

Dow Jones & Co. is relying on its Dow Jones Newswires service for much of its daily coverage, focusing on exclusive stories and analysis for its Wall Street Journal newspaper. The New York Times last year said it would integrate its Web and print operations.

"All of the desks here to varying degrees are becoming much more active about ... advising their reporters to call in to the continuous news desk or file their stories to us," said Neil Chase, editor at the Times' continuous news desk that assembles breaking news throughout the day.

The Post has a similar division whose reporters and editors handle breaking stories for the Web, but that thinking has not penetrated to all levels of the print edition.

"The news section sometimes can use the continuous news desk as a crutch rather than finding ways themselves to make that news happen," said editor Liz Spayd, former assistant managing editor of the paper's national news desk.

The ideal, she said, would be for section editors to approach their jobs as, "I'm not going to just think about [news] like how it happens on the paper, but on the Web and every platform."

She said the role of newspaper editors in building Web news will not take responsibility away from current Internet staff.

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