Tuesday, 27 March 2007

What will newspapers look like in 5 years?

Tabloids, supplements, give-aways, all have been tried to keep people buying newspapers over the last few years but news consumption is still in flux.

The tide is slowly turning against the printed newspaper, although it's death I suggest is not upon us.

The evolution and expansion of television and online news has given the public a constant output of rolling news coverage.

The printed word has its obvious limitations in the digital world, which leaves newspapers facing up to the possibility that their time as the news source of choice will fade.

That leaves newspapers with the job of producing websites that not only give users what they want, when they want it; as well as being a platform for expanding in the future; but also enable the editorial team to effectively and efficiently update the site.

The newspaper website

Newspapers in print, may have to trim down their output, while the quantity of constantly updated short sharp news is available online, a quality in-depth print product, filled with comment, opinion, features and measured commentary is published less frequently, maybe not even daily at regional level.

Part of the project for newspaper websites is a web standard design, layout, usability, accessibility and solid information architecture, but these depend on a clean and efficient backend of the site.

If old legacy code and creaky databases remain, producing interactive, multimedia friendly, well-designed pages will be hard, long and expensive work in the long-term.

The 24/7 editorial strategy

As revenue becomes tight at newspaper titles, staff and resources are cut and centralised, but the editorial team must remain strong and feel that they have some hope in a digital news future.

As The Guardian staff are now debating it sounds like a huge leap into multimedia 24/7 news coverage from working to print deadlines.

It is possible, with the right systems support and multimedia resources in place to streamline the editorial process, for the news team, with some realistic, quality training, can develop content skills to include relevant multimedia narrative tools to keep the modern news viewer's needs fulfilled.

There's no worn path for newspapers to tread in the digital world, so research, advice and a realistic approach is needed, along with a deep breath before making the leap!

The BBC are setting the standard for digital news as you would expect with the burden of making a profit lifted form their agenda, while newspapers, both national and local need to find their niches and their own distinctive voices. If they can do this efficiently and work out how to make some money along the way, then a digital strategy may keep them afloat.

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