Monday, 30 June 2008

What does BBC Local mean for regional press?

There is already some good debate going on about the BBC's new attempt to widen its local video-based coverage across the UK.

Andrew Grant-Adamson writes:

It is worth going back to the source material and looking at BBC’s proposal. Done properly, the scheme could help make local independent news websites more viable. Most of the local content would be made available for embedding (with BBC branding) in both commercial and not-for-profit sites to supplement their own coverage. The BBC also says it would link to coverage by other local news providers.

Competition isn't all bad, regional press shouldn't necessarily have the monopoly on any location, and the BBC would have to work alongside the local press titles rather than it being a blatant race to the story.

But inevitably there will be duplication of coverage, and I can guess where most people will go first given the choice, because the BBC is, well the BBC. For all its faults - and even recent mistakes - it remains one of the most respected news providers across the world.

As the regional newspaper market struggles in the current economic climate to progress its digital output and improve its web offering, the BBC would remain a well-equipped, well-trained and confident provider of local content, backed up by its enormous raft of related and supporting content.

As Roy Greenslade concludes:
There appears to be no compromise. The BBC feels it is acting logically by fulfilling its public service remit. Regional owners are also acting logically by defending their turf. In truth, both reflect the fact that none of us know what the future holds.

Will the BBC's plan help local papers, as Grant-Adamson suggests? Or will it plunge another dagger into the body of dying newspaper companies? I rather think it will be the latter. But the big question, of course, is whether that is really such a calamitous outcome.

As Greenslade rightly points out, nobody knows how the press, let alone the regional press in particular will survive over the next few years. This potentially adds an additional burden as the economic downturn and advertising slump leave businesses, aka potential advertisers and the public, aka potential newspaper buyers look to spend every penny wisely.

There are pros and cons to the BBC's plans, but if they do get the go-ahead, there should be some constructive positive discussion with the regional press titles in order to make best use of the Beeb's content and strong link-backs to existing local press's online coverage.

Friday, 20 June 2008

English cricket shake-up: more Twenty20 anyone?

It's madness, if this report Cricinfo on a planned shake-up of the cricket in England is true.

Based on this article from The Daily Telegraph:

English cricket is poised for its most radical overhaul in more than a century, according to proposals being presented to the counties this week by England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Giles Clarke.

Three randomly chosen divisions with no promotion/relegation for first class cricket in England?

Cannot surely be true, where's the sense. How would that benefit Test cricket or the traditional game, which cannot be lost at all costs.

If splitting the divisions is the only way to reduce the quantity but and heighten the quality of county champs, then 3 regional divisions, (keeping local derby's) with top 8 (top 2 in each plus best two 3rd places teams) playing off at end of season for champion etc.

Twenty20 - although a great spectacle, and financially brining a financial boom for the game - is still fairly new, and no one knows whether interest will plateau/tail-off as currently every country is flogging this short form of the game for all its worth.

If everyone sets up IPL style competitions, some are going to end up embarrassingly weak?

There's a sensible balance somewhere, but the over-riding problem that the counties won't vote themselves out of existence means a only smaller pool of teams in England would have the most benefit for everyone.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Newspaper site redesign: The Washington Times

At first glance, aesthetically pleasing on the eye. focussing on more imagery than text, but strong images convey just as much, sometimes more than headlines.

Clean, clear, with a simple events calendar and solid use of multimedia.

An impressive element is the animated initial featured content area, described by Web 2.0h...really?:

This is all smart and satisfying stuff. But the money shot here is the semitransparent Dig Deeper thingbat that lies over the main image. Click on it and the entire main image flips over like a playing card. On the “other side” you’ll find either related media (pictures, videos), themes (topics) or stories.
Although as commenters point out, this use of Flash, may make the content inaccessible...?!

Monday, 2 June 2008

WAN 2008 shows way forward for newspaper industry

The 2008 World Association of Newspapers (taking place in Sweden, 1-4 June) reports on positive findings for newspaper readership and audience - "global newspaper sales were up +2.57 percent over the year, and had increased +9.39 percent over the past five years" - but there are important messages for news providers online.

The Guardian's Roy Greenslade reported on the snappily titled session: "The new consumption model for news: why the old routine is over for the 18-34-year-olds" showing that young adults are overwhelmed by news and information from various media, 'news fatigue' is cited.

Also being time poor, they crave more "good quality in-depth reporting".

Associated Press have taken on board this feedback and put together a more integrated and convergent news model:

"1-2-3 filing," starting with a news alert for breaking news, followed by a short present-tense story for the web. The third step is to add details and to format stories in ways most appropriate for various platforms
Quote from Roy Greenslade reporting from WAN 2008.

Greenslade also reports that "The old newspaper model is destined to die - so get over it!" Dean Singleton, chief executive MediaNews Group, adds:

"It's time to get over it and move to a print model that matches the times."

The "local and deep" rather than "broad but shallow" point is a telling image of one big problem regional/local newspaper websites face, trying to do too much with their own resources, spreading time and skills too thinly.

Inevitably some content or services fall short in terms of quality and the audience finds better sources. Quality content will shine through, doing less, but well is worth far more in terms of long term audience retention and revenue.

I think those inside the industry all knew this type of stinging but honest comment by Singleton was hitting the nail on the head a few years ago, but now it rings truer and louder than ever:

Singleton says that print has a chance in the future "if we discard our arrogance and our old ideas"