Quick, incoherent thought #4: the power of print

Why do we use newspaper instead of hardback books to distribute news?

Silly question, I know, but bear with me.

We use newspaper because – in the world of paper-based products – it is the most cost-effective, efficient way to transmit information to a defined audience on a regular basis.

But if there are new ways to transmit that information that is more cost-effective and more efficient (the Internet, for example), does that eradicate the value of newspaper?

Well, the people who queued outside The Washington Post for their special edition on Obama’s victory would tell you there was a value to print and it has been argued that this is proof that newspaper is still the format of choice for important events. “People didn’t print out the news on their computers”, goes the argument.

This is, of course, right. People didn’t print out the news from their computers. But then that doesn’t prove that web-delivered news is a lesser product or any less likely to disrupt the print media business. 

What it does prove is that there is an innate value placed on print that is not just defined by efficiency or speed of delivery. There is something valuable about it as an object, something to keep as a memory of an important occasion. Digital is, at the moment, still considered too transient a medium for keepsakes.

I know newspapers are great at creating special editions. Perhaps, however, there is a value in looking at how having a reputation for creating printed products could be used even more to our advantage.

Liverpool Daily Post’s current project of creating a book containing pictures submitted to their Flickr Group is a fascinating example. The value is not in the pictures themselves (which are mostly available online), but in the fact that they are in a big glossy book that can be kept as a keepsake of Liverpool’s year as European Capital of Culture.

So, it was cheap and quick to print extra copies of the Washington Post on the day of Obama’s Victory. It made more money. What other print products could the Washington Post have sold on that day, or in that week? A special limited edition of all the articles it ran about Obama on the run up to the election? Some form of picture book?

Perhaps then, on some occasions, there would be a business case to argue that news would be better delivered in a hardback book…

Why the LDP liveblogged its newsroom

This post follows on from my thoughts the other day about creating a transparent newsroom.

Yesterday Alison Gow, deputy editor of the Liverpool Daily Post (LDP), gave a presentation to the Digital Editors’ Network with an assessment of the LDP’s “liveblogging the newsroom” day.

The slides for the presentation are below. Alison admits that there was an element of doing the liveblog “because we could”, but the site statistics (the liveblog generated 1,500 unique users) may suggest it is a feature some people are interested in engaging with.

[slideshare id=467466&doc=going-live-with-the-liverpool-daily-post-1213457487350473-9&w=425]

I do, however, find myself agreeing with the comments following on from the former post that suggest this is something to do once every so often. A newspaper Open Day, perhaps?

How transparent should newspapers get?

A little while ago I got myself embroiled in a rather heated debate with another member of the newspaper industry over the “transparent newsroom”.

It’s a policy that has been adopted by The Spokesman Review in the US.

The newspaper has embraced transparency in an attempt to regain credibility in its community. It even has an interactive news conference which is videoed and put onto the web.

Why shouldn’t UK newspapers such as mine embrace this practice, I asked? Surely it would make us more accountable and show a willingness to engage with our readers. Isn’t our biggest battle on the web for trust and credibility? This would be one way to help us establish ours.

Not so, said my friend. It would be dangerous as news conferences will discuss the legalities of some stories, some of which would not be approved for publication. Showing video of these conversations on the web was publication in itself and we could be sued for that.

Also, there are journalists who are very good at what they do and not very good at public speaking – they would come across poorly on video and may actually lose the trust of readers.

Language and “gallows humour” would also be a problem, he suggested.

These are not, however, issues that come up in this video by The Spokesman Review:


[via Colin Mulvany]

The top issues here are nutters and the increased amount of time needed to interact with and justify editorial decisions to readers.

What is also worth noting is that there is also no current statistical information to demonstrate that this practice is bringing more people to the newspaper.

But, it’s an idea that has been taken up by other UK newspapers. Last month, The Liverpool Daily Post dabbled with transparency and became the first paper in the country to broadcast their news conference live over the Internet.

So, should The Birmingham Post be doing the same?