Editing and the Internet

1: Editing in the age of the Internet

Newspaper copy editors are like football's offensive guards: The only time they get noticed is if they make a mistake.
Copy editors are responsible for editing stories, writing headlines, checking facts and then putting it all together on the page.
After spending the past three months reading everything I could on editing and newspaper Internet sites, I have found a number of themes impacting editors in the online world. They follow under this post, but here is a brief summary of each topic.

2: The reality of the Internet
Robert Koopsmans was responsible for putting the Kamloops Daily News on the Internet back in 1992, one of the first Canadian papers to make it online.
He did it in his own time, as a hobby, and handed the reigns over to a colleague 18 months later. For Koopmans, after the novelty wore off, he set about refocusing on his true passion—journalism. That reality has hit a lot of journalists as their papers rushed to the web with high expectations. Not all have materialized.

3: Headlines matter most
One of the most useful skills an editor can have is the ability to write strong headlines.
This is important for the paper edition, but, according to journalism expert Jakob Nielsen, it’s vital for the Internet. Not only do your heads have to appeal to humans, but they also have to attract the attention of Google, Yahoo and MSN.

4: In defence of shovelware
Shovelware—taking a story from a newspaper’s print edition and putting it online with little or no thought to utilizing the strengths of the Internet—is a swearword to some. But for Canada's daily newspapers, it is a reality and an economic necessity.

5: To link or not to link
Newspapers have been mulling over this question ever since they went online. The conundrum is simple: Do you want to keep readers on your site or do you want to give them a value-added package and be seen as a unlimited source of information?

6: You too can be a prosumer
Citizen journalism is coming of age. Those that report the news are also consuming it and making money for their "bosses" at NowPublic and OhMyNews in the process. But instead of spelling the end of "real" journalism, these citizen sites are actually creating work for competent editors.

7: Offshoring
Newspaper editors should have some semblance of job security. Unless their newspaper shuts its doors, there should be a demand for those who know words. True, but just not here: Like tech support and call centre operations, these duties can be outsourced.

8: Experts on editing
After reading hundreds of thousands of words by some of the brightest journalists on the planet, one thing became perfectly clear—everyone has an opinion. Some of the best suggestions and tips have made it on to Poynter Online or the Online Journalism Review and are reprinted here.

9: What now?
Thomas Edison once said "I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that do not work." Online newspapers have found a few ways of their own that do not work. But that's not stopping them from moving ahead. Here are a few of their plans for the future.

10: The survey says
I sent a basic questionnaire to the online editor (or someone in position of deciding what stories appear on their paper's website) at every English-language daily newspaper in Canada. Of the 87, 15 sent back replies. This is what they had to say.

2: The reality of online news

When Mosaic was the newsroom browser of choice, space-starved reporters were sure the new interweb thing would allow them to post as much of a story as they wanted.
There would be no need for editors to cut all the good stuff out just so the story could be shoehorned into a tiny newshole.
There was talk about how having an e-mail address at the end of a story would help reproters build a rapport with the public and even lead to insider tips from whistle-blowers.
Even in late April/early May 2007 as CanWest newspapers repatriated their websites from the mother ship in Winnipeg, speculation centred on hyperlinking, blogging about behind-the-scenes goings-on and the addition of whiz-bang graphics.
Like marriage, children and 14-year-old single-malt Scotch, expectations can be quite different from reality.
Not necessarily worse, but different.
For example, the unlimited newshole reporters dreamed about never materialized.
There simply isn't time to thoroughly examine an issue.
At most English language dailies in Canada, there is a push to publish breaking stories on the web as soon as possible.
Having a deadline every minute means short snippets of news are more important than longer, more complete piece.
For example, at The Province, very few feature-length stories make it onto the website.
Breaking news is posted as soon as possible and when the full story makes it to the web, it is usually the version that has been edited and cut to fit the paper.
When a feature story is held until the paper hits the streets, the version that makes it onto the website is taken from the paper.
It has already been edited, fact checked and, usually, cut to fit the newshole.
This may not be a bad thing. In the Online Journalism Review article "New news retrospective," media expert Rusty Coats said: "Don't market your site by saying we'll give you more. People don't have enough time now. They don't want more, they want efficiency."
That makes it a win-win situation because a shorter, tightly edited story is usually what readers get.
Posting reporters' e-mail addresses at the end of stories hasn't resulted in a surge of tips, says a senior Province reporter.
"We've always had phones. If someone had a tip, they could have called," says Susan Lazaruk.
To that end, not all of Canada's daily papers that I surveyed put e-mail addresses at the end of their stories. Only about half the local stories at the two Vancouver dailies, the Regina Leader Post, Saskatoon StarPhoenix and The Globe and Mail have the e-mail address of the reporter.
The National Post usually doesn't.
Furthermore, on about 25 per cent of Canada's daily newspaper websites, finding contact information for an individual reporter is virtually impossible.
For example, the Victoria Times-Colonist lists a general business phone number and an e-mail address for news tips only. To find an editor or a specific reporter, you have to call the newsroom.
Others, such as the Halifax Chronicle-Herald give a full breakdown of the newsroom, including names, e-mail addresses and beats.

3: Headlines matter most

Being able to write strong headlines is a must-have skill for newspaper editors: Headlines are the third most viewed page element after photos and cutlines and the one element editors are solely responsible for.
On a paper's Internet site, heads are even more essential. They are the first, and often only, element read by online readers and therefore must be almost perfect.
Print and online heads must both have the same fundamental elements: strong verbs, accuracy, avoiding jargon, selling the story, fitting the space, using active voice, summarizing the article, etc.
But that's where the similarity ends.
Online heads have more important jobs than merely luring readers into the story. The must also lure computers.
Today there are software programs that scour the web, analyzing and ranking online news articles on behalf of Internet search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN.
Even more important, some news aggregator sites use programs that can take a story straight from your paper and upload it onto their site, writes Howard I. Finberg, a former journalist with the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle.
The headline you wrote for the Daily Gleaner is the same headline the Prime Minister reads in Ottawa.
Simply put, online heads must be everything their paper siblings were, plus contain a plethora of nouns for the Google news aggregator.
For example, European media expert Steffen Fjaervik says he never bothered to read a story RSSed to him titled "Dramatic change" because, even though he was interested in immigration policy, he had no clue as to what the story was about.
He agrees the head would make sense in a newspaper with a photo beside it, but on a cellphone's WAP reader or an RSS headline-only display, it was useless.
It's possible to be clever, get noticed by the computer algorithms and still impress readers, he argues, citing a recent Wired headline "Meteor Impact Theory Takes a Hit."
With RSS and WAP, readers are even relying on headlines alone to give them the news.
Heads better be good and they better be informative, Fjaervik writes.
Of course, if you can't be witty, you can still accurate.
The BBC caters to both humans and bots by offering two headlines.
The first, often the main one on their homepage, is meant to attract humans.
Then click to read the story and you get a more factual headline with the article itself.
For example, the reader gets "Tulsa star: The life and career of much-loved 1960's singer," but one click down the search engine bots find: "Obituary: Gene Pitney."
Media consultant Amy Gahran says online papers would be better off putting more effort into crafting effective headlines, rather than relying on cumbersome, ineffective fixes like tooltips.
Even if a paper has tooltips, most readers won't bother dragging their cursor over "Erie residents seek a reprieve" because it's neither engaging nor informative, she writes. (The story is about oil and gas drilling.)
When it comes headline writing, Fjaervik summed it up with one simple rule: Boring is better than useless.

4: In defence of shovelware

Media experts consider shovelware to be a dirty word.
Shovelware—taking existing content from a newspaper’s print edition and putting it on the web with little or no thought to utilizing the strengths of the newer medium—was the sole source of content in the early days of newspaper websites.
But it may come as a surprise to these media experts that most Canadian newspapers have not only embraced it but are now "shoveling" content from the Internet to the paper.
And that's good news for reporters, editors and readers.
Existing copy is familiar to readers who are used to the paper edition, it is cheaper to produce than writing and editing stories for both the online and the print edition, it provides all the information scanners want (according to Jakob Nielsen, an estimated 79 per cent of online readers actually scan) and it gets the story out faster.
Janice Castro, an editor at Time, took exception to the term in a panel discussion a few years ago.
A good news site is a mix of newness and brand that readers have come to know, she said.
Duncan Clark, senior online editor for the National Post, concurs. He says the Post runs both types of stories—those specifically written for the Internet and those appropriated from the print edition.
“There’s no reason not to put [shovelware] on the site,” he said in a phone interview.
“We are a single entity: The National Post. We have a brand.”
And most papers have always had a desire to scoop the competition.
Giving news tips away to competing organizations takes a backseat to getting the story out fast.
“We’re not worried about getting scooped,” says Larry Johnsrude from the Edmonton Journal.
“We know the other [media] will get to it, so we try to get it up first.”
If possible, that story is then updated for the print edition.
In fact, as Canadian newspaper websites continue their fight against other online news providers, shovelware is running both ways.
At the Ottawa Citizen, breaking stories are written for the web—often only a few paragraphs—and uploaded as soon as possible. They are then updated as information comes in, with the final result being a product that is ready to be "shoveled" to the next day’s paper.
“If it’s breaking, we know everyone will be doing it, so we’re not worried about being scooped,” says Citizen online editor James Orban.
Even in the rush to get stories online, copy at the Journal, Citizen and Post passes through the hands of an editor first, be it a copy editor or an online editor.
In a poll I conducted among Canadian English-language newspapers, 73 per cent said they edited all stories before posting, while 13 per cent said they try to.
“We also use blogs to get news up quickly," adds the Post’s Clark.
“Our philosophy is to break news online.”
Often, blogs are backwards edited. That is, a blog on a breaking story is posted, then an editor is assigned to go over it.
That means some readers will get the news fast but with the possibility of typos and other errors.
Media expert John Pavlik argues that online newspapers go through three stages.
In the first stage they rely entirely on shovelware.
In the second they start to utilize the mediums' capabilities. That is, the journalism is done with the Internet in mind and features integrated links and archives.
In the third stage, original news content designed specifically for the web uses novel ways of telling news.
One example Pavlik gives is a New York Times experiment with omnidirectional imaging that would, in theory, permit online viewers to explore a 360 degree field of vision and actually enter a news event.
In the business world of newspapers, this third version sees limited use.
Conversely, the second has become the norm.
You can always add a link or photo to a story after it’s been put online, but you have to justify it, says Clark.
“We do it for all the top stories.”
The same holds true at the Journal.
As the story of the Interstate 35 bridge collapse in Minneapolis was unfolding, Johnsrude was linking the main story on the world page to local stories, photos and comment from experts in Edmonton. It was a value-added package that appeared online first before making its way into the next day’s paper.
While all three Canadian papers have similar ways of getting copy onto their websites, none are naive enough to believe they have found the perfect solution.
“It’s a constant evolution,” says Clark.
“We don’t know if we’re doing it right. I don’t know if any paper is.”

5: To link or not to link

To link or not to link, that is the question.
Or at least is was.
A dozen years ago the newspaper world was mired in debate over whether online newspapers should link to outside sites or try to keep readers on their own site.
Not too long ago news sites had a proprietary view of their content.
"The focus was on collecting eyeballs and any link that sent readers offsite was frowned upon," wrote media expert Mark Glaser.
Heaven help you if you bypassed a paper's homepage and linked to a story inside, a practice known as deep linking.
In fact as recently as 2004, newspapers where suing those that bypassed their homepage.
Today polices are reflecting the modern reality of the web and are more relaxed. And more thorough.
Mike Nesbitt, the Toronto Sun's general manager of new media, sums it up best."We are a content creator so we link to our site. If we don't have it, we go to Canoe.ca [the portal for Quebecor and Sun Media]. We are also partnered with other media organizations," said Nesbitt in a phone interview.
"We are not in the business of publishing other company's content. I think that's the norm for producers of content."
Nesbitt echoes the Online Journalism Review position when he says the Sun's underlying goal is to add information that is relevant to the reader.
If that means sending someone off to the the Canadian Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control in the middle of a SARS story, then so be it.
"NYTimes.com has a halfway solution," writes Poynteronline media business annalist Rick Edmonds.
"In a foreign affairs story, for instance, you are likely to find hotlinks from 'Condoleezza Rice' to other recent news stories and some background pieces. But all of those stories are from The New York Times."
In a recent survey I did of Canadian online dailies, 47 per cent linked to any site they deemed important, 40 per cent only linked outside of their site in exceptional circumstances and 13 per cent didn't link.
Doug Firby, the Calgary Herald's editor of digital content development, believes his paper has the answer.
All links—news, ads, e-mail addresses—open a new browser window, he says.
The reader then has the readily available option of returning to the Herald's home site, Firby says.
At most Canadian papers, providing sites to link to is the responsibility of reporters and photographers.
However, copy editors and the final people to see the story, the online editors, add links if they were needed.
The BBC doesn't worry about whose responsibility linking is. Their site is fully automated.
The BBC uses a computer program called Newstracker that identifies content from other sites that relate to a BBC story. "If we find a match, we can provide a link directly from our story to the story on the external site," reads their policy page.
What can a news provider do when Matt Drudge or the BBC or a news aggregator deep links to their site?
Philiadelphia's nbc10.com thinks they have a solution to keeping readers.
"If you came from the Drudge Report to read this article, check out these other recent NBC 10 stories that received national attention. . . . Grandmom Allegedly Leaves Baby In Burning Truck; Teen Allegedly Ate Pizza, Watched TV During Triple Murder."
It may not be a perfect solution, but according to Poynter, it's the best out there so far.

6: You too can be a prosumer

The term "prosumer" was coined in 1980 by the futurist Alvin Toffler in his book The Third Wave as a blend of producer and consumer. He used it to describe a possible future type of consumer who would become involved in the design and manufacture of products, so they could be made to individual specification.

The Online Journalism Review defines "citizen journalism" as the collecting and publication of timely, unique, nonfiction information by individuals without formal journalism training or professional affiliation.
Examples include the publication of cellphone photos from a breaking news scene, blog reports covering local government meetings and discussion forums reporting results from international competitions.
If you can believe NowPublic and OhMyNews, there are more than six billion journalists ready to cover breaking news stories anywhere in the world.
NowPublic and OhMyNews, among others, see themselves on the cutting edge of news gathering by using citizen journalists, part of a growing trend that allows anyone with a digital camera and computer to upload images or news snippets to a home site.
This news is then disseminated via the Internet or, if NowPublic’s co-founder Len Brody's business plan works, straight to news agencies such as The Associated Press.
“I promise you, in 18 months NowPublic will be, by reach, the largest news agency in the world,” Brody said in a July 30 Agence France-Presse story.
With nearly 120,000 contributors in more than 140 countries, NowPublic has resources most agencies can’t dream of.
According to Brody, when deadly Cyclone Gonu hit Oman in early June, NowPublic had posted eight photos of the devastation before AP’s bureau chief in Saudi Arabia had left home to cover the story.
That kind of efficiency has become so impressive that the Vancouver-based company, which is growing at a rate of 35 per cent per month, scored a $10.6 million financing deal on July 29.
The funding will be used to start compensating reporters, says Brody.
Using the public to gather news isn’t new.
The U.S. Geological Survey gets tens of thousands of hits every time an earthquake strikes Southern California. Residents report what they felt and the USGS processes this data in real time to generate zip-code maps that depict the intensity of the quake throughout the region.
This works because the USGS is a central source for earthquake information.
In the event of breaking news, there is no obvious single source for citizen journalists to submit their reports.
After Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, dozens of missing persons websites sprang up as people tried to locate friends and family in the region.
It is situations such as these that newspapers and their citizen journalists could shine by becoming that central information repository.
Of course, just because someone has a camera and Internet connection doesn't mean they are a journalist.
To watch over citizen journalists, Online Journalism Review contributor Mark Glaser proposed the role of a professional “citizen media editor.”
The CME would be responsible for cleaning copy, fact checking, looking for copyrighted material and clearing the story of anything libelous, all while keeping the citizen reporter motivated enough to continue to work for little or no pay.
Unfortunately, appointing CMEs opens a can of worms. Stories and forum posting that are not moderated aren’t held to the same legal standards as those that are overseen by an editor or moderator, says Dan Burnett, a leading Canadian media lawyer.
"The current state of the law is in a bit of flux without much Canadian precedent, but based on English law, it is likely that an organization that permits citizens to post material would be liable if they were acting in a pre-editing fashion so they have knowledge of it—like the way newspapers are liable for the letters to the editor they publish. . . . So knowledge basically equals liability," Burnett said in an e-mail.
Both MSNBC.com and Greensboro, N.C.'s News-Record.com use citizen journalists and both admit they are still working out the protocol for editing submissions.
“We’re making the rules as we go along,” said News-Record.com editor John Robinson in an Online Journalism Review article.
So far those two sites, as well as others such as the NorthwestVoice.com and Venturacountystar.com default to the position that, since the site represents their paper, it should be held to the same standards as the print edition.
However, citizen journalists can also be used for duties other than news gathering.
At the VenturaCountyStar.com, assistant managing editor John Moore used to write a blog that gave readers a peek at what stories the paper considered for its front page. Their opinions were then taken into consideration.
And that may spawn a whole new genre of citizen journalism, "citizen editors."

7: Offshoring your job

First it was call-centre jobs that were shipped overseas.
Then IT and tech support was outsourced to India and China.
Now, according to a July 18 Associated Press story, papers like the Fresno Bee are getting overseas companies to do the graphic design work on display ads.
It's just a matter of time before editing also gets outsourced, says Detroit Free Press editor Joe Grimm in a November 2006 Poynter article.
He says one company, Hi-Tech Exports offers 40 hours of proofreading for $295 US. At the current Pacific Press CEP rate, 40 hours would cost CanWest about $1,500 Canadian, not including benefits.
Hi-Tech Exports isn't shy about promoting its product.
"You have reached the perfect destination for all kinds of editing work under the sun! Our experienced editors can rewrite and reorganize your documents to give it clarity and a professional touch."
Although their mission statement may sound a little corny and contain a few minor grammatical errors, Grimm says most of their workers were educated in English-speaking schools, including ones in North America and Europe.
As part of a survey I did on Canada's English-language daily newspapers, editors were asked if they thought copy or layout editing would be ever be outsourced.
More than 80 per cent said no.
The Globe and Mail's Angus Frame echoed the consensus.
"Not in the near future."
However, 20 per cent said yes and Chatham, Ont., Daily News editor Bruce Corcoran noted his paper is laid out in Sarnia. The same happens to the Penticton Herald, which is entirely put together and printed at the Kelowna Courier.
Once the protocols are in place to work off-site, it's not a major leap to move that work off-continent.
New York Times writer Thomas L. Friedman described the scenario in his book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. He says there is a difference between high-value custom work and plain vanilla exportable tasks. The vanilla—call centre work, advertising composition, etc.—gets outsourced first.
The secret to continued employment, explains The Free Press's Grimm, is to realize that it's just a matter of time before the vanilla part of newspaper work goes overseas.
In the editorial department, this includes the event calendar, designing and proofing pages and editing letters to the editor.
It could even be argued that a newspaper's world section could be assembled overseas. After all, who is better equipped to lay out a section on Southeast Asia, a Vancouverite or someone living in Southeast Asia?
To keep copy editing jobs in here, editors must focus on what can't be exported: local knowledge, expertise on complex local issues, experience with liable laws and political correctness, says Grimm.

8: Editors on editing

The more a newsroom evolves, the more it stays the same.
Copy editors are now expected to know HTML, Photoshop and their paper's protocol for posting to the web.
But, according to a 2006 Medill School of Journalism study, managers considered basic journalism skills paramount when hiring or promoting copy editors.
The report, by C. Max Magee, listed attributes such as attention to detail, news judgement, grammar and style, multitasking skills and the ability to work under deadline pressure as the most sought-after skills.
With editors now facing a deadline every minute, the desire to be first is strong. But most papers have backed off and don't let the competition dictate what gets posted.
"Readers will trust the accurate account; they don’t always care who got it first. It’s best to be accurate and first, but being right is better," says media expert Joe Marren.
Vancouver Province deputy editor Fabian Dawson concurs. "The Province website is an extension of the Province newspaper. . . . The thoroughness of the editing on the website must match the thoroughness of the editing that goes into the newspaper. . . . Accuracy must not be sacrificed."
Poynter columnist Joe Grimm decries the fact some of the writers at his paper, the Detroit Free Press, file directly to the web.
"That gets the material out fast, but it has mistakes in it."
Sure the web staff can clean the copy, but when RSS feeds pull the first version of a story, those mistakes are recorded forever, he laments.
Chris Wienandt, copy-desk chief at The Dallas Morning News, said in a Poynter article that he thinks leaving copy editors out of the process reflects an online model in its infancy.
"We're disrespecting online readers by not giving them the same level of editing," he said. "I think people expect a newspaper site to be an extension of the newspaper, so I think the quality of the editing and thoroughness of the editing on the website should match the thoroughness of the editing that you get in the newspaper."
One of the changes being implemented at the Province in a bid to attract more search-engine hits is the addition of placelines for local stories. "An 'Abbotsford' or 'Surrey' placeline will result in more Google hits," says Dawson.
Another aspect of journalism that is returning to the ways of old is the re-emergence of the inverted pyramid as the preferred style of writing for the web.
Although newspapers experimented with the "four paragraph rule" for a few years, no major site, outside of the BBC, seems to be using it. (For a while the BBC tried to write their web stories in the same manner used for Ceefax. The five Ws had to be included in the first 75 words. The BBC news homepage now runs only headlines, or in the case of major stories, heads and one sentence.)
Marren adds that today, web readers scan rather than read and by sticking to the inverted pyramid and simple, subject-verb-object sentences they will get the information they want. He also suggests the addition of bold words, subheads and bulleted lists as a way to assisting online scanners.
Of course, the old standbys of limiting adjectives and adverbs, writing in active voice, and using self-explanatory and useful headlines all go without saying.
So what's an editor to do if he or she wants to have a future in the newspaper business?
The experts at Poynter and OJR offered a few pieces of advice.
Gravitate towards work that can't be outsourced, advises Grimm.
He suggests working directly with other editors and reporters, dealing with controversial issues and even being a coordinator between the paper and overseas editors.
Vicki Krueger, editor of NewsU, writes that every paper's online product seems to be different. Learning a paper's protocols first hand is invaluable.
Poynteronline's Chip Scanlan adds that an editor needs to be an autodidact (a Greek word for someone who is self taught). "As new media pioneer Elizabeth Osder once described the autodidact's credo: "Everything I learned about the Internet, I learned on the Internet."

9: The future

Tomorrow is our permanent address. — Rusty Coats, general manager of Tampa Bay Online

If current readership trends continue, the last daily newspaper reader will check out in October 2044. — Professor Philip Meyer, author of "The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age."

After reading more than 250 articles, chapters and columns on the future of journalism, two things became evident: Everyone in the newspaper business has an opinion and most don't match.
It seems everyone who has ever worked in media has a suggestion for making it better, for how it should be done.
While journalism texts keep extolling the necessity of being trained across all platforms, a survey I conducted over the summer show only a tiny per cent of journalists actually get to work online. The majority of editors said they want fundamental journalism skills first and foremost.
The sentiment was echoed by a November 2006 Medill School of Journalism study that was reported covered in a Poynter Online story "Traditional Skills Most Important in Online Newsrooms."
And while no one is decrying anyone's desire to learn new media skills, apparently it shouldn't come at the expense of fundamentals.
Other experts laud the success of the BBC and their fantastic news site website.
But there is a story recounted in the first chapter of Journalism Online about a conversation between the BBC News' online project director Bob Eggington and a group of U.S. newspaper editors.
They wanted to know how the BBC managed such a strong online presence.
Bob looked at them and said, "Well here's my business model. We spend a lot of money to collect a lot of data. Then we make it free on the Web, for anyone to consume, and we don't make any money from it."
While this may work for the BBC and the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, in most of the world, the capitalist model predominates and makes this model unrealistic.
The attention economy seems to be the prevailing concept governing newspaper web design.
With so much to see on the web, attention has become the new gold standard, says Mike Ward in Journalism Online.
If you can get and keep reader's attention, then theoretically, that could translate into money.
This is the stage newspaper sites are in.
"We have to be prepared to deliver our content across every platform, anytime. We can no longer think of ourselves as just a paper, " says Kirk LaPointe, Vancouver Sun managing editor and the man behind the recent CanWest-wide repatriation of newspaper websites.
While it's true the audience is fragmenting, thanks to the website more people are reading our content than anytime in the past 15 to 20 years, said LaPointe.
"There are phenomenal devices to deliver content now, but that doesn't mean everyone wants to consume it soon.
So assuming the papers find a way to give readers exactly what they want, when they want it, there are more changes a foot.
E Ink Corp. has created a paper-thin video screen that combines the ease of reading words on paper with the Internet's access to information. Their chief executive Russ Wilcox believes they'll have a foldable paper-thin computer screen/newspaper by 2015.
He predicted the price would be less than $300. With newspaper spending about $150 per year per reader on paper, it would be in their financial best interest to give these screens away to subscribers.
The next big step then would be to provide city-wide Internet access, something known as Wi-Max and already in the works.
Niall Kennedy, a web technologist in San Francisco, said in his blog that the only sure way to make money from the Internet is to buy a hydroelectric dam, set up a server farm beside it and get on the grid by running fibre optic cables to the nearest town.
Oh wait. Google just did that.
And there are rumours Yahoo! and Microsoft are following suit.

10: The survey says

During July and August I e-mailed a 20-question survey to the online editors of Canada's 87 English-language daily newspapers. (For smaller newspapers, I e-mailed the managing editor.)
According to Jaclyn Moss and Graham Hendry's paper "Use of electronic surveys in course evaluation," a response of between 5 per cent and 37 per cent can be expected. I received 12 per cent, but also received another 22 automated responses from editors who were away on holidays. Here are the results.
When asked if their newspaper and website target the same audience, one third of respondents said yes, 40 per cent said they went after different readers and 27 per cent answered both yes and no. Rolf Gobran of the Edmonton Sun was one of those who gave both answers. He qualified his statement by saying his site attracts regular Sun readers, but it's trying to attract a younger demographic.
Fred Rinne, managing editor of the Grande Prairie Herald-Tribune noted there are many web readers who only read online and only for free. "The industry has to figure out how to cost justify this."
Read or scan
Knowing if readers simply scanned the site or actually read the stories proved to be a difficult question to answer. Answers varied from 5
per cent scanners to 75 per cent scanners.
According to Jakob Nielsen, 79 per cent of readers only scan websites.
He says there are four reasons behind this trend:

  • Reading from computer screens is tiring
  • The desire of readers to keep moving on
  • The sheer number of websites grabbing readers' attention
  • And the simple fact life is hectic and people have less time to sit and read a newspaper, either the print version or on the Net.
"People access the website in over 100 different ways, some visit and look at a single story, some scan the main homepage and only click on a story they find interesting, others spend more than 30 minutes on the site each day," says the Globe and Mail's Angus Frame.
"In terms of time spent, the majority of people spend more than 5 minutes but less than 10 minutes on the site."
Answers to the question "What per cent of your staff work on your website" varied from 5
per cent at the Montreal Gazette to 100 per cent at the North Bay Nugget.
The majority of responses fell between 20
per cent and 50 per cent.
Staffing II
The actual number of people working on the site also varied depending on the size of the paper.
Most reported between three and five with the Montreal Gazette reporting 35 people working on the site full time.
It seems integration in the newsroom is nearly complete. 87 per cent said their paper and website shared the same staff and resources, while only 13 per cent said they were two separate entitles.
When hiring new editors, the respondents said they look for:

  • strong editing skills (6)
  • online experience (5)
  • sound news judgment (5)
  • strong journalism background (4)
  • adaptability (3)
  • interpersonal skills (2)
  • writing ability
  • imagination
  • literacy
  • context
  • contacts
  • good anticipation
  • understanding of reader interests
  • high energy
  • ability to multitask
  • open mindedness
  • organizational skills
  • smarts
  • deadline oriented.
Outsourcing is beginning to invade the newspaper industry (see page 7 on Offshoring). However, 80 per cent of editors don't believe it is possible for work at their paper to be outsourced in the near future, while 20 per cent disagreed.
"Our layout has been shipped one hour north to Sarnia," reports Chatham Daily News
managing editor Bruce Corcoran. However, he doubts the work will ever go overseas.
At 73 per cent of the papers, copy editors looked at stories before they went online.
I asked: "How long have you been at your current job?"
Answers ran the gamut from less than three weeks to 14 years (2). The median response was three years, the mode was five years and the average was four years, eight months.
Breaking news
87 per cent of papers break stories on the web, while 13 per cent break stories online only in certain circumstances.
Most papers (87 per cent) report that their site can contain a multimedia grab bag of text, photos, Flash, YouTube links and Slideshow. Only 13 per cent of papers use text and photographs exclusively.
Writing style
Jakob Nelsen says that web stories must not only use the inverted pyramid, but he also suggests that reporters "write abstracts or summaries for longer content, tell readers what questions they can expect an article to answer, make small chunks of content with one or two ideas in each chunk, group content that is similar, write unique titles, headings and subheadings and make lists, not paragraphs."
Poynter columnist Jonathan Dube agrees, yet 40 per cent of respondents to my questionnaire said reporters write in inverted pyramid only, 47 per cent said their website features both styles and 13 per cent said stories are written in a web-only format.
About half the papers surveyed said they linked to any site they deemed important, 40 per cent only linked outside of their site in exceptional circumstances and 13 per cent didn't link at all.
Maybe it's the success of FPInfomart, but 73 said they have a readily accessible story archive, 20 per cent said they didn't and 7 per cent said they are working on one.
An Internet forum, AKA a message board or a bulletin board is a web application for holding discussions and posting user comments. The strength of an online newspaper is its ability to generate passion about a topic and then have a place for readers to debate it.
More than 90 per cent of papers had a place for readers to do this.
With the growing level of media ownership convergence in Canada, increased competition between chain-owned media outlets and websites that utilize text, photos and video, one would think most papers would have been partnered with a sister TV or radio station. Only 33 per cent said their paper was.
80 per cent said their site was making money, 7 said it wasn't and seven per cent said they were working on it. One paper refused to comment.
When asked what they would like their company to do differently, editors said
  • nothing (4)
  • more multimedia and interactive content (2)
  • redesign (2)
  • nothing (a redesign is in the works)
  • hire a full-time editor
  • get more direct readership/revenue information to allow us to allocate editorial resources (monetary and human) to projects readers want in web form
  • more resources
  • more seamless integration between parent site and local paper
  • integrate newsroom and web division
  • learn to understand the two-way relationship between the paper and the readers. The web has changed the relationship . . .
Responses to the question "What is the biggest challenge you face":
  • I don't have enough time or space (2)
    [Ironically, one answer came from one of the larger newspapers in the country, the other from one of the smallest. Ed.]
  • lack of resources (2)
  • the changing media landscape
  • technology
  • getting staff to drive content, buy into the web and make it meaningful
  • Changing the mindset of newsroom staff from conventional off-line publishing once a day to ongoing updates of breaking news as it happens
  • none
  • There has been a challenge with changing people's thinking in terms of posting stories the day before the paper comes out, but for the most part people have responded in a good way
  • making sure the flow of traffic to the web can be translated into sufficient money to support quality journalism
  • resistance to change
  • Declining resources and decision-making from on high based solely on cost cutting, with too little regard in quality of product and reader reaction to the changes.
  • Growing ad revenue and readership without having a negative impact on the print side
  • Implementing new features while keeping content deadlines. Maintaining
    online ad inventory control.

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