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.

Blog Archive