Stop the Presses
- 03 July, 2007 11:45
How Quick and Dirty Can Win the Race
Newspapers have informed the world of their plight. "Read any newspaper," says David Thurm, VP and CIO of the New York Times. "We report a lot about ourselves."
Lately, however, newspapers have quit whining. They don't have time for it. Workforces have been trimmed and in some cases obliterated (the Boston Globe closed its last three foreign bureaus in January), replaced with news from wire services — all during a time when they're being asked to produce more than ever.
Rather than lament past missteps, many papers have begun leveraging the Internet to reach customers in ways once never thought possible. (See "The Citizen Journalist", below for one new approach.) At the small- and mid-market papers, where resources have been stretched especially thin, there's no time for perfectionism when implementing technology. Instead, Innosight's Anthony says, the mantra should be "good enough", a critical concept when dealing with disruptive technologies.
When the good enough theory is applied to an industry steeped in idealism, it's sometimes interpreted as degrading the mission. But papers employing the strategy disagree, noting it's mostly rooted in finding effective yet economical technology to use in delivering their products.
At the Delaware News Journal, for instance, readers wanted to see more video accompanying breaking news on their site, Delawareonline.com. Photographers needed the ability to shoot video in the field, return to the newsroom, edit it and post it on the Web site as quickly as possible. Initially, the paper bought two top-of the-line $US4000 Sony cameras with very expensive software to accompany them. "There was a pretty steep learning curve," says Pankaj Paul, the News Journal'smanaging editor of niche and new initiatives.
Consequently, only two people could effectively upload and edit video using the complex software, which could take hours — enough time to be scooped by another Web site. So Paul went the good enough route and bought six Canon and Panasonic video cameras for about $US400 each.
Further simplifying matters, photographers on staff already had Macs that came equipped with Apple's user-friendly iMovie software for video editing. Paul says the picture quality wasn't outstanding, but it worked. "All you have to do is make sure it looks decent," he says. "We're not doing HD here."
Quickly, the News Journal jumped from two people editing video to at least 17. With the Sony cameras, the Journal was posting 50 videos a month. The following month, after moving to the simpler hardware and iMovie, it posted 195 videos. Meanwhile, readers have responded, as traffic on Delawareonline.com continues to climb. In December 2005, the site reported 3.9 million news page views. In October 2006, that number jumped to nearly 6.5 million. And Paul says the News Journal will continue to push for the good enough approach.
"I'm sure some purists will disagree," he says. "If you're the New York Times or the Washington Post, and you have the people and time, go ahead and do it. I don't have that luxury."
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