MEDIA: BROADSHEET WEBSITES - Online news gains a national grounding

The internet is maturing as a news medium with the online

versions of several broadsheets undergoing revamps. As Ed Shelton

reports, online journalists can prove a successful avenue for PROs

seeking to generate newspaper column inches.



The national press appears far from united as to the importance of

online news.



On the one hand, there is huge investment taking place at The Guardian

and The Daily Telegraph - the two nationals most serious in their online

approach - as they revamp their sites as portals. Yet at the same time,

the latest owner of Express Newspapers Richard Desmond, an

internet-sceptic, has closed down or sold sites within the Express'

digital arm.



Amid the confusion, the revamping of Electronic Telegraph is a milestone

in the development of online national newspaper publishing. The Daily

Telegraph was one of the first broadsheet newspaper s with a serious

online presence in 1994.



Since then newspaper sites - particularly broadsheets - have evolved

from simply being online versions of the papers to valid propositions in

their own right, operating in real-time and changing with the news of

the day. The changes have, in part, been prompted by the success of

market leader BBC.co.uk.



A sign of just how thinking is evolving is the Telegraph site which is

currently being re-developed as a central portal with a series of

satellite sites.



Broadly the same approach is being adopted at The Guardian which is

undertaking a major marketing campaign in the coming weeks.



But while The Daily Telegraph is adding new sites progressively around

an unchanged central portal, The Guardian is switching strategy from one

involving a number of peripheral brands (eg Cricketunlimited.co.uk) to

one involving a powerful central brand (GuardianUnlimited) with links

leading off it.



The fact that these sites now have an identity of their own is borne out

by page impressions which suggest that many users are overseas and

cannot see the newspaper itself. The Guardian, for example, says 43 per

cent of its users do not read the paper.



Despite the development of the sites in this way, newspaper websites are

a long way off reaching any kind of maturity with, for example, reliable

figures for readership. The Guardian has just started publishing ABC

Electronic figures for page impressions each month but as yet, it is the

only one.



For PR agencies, online versions of the nationals can be hugely

beneficial.



Online staff receive far less information than their colleagues on the

print side and hence selling a story in is likely to be easier. And

increasing co-operation between the two teams means that getting on the

website is also a good way of attracting the attention of the newspaper

journalists.



ELECTRONIC TELEGRAPH



Derek Bishton



Position: editor



Address: www.telegraph.co.uk



Page Impressions: 25 million per month (estimate)



'The Electronic Telegraph is a site in transition. We are in the process

of changing to Telegraph.co.uk - which will launch as a portal in a

couple of months. We have already launched the sport and travel

sections, and have another 17 sections to go. The big change is that the

sports site is responsive - it is dealing with things in real-time.



'We always had our own staff but we have become much more integrated

with the newspaper although we have a greater interest in news which is

relevant to the digital world than them. It is probably true that PROs

get a better hearing from us as we are not so used to being phoned

up.'



THE TIMES ONLINE



Andy Bull



Position: editor



Address: www.thetimes.co.uk



Page Impressions: 18 million per month (estimate)



'We have a small enabling team that works just on the website, but all

Times journalists work both on and off-line. We have had a website since

1996 but it was purely reproducing the newspaper until the re-launch

last October.



'We work in the same way with PR agencies both on and offline, except

that there are more opportunities for them to get involved with

sponsorship and promotion with the website. That is the kind of thing we

are looking to develop as we expand the content. For example, we did a

special area of the website and a print publication to coincide with the

launch of the Beatles No 1 album.'



THE INDEPENDENT



Richard Withey



Position: managing director, Independent digital media



Address: www.Independent.co.uk



Page Impressions: 15 million per month (estimate)



'The Independent audience is very good for the web, as they tend to be

city-based knowledge workers. We relaunched in October 1999, before that

it was just re-producing the paper. We do not put all the stuff from the

paper on the website, only what is appropriate for each of our channels:

news, argument, advancement, enjoyment, investment and travel.



'Newspapers are beginning to understand the web, they are realising they

can reach different audiences at various times. We keep investment to

what we think the market will support.'



GUARDIANUNLIMITED



Simon Rogers



Position: deputy editor



Address: www.Guardian Unlimited.co.uk



Page Impressions: 22.1 million per month (January - ABC Electronic)



'We are more than just the newspaper - on the web you can be immediate

and do things in more depth. When something happens we think: 'What can

we do to add to a story, maybe with audio, with background archive and

with interactive graphics using Flash technology'. It is part of our

mission to explain.



'Our users are different to newspaper readers, one third of them are

overseas for one thing. PR agencies are waking up to how important the

internet is. Now a lot of PROs work with us because it is a good way of

getting into the paper - often things we do are picked up and used by

it.'



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