There is something ironic in the way traditional newspapers are all
hastily putting together new sections about the internet and e-commerce
- a bit like the canal companies helping to build the railway lines
during the last industrial revolution.
The digital revolution of which the internet and e-commerce are a big
part, is a transport revolution in the same way - with information as
the new coal - and publishers are wisely matching their editorial
coverage of the internet with the development of on-line presences of
The current rush to publish newspaper sections on e-commerce - both the
FT and the Guardian started last week - reflects this duality of
On the one hand, it is a hot topic and therefore has a legitimate place
in the paper, on the other hand e-commerce is an obvious market for the
advertising from which publishers derive revenue, and one in which they
want to stay on top.
Aside from this commonality of purpose, there are few similarities in
the approach of the three newspapers involved so far, except perhaps
that all three can claim a degree of radicalism.
The Guardian and the Pearson Group (which publishes the Financial Times
in the UK) are both looking at the subject from the point of view of
The Guardian is perhaps making the boldest move - defining a large
proportion of its business stories as e-commerce stories, and grouping
them together accordingly.
The paper points to a happy coincidence of interest as part of its
rationale for devoting a page to the sector four days a week. The City
wants to get closer to the young media or technology exiles who are now
e-entrepreneurs, and those developers themselves now need finance
Pearson is taking the more conventional route of publishing a
supplementary magazine on the subject. The pan-European coverage of its
business papers, however, chimes nicely with the cross-border nature of
e-commerce, allowing it to claim a unique position in this new
The Sunday Times is looking at the subject of e-commerce and the
internet more broadly, and from the point of view of consumers, rather
More radically, the paper is trying to define the subject in relation to
content, rather than technology. Focusing on content allows the
positioning within the paper’s Culture magazine, hence attracting
readers who might find a technical focus off-putting.
DOORS, SUNDAY TIMES
Format: Section within Culture magazine published with the Sunday
Started: 10 October
’One of the things we decided at the start was to address techno-fear
and avoid jargon. We also put it within the Culture section of the paper
- the thinking was not to look like a section for computer geeks, but to
make the general reader feel at home with technology.
We are a general interest newspaper so we want to appeal across all ages
although I guess we are really thinking most about the mid-30s
’I think some similar sections in other papers become dull because they
are too specialist, too closely focused. We are trying to take a more
general interest approach - looking at the cultural boom the digital
revolution represents. Although shopping on-line is in its infancy,
e-commerce is fundamentally important to the whole thing so every week
there is some aspect of it we look at.
’We try to be as practical as we can. This week we have a piece on
Christmas shopping on-line, next week we are doing a piece about buying
on-line medical advice. To tie-in with being in the Culture section we
are also doing a lot about the kinds of art you can buy on-line from
smaller galleries and dealers. Eventually of course e-commerce will
become much more important as it is part of how the publishing business
makes its money.’
CONNECTIS, FINANCIAL TIMES
Format: A4 magazine published with the Financial Times and other
Pearson-owned financial publications across Europe.
Started: 26 Nov
’We think there is a huge demand for information about e-commerce and
e-business from all sections of the readership. It is a truly
pan-European story and since we are a pan-European group it is a great
opportunity to have all the newspapers working together. Everyone can
see that e-commerce is a big revolution in business, it is already
happening in the US and it is beginning to happen in Europe.
’Our readers will not be professionals from the internet world, they
will be from any area of business and they will be beginning to wonder
whether their own company should be involved. The purpose is to help
managers think through the implications of e-business.
’We have 68 pages in an A4 format and three sections:
business-to-business; management of e-businesses, and on-line consumer
businesses. It has a print run of 650,000. We do not feel like we have
any direct competition, because our USP is that we are in so many
languages. There are all sorts of stories that will help managers
realise how important it is.
’We have stories about new e-businesses, and venture capital risk, and
the impact on the banking industry of e-business. It is difficult to see
what will happen in the future, things are moving so fast with the
Format: A page in the Guardian City section
Started: 23 Nov
Frequency: every week day except Monday
’The internet is changing the way all business operates, so it is not
difficult to do a page a day. We are also looking to develop regular
daily coverage which is tightly focused on net start-ups and this
extraordinary new culture of entrepreneurship, focusing on the people
who are throwing themselves into these new businesses.
’Newspapers are not really geared up for these stories, some of us are
having to change our perceptions and learn pretty quickly, but as a
paper we have been very lucky. Two years ago we were not really
considered a City paper but suddenly the focus of the City has shifted
in our direction as we have developed the young, hip readership that
works in these growth sectors. At the same time, these young people are
suddenly reading the City pages to find out if they can get finance.
’After 12 years covering the City I am seeing a world of business PR
that I did not know existed. I think the PR industry is going through
the same sort of radical change that we are - the City PROs are picking
up e-business, and there is a whole load of traditionally
technologically-focused PRs who are advising companies about joining the
I see technological PR combining with elements of consumer PR as a
result of the web.’