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
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'
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
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
For PR agencies, online versions of the nationals can be hugely
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
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
THE TIMES ONLINE
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
'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.'
Position: managing director, Independent digital media
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.'
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