Washington Post Just Discovers That Web Reporters And Paper Reporters Can Work Together?

from the uh,-seriously? dept

Nearly a year and a half ago, we were surprised to find out that the NY Times still kept its newspaper reporters and its online reporters separate — and had finally agreed to merge the two operations. It only seemed newsworthy in the fact that it was so far behind the times. Apparently, though, when it comes to journalistic endeavors, they were on the cutting edge. Today comes the news that the Washington Post has finally decided to do the same thing and merge its online operations with its paper operations. What’s even more surprising about this is that the Washington Post was actually one of the earliest newspapers to go online. They had a great online presence called “Newsbytes” that had a strong following, but disappeared literally overnight, breaking a ton of incoming links, when some higher ups at the paper wanted everything to go behind a registration wall. The Washington Post has continued to experiment with different online formats — but the fact that they would just now think of combining news rooms suggests just how out of touch they are with how the news actually works these days. Update: Robert MacMillan, the author of the original piece (and a former Newsbytes and Washington Post reporter) stops by to let us know this is even less than it appears to be. They’re still keeping the two divisions separate, but are simply blurring some of the boundaries between them — though, the specific plans are still in the air.

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Comments on “Washington Post Just Discovers That Web Reporters And Paper Reporters Can Work Together?”

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misanthropic humanist says:

the new demographics

This is about “demographics”. Market researchers employed by some media units having psychology and sociology qualifications like to form imaginary classifications, boxes into which people fit. It is mostly for the benefit of advertisers who wish to target their adverts better. However there are a number of problems with demographic theories. The most obvious is dynamics. Nothing is cast in stone and nothing stays the same for long. Demographic sampling is tracking fast moving targets in all directions of the old style political, financial and social axes. Furthermore, it’s a young and very soft science which sometimes takes the worst parts of sociology and psychology and combines them into bad theories which are inextensible, brittle and even contradictory.

So, the idea that there is an “online” audience and a “paper” audience is part of the old guard which is being revised. These streams have merged because we’ve recognised that the method one uses to access news is fairly irrelevant in determining the character of the reader.

If this change is to sweep all publishers it is coming about because the bottom line, advertising money, is no longer served by having this partition. In other words there is no such thing as an “online audience”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: the new demographics

There’s no such thing as an “online” audience? I beg to differ. There are still plenty of people without access to the Internet, or who don’t know how to use it (read: poor, elderly, and/or incompetent). I was visiting relatives recently and despite being well-off, they would never read their news on the Internet. They still have dial-up, have no basic concept of how to use a computer, and instead get the newspaper every day. Guess what? They’re still surviving.

My guess is the “online” audience tends to be younger, more well-off, and of course, somewhat Internet savvy.

Rex Dixon (user link) says:

Newpaper biz..

Needs to just realize what has been happening to the music biz types that thought the mp3 was evil and going to kill their profits. Guess what? It did, and that is because they resisted playing nice until 2007. Shawn Fanning and company exposed that music is something universal and should be shared in 1999.

Let’s hope the newpaper biz wakes up and smells the coffee before it’s too late. Once that happens, the same fear will be there that the record biz has today – the fear that they are losing and losing bad to the mp3’s.


Tyshaun says:

Re: Newpaper biz..

I agree with the general point that it seems a bit counter-intuitive to have seperate web and paper staff at the post however, let’s not beat down on them or any other “old school” media outlet. Even today we can find plenty of examples of organizations slow to fully include current technologies and technological paradigms (like telacommuting). Part of this is culture and fear, however, part of it is just good business. I know the big buzz word is innovation and stuff but big businesses mantra is still “generate a profit”. Anything that can potentially interfere with that profit generation (like changing the corporate structure or job responsibilities) will, and should, be viewed with skepticism and approached cautiously.

and now for something completely different…

Rex Dixon said:

Shawn Fanning and company exposed that music is something universal and should be shared in 1999.

Now, as tough as this may be, take a look at MP3 from the standpoint of any big music conglomerate. What good is in it for them? If anything full acceptance of MP3s WILL affect their bottom line because customers will have a music format that is easily distributable to others with no additional costs. This is a problem that never existed pre-digital (sure you could make copies of a tape, but you had to buy a tape and the process was labor intensive).

My point is that MP3s are great for the consumer but aside from the anecdotal experience of a few companies, they could be the death blow to music companies. I will also put for a hypothesis, without any evidence other than my own opinion, that the proliferation of MP3 and digital distribution has sped up the dilution of music. Whereas music companies used to be the gate keepers of most music now anyone with a computer can be a musician. Some would say that’s good, others like me would argue that will eventually lead to the increasingly mediocre music being passed off as quality.

In my perfect world we’d have a completely different paradigm for DRM. One where some unique ID of the buyer would be the key to use the file, not some weird hardware specific restriction. That way we’d design devices that would authenticate to a user and the music itself could be used on any device. This would be great for consumers because they could use their music how they want and good for the music companies because they don’t have to worry about illegal file distribution.

Just a rant and thought…

Robert MacMillan says:

Not really merging...

Hi, I’m Robert MacMillan. I work for Reuters and wrote the article in question.

First, thanks for linking to the piece and talking about it.

Second, I want to clarify that this is not a merging of news operations. It’s a more subtle shift. Selected editors at the paper staff will bear more responsibility for Web presentation in addition to print presentation. That may be a distinction in search of a difference, but to me “merger” implies in theory that one person would do the job of two people. In this case, as with the NYTimes, there still will be Web and print staffs.

The editors I spoke to noted that the plan is not finalized, so anything can happen, but I reported what I could find out. Who knows? We’ll probably hear more about this.

And now, the full disclosure: I worked for Newsbytes after it was bought by the Post Co., and worked as an editor, reporter and eventually a columnist at washingtonpost.com until 2005. Being an online-only reporter was the best job a stuffy mainstream journalist could ever hope for. Talk about mind-expanding!

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