Guardian puts web first

Guardian puts web firstAccording to an article (registered users only) in today’s MediaGuardian by Kim Fletcher, as of tomorrow (Tue 12 June), the Guardian will publish stories first to the web, “ending the primacy of the printed newspaper”.

This is definitely a very bold move by the guardian. Since the full article is available only to registered users, i’ll append an excerpt.

Update [July 10th, 2006]: Germany’s Axel Springer Verlag follows suit. It’s CEO announced in an interview that “Online zuerst” (Web first) should be implemented until January 1st 2007 in its quality newspapers “Die Welt” and “Berliner Morgenpost”. This coincides with a reorganization of their newsroom.

The web trail

Kim Fletcher
Monday June 12, 2006
The Guardian

We have come to one of those forks in the road that affect the direction of the entire newspaper industry. From tomorrow, the Guardian will publish stories first to the web, ending the primacy of the printed newspaper.

The Mail is moving internet staff into its newsroom, the Telegraph is stepping up its digital operation – possibly with some internal confusion about its ultimate destination – and every man and woman at News International is scurrying to satisfy Rupert Murdoch’s new interest in the medium.

But for a newspaper to say that the website comes first is a big, big step. Ever since the second coming of the internet – the first coming ended around 2001, to the delight of all those newspaper executives who didn’t like the look of it – there has been a given in newspaper offices: we will take the internet seriously, but we must not let it get in the way of our primary business, which is publishing a paper each night.

The paper, after all, is where the profit comes from. Or, in the case of loss-making titles, at least the revenue. It’s true that, in an otherwise miserable market, internet advertising revenues are racing away, but they are starting from a low base. More than 90% of newspaper ad revenue typically comes from the paper rather than its internet site.

Home for tea

Naturally, the entire operation of a paper is set up to achieve the nightly drama of production. The paper is a physical entity whose demands loom in the consciousness of newspaper journalists throughout the day, their internal clocks tuned to the differing deadlines of news and feature pages.

Those clocks will change as the Guardian develops its new model (at which point I should say that I write as a contributor rather than an insider, and not in aid of any management view). The old certainties – “file by three and home for tea” as reporters on the road used to have it – will disappear. This is not to say that newspapers are finished, certainly not so long as people remain willing for reasons of convenience to buy a paper the contents of which they could read for nothing on a computer screen. It is to say – to adapt the Carlsberg commercial – that if you are going to do a website, you naturally aspire to do the best website in the world.