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Newer news June 16, 2006

Posted by James Warren in media.

The Guardian this week kicked off its 'web first' strategy, upsetting a couple of centuries' worth of deadline-driven, inky-fingered tradition.  This is incredibly significant, not just because it acknowledges what everyone has known, but the newspaper industry has been afraid to mention – that an international audience expects news to be broken and immediately analysed online – but also because it comes in the same week that two other stalwarts of the UK media announced significant changes to their strategies.

First, and as a polar extreme to The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph announced that it was considering keeping news back from its online version until later in the day, with the stated intention of driving more morning sales of the printed paper.  Second, The Times added to its recent announcement that it was planning to build on the success of its online brand by launching a print version in the United States, by indicating it was following The Guardian's lead and publishing international stories to the web first.

So, lots of jockeying for position in the UK media market.  My quick and dirty analysis: The Guardian, much like its compatriot the BBC, rarely gets things wrong from an online perspective.  Its head of digital publishing, Simon Waldman, is a super-smart bloke – even if he does blog with frustrating irregularity – and as a result The Guardian's online plays generally make sense.

The Daily Telegraph, bless it, seems confused.  I can understand the thinking, but it does strike me as desparately out of touch.  Does The Telegraph want to position itself as a cutting-edge media powerhouse (and its online revamp and excellent podcast activity would suggest that it does), or does it want to lose the online readers it has to a more 'up-to-date' media outlet?

Finally, the decision of The Times to launch a North American edition demonstrates the benefits of developing a strong online brand, and the international 'respect' (and therefore opportunity) it can create.  It also reflects well on the competitive and independent nature of the UK newspaper industry.

While we're on the subject of The Independent (which we're not), what future does its pay-per-view policy have…?



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