The Guardian goes 'web first'

Media guru Jeff Jarvis reports on a Guardian staff meeting, where editor Alan Rusbridger tells his people they all work for the web platform; and that they should regard ‘its demands as preeminent’. Innovations in Newspapers (which I’d never heard of before) reproducers Rusbridger’s ‘draft principles of 24/7 working’ – with two chunks catching my eye:

Generally, news material which has been written, subbed and legalled may be posted on the web as it becomes available. Exceptions can be made for any stories which the relevant editor wishes to hold back for the print edition.

So whilst it’s a big endorsement of the web (admittedly by probably the most web-friendly of the UK newspapers), that’s a big caveat. It’s entirely dependent on buy-in from the editors, and I suspect their biggest stories will continue to be held back for the print edition, unless they’re worried that someone else will break it first. Then…

We will continue to use news wires for breaking news but will seek to use our full editorial resources to add “Guardian/Observer” value as soon as possible. This means adding context, analysis and opinion – and, sometimes, colour.

In other words… their defining characteristic will be the ‘added value’, rather than the news itself. In one sense it’s a pragmatic decision, as other media will always be better at breaking news than a (long form) text channel. A broadcast channel like Sky or Five Live can ‘break’ a story with barely a single sentence; but it takes time to write decent text. But it clearly sets out what they plan to be in the future: come to us for a particular perspective, a particular style, a particular tone. And it’s the right way forward.

Over at the Telegraph, Shane Richmond (now described as ‘Community Editor’ – is that a new title, Shane?) reckons the Guardian is playing catch-up, and that they’ve been there for a while already. Indeed that’s true; but I can sympathise with those who don’t see that, and feel it’s still print-led. There’s something in the Telegraph’s presentation that looks or feels too much like a newspaper. I’m not a fan of the Guardian’s increasingly outdated presentation; but there’s no denying it looks like a website.

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