Independent: just another word for "wrong"

Many bloggers and journalists alike are busy debating the “death” of newspapers and the online evolution that media organizations of all kinds are being forced to consider (see my previous post), but it seems that some are still wondering what the fuss is all about — witness the latest commentary from Tim Luckhurst, a former editor of The Scotsman, in the Independent, a paper whose editor is a well-known skeptic when it comes to online.

blogging.jpgMr. Luckhurst appears to think that the whole blogging, online-media thing is overrated. Despite the fact that the Telegraph has spent “millions” on things like blogs and video, he suggests, the payoff has been meagre. How does he know this? Unnamed “senior editors” and “analysts” say so. One of the most damning things seems to be the lack of comments on the Telegraph blogs, which Luckhurst says only get a few remarks in some cases. In summary, he says that the Telegraph’s experience “does not prove that rushing to embrace each new item of technology makes editorial or commercial sense. Waiting and watching has often been the astute response to revolutionary technology. Those who pioneer multimedia may not be the ones to do it best.”

It’s probably not surprising that Shane Richmond, the online editor for The Telegraph, might take issue with Mr. Luckhurst’s view on things, but I think he makes some worthwhile points anyway in his response. Among other things, he notes that comments on blogs are a fairly poor indicator of whether an online strategy is working on not (Bobbie Johnson of the Guardian has some thoughts about Luckhurst’s piece as well, as does Martin Stabe).

But Shane Richmond’s most powerful argument comes at the end, when he talks about Luckhurst’s recommendation to wait it out, and says:

“If only it were that easy. You don’t just flick a switch and turn this stuff on. It requires learning, training and a shift in culture. It requires planning, investment and, most of all, time.”

In that, I think the Telegraph editor is exactly right. It isn’t just a change in appearance, such as going with the Berliner format or trimming the page size. It’s part of a change in thinking — and you can’t just wave a wand and make that kind of thing happen. As Shane says near the end of his post, the Independent had better start that shift now or it won’t have any readers left to talk to.

Contrast the Independent’s view with that of Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, who said in a meeting with staff about the move to 24/7 reporting (described in a post by Roy Greenslade) that:

“The print-on-paper model [for newspapers] isn’t making money and isn’t going to make money. It’s no longer sustainable. Though the future is unknowable, we are taking an educated guess about what we should be doing and where we should be going.”

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.