Thursday, 3 April 2008

The tyranny of print

A lot of journalists in our organisations have responsibility for creating content both for magazines and websites.

Many of them have a tendency or an instinct or a mania to focus on print and fit in web stuff in between. As one web editor colleague disconsolately told me yesterday, his heart sinks when he hears (all too frequently) the words, "bung it up on the web".

In trying to understand this behaviour I often talk about the "tyranny of print". There are six main elements to this:

  1. DEADLINES. Print has very firm deadlines; web doesn't. If you don't get your pages to the printer on time, you're stuffed.
  2. ALLOCATED SPACE 1: If you don't fill your magazine it's going to be pretty obvious - empty pages or an overdose of filler ads.
  3. ALLOCATED SPACE 2: Unless you are covering a very slow moving area, you just can't put all the news in your magazine, so you have to make the best decision you can about what to put in or leave out. It takes time and care.
  4. FRONT PAGE: Most of our magazines have a news front page or at the very least a news lead. This means finding something worthy to put on it. Hopefully something exclusive (and the best way to assure that is to sit on stories)
  5. IT'S FOREVER: Once printed, you can't change a magazine: every error - factual and grammatical is recorded forever. The web is a more indulgent mistress.
  6. SOMETHING TO HOLD: The reward for all your hard work is a new "thing" that you can pick up and hold. Like a baby, it's a part of you and you can show it off to people proudly. Websites are more like monsters which devour your young articles as soon as you give birth to them - watch your lovely story work its way down the news page and into the oblivion of the "more" link at the bottom of the page.
But you know, now I'm thinking that the real failure is not the tyranny of print - it's our (by which I mean "my") failure to get people engaged with web to the same degree that they are engaged with print.

Ironic given the title of this blog.

How all I've got to do is figure out how...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't beat yourself up about it! If you are a journalist it is your job to get up to speed with working on the web.
I do think there is an organisational problem - journalists are still being pulled in two directions. Forget the output and focus on the content. Martin