Business Day is a great newspaper and a must-read for me every day. Strong on news, great on opinion and analysis – but boy, when is it going to move into the digital age?
More than three months ago, editor Peter Bruce announced the newspaper’s new online strategy. But nothing has changed: the website remains a mess. Still having Monday’s column by your editor as the headline piece on your opinion and analysis page on Friday is no good. And if you are going to blog, then the least you should do is post from time to time. After promising readers a daily blog, Bruce last posted on December 13, and some other staff writers seemed to have thrown in the towel after just one attempt. What’s more, there is no information about the writers on their blogs, and the blogs are in now way mainstreamed as part of the newspaper’s offering to readers. It is as if someone decided to tack on staff blogs, and then forgot about them. Shoddy.
The main news sections are updated, if at all, with Sapa copy. This is not good enough. I can find Sapa updates on any news website; if Business Day wants to hold my attention it has to offer more value. Add to that a useless search function (try, for example, to find the column in which Bruce announced the new web strategy, using the search function) and it becomes clear the Business Day is fast heading for irrelevance.
Bruce doesn’t see Business Day’s digital backwardness as a problem: “It doesn’t matter that we’re late on the internet thing,” he said on his blog announcing the paper’s digital intentions. “Our numbers are already big and most news sites do what other news sites do, one way or another, so catching up is easy. What matters, as in print, is content … Wait until Business Day’s writers and reporters climb onto this wagon.” Sure, but how long? The year is 2010.
Will the new focus on the web – if Business Day finally gets there – improve things? I fear not. Details of the strategy are sketchy, but one sentence in Bruce’s blog says it all: “We have finally assembled an independent team of specialists to run our website and, hooray, they report not to me but to management.”
That, with respect, is the craziest possible way to go about it. Experience and research throughout the world have shown that the only way to harness the resources of your existing newsroom to build a seamless news organisation that embraces print, online and mobile platforms (see, for example, Fin24.com), is to have one, integrated, operation from the word go. Otherwise your old print journalists simply decline to board the wagon. You can already see the evidence of this in Business Day’s staff blogs, which have petered out because there is no incentive for print writers to blog. By contrast, Fin24.com’s staff blog with abandon, adding value to their online and print stories. After scanning Business Day’s website in the morning, there is no reason for me to stay with it throughout the day. But I go back to Fin24.com again and again.
Yes, Mr Bruce, you have lots of devoted readers right now – but unless you do something very soon about your online strategy, you may find that it does matter to be late on the “internet thing”.