Archive for September 15th, 2008

News not on-demand

This is the third thread in the last month or so I’ve seen from Exeter City fans fed up that the local newspaper – the Express and Echo – still only posts up a teaser for their stories as opposed to the full article (usually a couple of paragraphs followed by the words ‘for the full story, see x day’s paper’).

The refusal to post full articles online is frustrating and it’s understandable that readers – especially Exeter exiles like myself who don’t have the option of buying the paper – are removing the Echo from their favourites site.

It’s also a shame. As a City fan, the Echo is a great resource for keeping up to date with news from the club. They also, unlike many counterparts, have a good website and a decent editorial standard applied to videos on the site (bar the player occasionally not working in Firefox). They’ve moved on vastly from the old approach of dumping any old video stuff and a good portion of their work is as good as some local TV journalism.

Which makes it even more maddening that users can’t access news stories on the day they’re published. It’s an incredibly short-sighted move, and one I’ve not seen any other local paper do (although that’s not saying others don’t).Can you imagine a national or large regional paper adopting the same attitude?

More to the point, their sister paper, the Western Morning News, puts up news articles in full and probably steals away a fair few online readers.

One of the contributors on the original thread fairly asks why the paper should put on online content for free when they’ve got a paper to sell. There’s a couple of simple answers here though.

Firstly, the news is available elsewhere, if you’re prepared to look for it. If I can access the story now or wait a day for a slightly more detailed report, I’ll probably take the one today. By waiting a day, the site loses out on potential readers.

Secondly, those who buy the paper are not necessarily going to be the same people reading the site online. If you’ve brought a copy of the paper, there is less incentive to go online. There is a decent amount of material to tempt the paper-buying reader onto the website, but it’s unlikely they’ll want to re-read the stories unless they have a pressing urge to comment on them.

In contrast, the web readers need an incentive to read online, and if they can’t read the news when they want to, they’ll as likely go elsewhere and not come back. As seems to be happening, judging by comments on Exeweb.

So, by taking the decision to delay the content for the sake of newspaper sales, the paper could be scoring an own goal, firstly by sending web-readers into the arms of rival papers. And with newspaper readerships declining, if the Echo tries to win back readers by opening up content online, they may find online-only readers have already gone elsewhere.

I’ve already got plenty of Devon-related feeds in my RSS reader to keep up with news from home. I can even get my Exeter City news direct from the club via Facebook updates. In short, I don’t actually need the Echo, but the Echo needs online readers like me.

As I’ve said – I do like the Echo’s website and want to read what’s going on in my hometown. But if I can’t access it on the day, then I, and others, will simply give up. And that would be a shame, give the quality of the writing and the website.


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September 2008

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Yes, this is my name. And my email. Use it wisely or you're not getting a biscuit with your tea: garyllewellynandrews [at] gmail [dot] com