A debate by our web editors on print v online

We had a debate by our web teams buzzing around the office this afternoon about how much content should go online and how much in the paper. It kicks off

I’m working on a breakdown of what content works best in print and what works best online – apart from the gut feeling and the obvious things that can go online – has anyone done an objective breakdown of what should go where and why? Tim Frost, digital manager

This is something we have had to consider quite seriously recently and (especially working for a monthly), I’m tempted to go down the road of keeping web articles little but often (as in short 150-350 word articles) and print to have the bigger features, or more indepth articles. People usually go to the web for quick reference and a 900 word article might be too heaving reading for them. There must also be a lot of things that get cut form the mag that can always go online. Allan Taylor, web editor

Allan, you make a really interesting point about the length of articles people are prepared to read. This is why we always say visitors don’t read the article – they skim/scan it.  We should be putting the entire content on the website, but the secret is the way you write the copy – writing our copy for the web and not for the print. Exploit your html tags and highlighting skills: appropriate use headings (important), intro paragraphs summarising the article, use of <strong> or bold tag, <blockquote> for comments and quotes from people, snippet boxes (used extensively by BBC online), page breaks for long stories. There are many advantages of having the entire article content displayed on the website (keywords, Google indexing, out-bounding links etc…). Rob Enslin, web manager PS The Wired magazine, although B2C, reproduce their entire featured articles on the website. See below.

Rob, your last sentence is what this is really about and what I’m trying to pull out. In this digital age – what are the reasons to subscribe to the mag? What content is value-added for print and why? How do we allocate attributes of content types that tell us where the value-added is for print, web and newsletter. Tim

Great discussion all day guys. I am not sure it is a print v online issue. Good content – like good journalists, good sales people and good photos – is good whether it is in the paper or online. So a well written article is one that is never longer than necessary, appropriately illustrated, carefully laid out and often boasts one or two boxes that breaks out key information into the easy-to-read. Those rules are the same for both print AND online. I guess the only real difference I see between the two is the interaction in that you can almost guarantee user participation with a hyperlink from a web page in a way you cannot from print.

As for online undermining subscriptions, it does presume that readers remember the cherished online words of our writers to such an extent that their experience of the printed word, when it does arrive, is diminished. The expereince of our weekly papers, which put up their news before publication, show this not to be the case. John Welsh, Digital Director

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About John Welsh

John Welsh has spent his entire working life in business-to-business media, first traditional publishing, having edited three magazines over 14 years, and, second, exhibitions since 2007. He started this blog on 22 June 2008 and ended it on 18 May 2010.
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