A couple of weeks ago I read an interesting piece by Robert Andrews on paidContent about The Times (NB: where I work as Communities Editor) and how it could be read by more people digitally by 2014, based on the growth of digital subscribers and the dwindling print circulation.

It was a good all round read but I found the following paragraph particularly interesting:

A print-to-digital crossover would depend on The Times maintaining or quickening the pace of digital sign-ups. And it’s likely the paper has a natural audience ceiling, though it hasn’t quite yet been hit.

Underlying both of those points is the question ‘how we get the people who will eventually stop buying the newspaper to read our journalism on another platform?’. From The Times’ point of view, if you can do that, you manage to retain customers from print and at the same time boost digital subscriber numbers. Even for other newspapers without a paywall, that’s still a really important question because those users translate as advertising revenue.

Obviously one way to force that shift is by contacting existing print subscribers who you have details for (I don’t know what the number is but let’s say it’s 100,000 for The Times) to inform them of the benefits of taking up a subscription to the website, mobile app or tablet edition. But I think it’s foolish to leave it up to marketing. As a journalist on the newsroom, I’m more interested in the way news organisations editorially, through puffs and page design, might be able to push print readers who aren’t necessarily subscribers but pick up the paper in their local newsagents (in The Times’ case, almost 400,000 people a day) to read their content on digital platforms.

I’m interested because I have a hunch that it’s not happening enough and that the cross pollination of print and digital isn’t working in the way that it could do to maximise people reading journalism on digital platforms. (context: the ONS put out figures in May that said 83.7% of people have ever used the internet so there’s a case to say newspaper should be pushing their website at the very least.)

Now there are various reasons why that might be the case: because some news media organisation simply republish the paper on the web or, if they do have notable features on their website or tablet, they believe that people who pick up the paper won’t want or need to go to their website or app to read the same stories.

Whatever it is, I decided to do an experiment to see how the print editions of nine newspapers referenced their offerings on other platforms, if at all, and how they did it. So yesterday, I bought a copy of the Daily Mirror, the Daily Express, i, The Independent, The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, The Sun and The Daily Mail and had a read. Over the next two days, I’ll blog my thoughts on how they plugged their journalism elsewhere.

Obviously it’s by no means a scientific experiment but it might shed some light on the interaction, or lack thereof, between print and digital. I’d be interested in people’s thoughts (especially editors and designers who make the call of what goes on those pages) throughout so do get in touch via Twitter (@benwhitelaw) or email.

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  1. [...] Yesterday I posted about how the UK’s major newspapers refer, or rather don’t, to their …. I suggested that better signposting of content on other platforms would, over time, lessen the impact of a decline in newspaper sales and help drive online users. [...]

  2. [...] On Wednesday I posted about how the UK’s major newspapers refer, or rather don’t, to their jour…. I suggested that better signposting of content on other platforms would, over time, lessen the impact of a decline in newspaper sales and help drive online users. [...]