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Thursday, 21 May 2009

The power of a good story

So the Telegraph has gained 600,000 new readers because of the MP’s expenses scoop. What’s more astonishing is that it received a whopping 13 million web page views on the subject. This has now cemented as the number one newspaper website, overtaking the Guardian.

Being in PR, I have lost count of (but am still angered by) those that suggest social media and, in particular, blogging will lead to the demise of traditional media. I agree that the days of print might be numbered but the market for quality journalism has never been stronger.

Just as the VCR was hyped as a major threat to cinemas, yet drove interest in film and ultimately cinema visitor numbers, so consumption of information and opinion (from any source) has led to an increase in demand for traditional media, albeit online.

But the Telegraph hasn’t just attracted its seven million plus unique users by being in the right place at the right time. It truly understands the dynamic of the social web and embraces rather than competes with bloggers and tweeters. Online editorial is driven by trending topics of the day, therefore benefiting SEO (a third of all visitors come from search engines), the newsroom is structured around delivering across multiple media and tools like Digg and Twitterfall are embraced. Most importantly, The Telegraph is not afraid to let go of its brand a little – users can interact with and build content online and can personalise their experience.

So what next? News Corp has recently gone public about its intentions to charge for online content and as offline readers decline this is likely to be a trend others will follow. But how to strike the balance between keeping those user numbers up (and ad revenue) while still monetizing content. I would suggest looking to itunes for inspiration: a single user experience no matter what the music or record company, easy to use and based on micropayments. Although to make it work for media I suspect we will be talking nanopayments instead.

Scott Learmouth
Managing Director - Teamspirit PR

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