Saturday, 6 October 2007

What the web can do for you

I got chatting to Dave King, who began his new job as editor of Newsquest’s Swindon Advertiser this week, at an NCTJ markers’ meeting.

Dave’s unconvinced of the merits of video for regional dailies, and said he was more interested in podcasts. So I told him about Soundslides, which I think could be one important way forward for local papers on the web.

I’m developing a one-day course for regional newspapers entitled What the Web can do for You, and I’m featuring Soundslides there, among many other innovations.

Soundslides are sophisticated slide shows to which an audio track can be added. The Croydon Advertiser uses them very well. Here’s one I like for its relaxed professionalism.

You’ll see plenty of papers using slide shows minus sound to present a series of still image of, say, a football match featuring the local team.

Then again – at the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette’s award-winning Gazzettelive site, for example - you’ll find sports reporters talking to camera in video reports of a local match. Here’s a recent one.

Combine a Soundslide presentation with your football reporter giving his account of a game and you have a wining formula. Because, let’s face it, most football reporters aren’t so lovely you want to watch them talking for five minutes. However, run their expert analysis under high-quality pictures of the key moments of a game and you are on to something.

Soundslides are one interesting development. Here’s another…

To my mind, the key benefit of the web for local papers is that they allow them to be local again. When I was in the provinces I constantly got readers telling me the paper wasn’t local any more.

They were right.

Pressure on space meant that the extensive reports of local events, including clubs and societies, were no longer carried. The web means all that local material can find a place again. At Middlesbrough they are pioneering hyper local coverage, where content is divided by postcode.

This strikes me as a hugely significant development. Oh, and guess what, they all this area Communities. They aren’t arrogant enough to call them Gazette Communities – but that’s what they are.

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