ABM panel: News no longer enough online

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Editors used to call for a second-day lead when reporters would be following daily newspapers in the reporting of a news story. A second-day lead is required for the second hour nowadays, even for major online business Web sites, according to panelists from The Wall Street Journal Online, BusinessWeek Online, and AdFreak, the blog produced by VNU’s AdWeek, who appeared at “B-to-b Meets E-media, RSS, Blogs, Et Al,” an American Business Media event. doesn’t want to compete in the commodity news business, said Dan Bigman, managing editor of the site. News stories get out through newswires and are picked up all over the Internet, sometimes in minutes. After that, “you do what we call editing for microfilm,” so that somebody looking back in 2024 will be able to get all the basic information.

Bigman added: “I tell my reporters, ‘Surprise me.’ Either be the first one to break news or tell people something they don’t know.”

“We’re not in the commodity news business,” agreed Kathy Rebello, editor in chief of BusinessWeek Online. “We don’t believe that’s what our brand represents. Our content is analytical; it’s about depth and insight. I ask, ‘How can we do this story in a more interactive way?’ ”

Even the online Wall Street Journal, as a companion to a daily newspaper, is required to do something other than merely report the news, said William Grueskin, managing editor. For example, when the Chinese government announced that it would free up the valuation of its currency, the yuan, “we invited two well-known bloggers to comment on it on the free section of our site, in real time, playing one against the other.”

For AdFreak, the “cheeky” blog written by AdWeek editors, it’s even more important to go beyond news reporting, according to Catharine Taylor, contributing editor of AdWeek and AdFreak. Blogging allows editors to write about things “that don’t fit within online news [on the site] or the print AdWeek.” Taylor added that she has a policy of “linking to everything, even competitors, something we would never do in print. We see ourselves as something of a portal.”

Not all writers and editors have kept up with the rapid change in their roles and job descriptions, though.

“There’s friction, but right now there’s a lot more cooperation than friction,” Rebello said. She pointed out that the enthusiasm for writing for the Web is “very person specific, so it really, really helps if the top brass believes [in the Internet] and really wants to play there.”

“The level of enthusiasm varies a lot,” Taylor agreed. “Some reporters are really very ‘into’ what we’re doing and others are not.” While editorial management initially thought editors should just go in and blog whenever they had an opinion, Taylor said, “actually, we have had to schedule it a bit.”

Initially, the print editors were asking, ‘Why are you making my reporters do more work?’ ” Bigman said. “What’s making my job easier is that the world has changed so much. The magazine writers are realizing that online is where the readers are and they want to do more.”

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