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Mail Online publisher: ‘If you don’t listen to your users then you’re dead’

January 24th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

Appearing before the joint committee on privacy and injunctions yesterday, Martin Clarke, the publisher of Daily Mail website Mail Online, shared some interesting comments on digital media, in reference to privacy, regulation and general approaches to journalism in a digital world.

The latest results from the Audit Bureau of Circulation (published in December) showed the Mail Online continued its lead ahead of other audited UK news sites with almost 85 million unique browsers in November.

So here is a collection of thoughts shared by Clarke before the committee on issues relating to the impact of the internet on the news industry:

Privacy:

If we were publishing really unpleasant, intrusive stuff our readers wouldn’t like it. One of the beauties of the internet is the feedback you get from your readers is pretty much instant in two ways.

First of all, you can see in real time who’s reading what stories on your homepage … that immediately tells me which ones they’re interested in.

Secondly, we have the comments facility and readers aren’t slow to let us know when they think we’ve been unfair or unpleasant. Quite often I’ve changed tack on a story, or the headline on a story or dropped a picture because of things readers have left in comments. That’s the beauty of the internet, the interaction between you and your readers is that much more immediate. If there were no privacy law no I don’t think it would make that much difference.

Regulation

You are dealing with an industry that faces big commercial challenges going forward. Digital is how newspapers are going to have to make their living, the economics of the internet are such you probably have to make big chunk of that living abroad. Any further regulation might compromise that, and then quite frankly we won’t really have an industry left to regulate.

… You think of the internet in chunks, press, bloggers, tweeters, but from the consumers point of view that’s not how they consider it. It’s an endless continuous spectrum that starts with what their friends are saying on their Facebook pages, what some tweeter might be saying, to a story they link to in a tweet, then go back on to Facebook page and comment … Pretty soon all those commenting systems are going to be bolted together. Where do you draw the line, where do you say right this bit of the internet is going to be regulated and this bit isn’t?

… We’ve had to wake up and deal, embrace a new reality … The internet is a great way to distribute news, it means newspapers are now back in the business of breaking news … alongside TV and radio and the people who had taken that privilege away from us. It’s gratifying as a journalist to be part of that. Equally it’s brought some negatives …. You can’t turn back the tide, we can’t say stop the internet world we want to get off.

On content:

The reason it’s different from the Daily Mail is because it’s a different market … I’m operating in a digital market where we do get feedback from the readers, I can see in real time what they’re really reading rather than what I might think as journalist they should be reading. In the digital world if you don’t listen to your users, if you don’t involve them, if you don’t listen to their tastes, than you’re dead. We don’t follow that data slavishly, that’s where I come in, it’s my job to mediate the light and the shade. So that’s why it’s different from the Mail.

Equally we do more showbiz…we do vastly more science, we do more political commentary, we do more foreign news because we’re not limited by physical space … It goes back to the point I made right at the beginning, if you’re going for scale you can’t just fit in a niche. You can’t say “we’ll be in the red-top end, or the middle-market or the broadsheet end”. Niches aren’t big enough on the internet to survive, so you have to be a much broader church.

You can watch the session in full on Parliament TV and hear from others who appeared before the committee, including Edward Roussel, digital editor of the Telegraph Media Group and Phillip Webster, editor of Times Online.

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SoE08: Mail Online’s Martin Clarke on newspaper web metrics

November 10th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events, Traffic

Following his comments to the Society of Editors (SoE) conference on the meaningless of monthly unique users stats for newspaper website advertisers, Martin Clarke, editorial director of Mail Online, spoke with Journalism.co.uk about what improvements are needed for web metrics:

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SoE08: What next for local media?

November 10th, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Events, Newspapers

Two questions being repeatedly raised at today’s Society of Editors (SoE) conference:

  • stop talking about the nationals, how can regional media get in on the digital act?
  • what to do about the BBC – or the ‘boa constrictor’ as Mail Online’s editorial director Martin Clarke called the corporation.

Guardian Media Group chief executive Carolyn McCall told delegates that there is a model for the local press, focusing on hyperlocal.

“There will be models that emerge: investing in SEO, local press have to do that. There’s an opportunity for local press to go very local and build revenue around this. There are models, but it will have to be off a very different cost base,” said McCall.

She went on to describe Channel M – the television offshoot of the Manchester Evening News – as ‘a good model’ for local media that could be replicated in the future.

The business risks associated with online and sustainable digital business models, she added, need to be shared regionally and locally.

Regional media will have to take ‘a real hit’ on their bottom line when it comes to online to if they are to maintain standards of quality journalism, she added.

Malcolm Pheby, editor of the Nottingham Evening Post, took up the regional press’ baton in explaining how the NEP had successfully integrated its newsroom with staff now trained to treat all news stories as rolling news to be broken on the web.

But the pervading theme of the day has been the opposition from regional newspapers to the BBC’s proposed local video plans.

Pete Clifton, head of multimedia for the Beeb, did his best to defend criticisms of the plans, saying that the proposals are subject to assessments by the BBC Trust and suggesting that the BBC could forge stronger relationships with other news providers.

Still it was comments from McCall and Clarke, whose affiliate Northcliffe added its voice to the debate today, that received impromptu applause.

According to both, the BBC’s plans present unfair competition to the local press

Cue videojournalism evangelist and consultant Michael Rosenblum, who promised to teach the audience how to beat the BBC at its own game. Key to this he said is embracing technology, in particular video, wholeheartedly and not incrementally.

In response to a question from a Rotherham newspaper publisher, which currently has no video on its website, Rosenblum said there was a demand for the content and the potential for partnerships with regional broadcasters like ITV local.

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#soe08 Live Twittering from the Society of Editors conference in Bristol

November 10th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Events

Here’s the last 30 updates using the Twitter hashtag #soe08 – you will need to refresh the page to watch it update. Alternatively, you can simply follow the RSS feed or, if you prefer just our own fair Tweets from the very able Laura Oliver, subscribe to Twitter.com/journalism_live

[carpwp:feed{http://www.hashtags.org/tag/soe08.rss}][/carpwp]

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Guardian: Mail’s traffic rise reopens questions about target audiences

June 23rd, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Traffic

Mail Online last week became the UK national newspaper website receiving the most monthly unique users.

But it gets a lower percentage of its user from the UK than any of the other newspaper websites so says the Media Guardian – gleaning a load of traffic from international celeb news and matching itself against other sites that aren’t just UK newspaper afilliations.

Martin Clarke, Mail Online’s editorial director, told the Guardian: “We’re used to measuring against [other newspapers], but I’m as interested in what Google News, the BBC, or Sky is doing,”

Does this render the ABCe measurement of newspaper against newspaper redundent? As newspapers will be matching different parts of their website against other specialist publications.

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