Earlier this week the Birmingham Mail (and its sister titles) scored a great scoop – an open letter from Aston Villa footballer Gareth Barry on why he has decided to leave the club to join Manchester City.
Breaking news procedures and the idea of the ‘exclusive’ have shifted (are arguably in flux) as journalism has moved online.
Blogging about the Mail’s scoop, Joanna Geary asks whether the title made the right decision not to post the letter in full until 12:30pm, having broken the story on the site earlier.
Did this allow the rest of the ‘pack’ to steal in on the Mail’s ‘exclusive’?
Mail editor Steve Dyson helpfully explains the editorial decisions behind breaking the story in this way:
“My thoughts at 7am conference when I realised the strength of what we had was to refuse any access to the letter for as long as possible. Tease it online and boost sales (…) The unexpected boost was Setanta, PA, Five Live, Sky Sports and TalkSport all calling us to beg for the letter and, upon understanding why we were saying ‘no’ for print sales, offering interviews with the editor and/or the Villa writer with ‘excerpts’ read out from the letter, and listeners/viewers told they could only read the full version in that night’s paper.”
Dyson says he believes the additional publicity was generated by not realising the letter in full immediately.
His comments are well worth a read – it’s also refreshing to see an editor interact so candidly on another blog on the editorial process.
David Higgerson, Trinity Mirror’s head of multimedia, also joined in the discussion, raising a couple of points about the publication schedule of the letter and whether this impacted on traffic:
“Did we lose out by delaying publication online? We’ll never know. My gut instinct is that yes, we probably did miss a bit of traffic online but the reaction when we put it online was so great that I’ve taken it as proof that if people know the original source of information online, they’ll flock to it.
“Interestingly, the article which contained the letter had a real surge around 4pm [the time the Mail originally said it would publish the letter in full], suggesting people responded to us saying what time it would appear online. Had they read it elsewhere before? Perhaps. It’s still very well read at the moment, along with Bill Howell’s analysis.”
As witnessed by the comments on Geary’s post, finding the balance between the news demands of print and online is still up for debate. Is there a best practice for handling this kind of story – or should it be judged on a story-by-story basis?