News:rewired - state of the union

 by Martin Belam, 16 July 2012

Last week I was at news:rewired - full stream ahead, and this is the first of a series of blog posts inspired by the event.

A moment of consensus

If I think back a couple of years, it feels like news:rewired panels were always set up with one slight naysayer or curmudgeon about the digital future. Not so this time around. I thought there was an incredible amount of consensus, and the debate had moved on from “should we be doing this?” and “what is the best way to do this?” to simple statements of “this is how we do it”

As someone closely involved in digital media, it was heartening to see even late-comers to the party like Johnston Press be able to put up a speaker saying that whilst they weren’t 100% digital first, they were now absolutely clear that nothing designed primarily for print should be allowed to hold back their digital operations.

It did make for less fisticuffs though...


Perhaps the one trend that seemed to emerge on the day was the growing emergence of the use of real-time data in making decisions. Dennis Mortensen of Visual Revenue and Tony Haile of Chartbeat gave impressive talks about how you could grow traffic by responding quickly to what is happening on the web. It harkened to Frédéric Filloux’s recent point about news organisations not making the best job of packaging and marketing their content.

It sometimes seems like journalists feel there is something a bit “grubby” about having to promote their stories online, but simply put, any digital only business that was trying to grow audience would optimise and market the hell out of the best content they had. So why do we, as an industry, think our content will thrive in that same space without putting the effort in?

All battling for the same Olympic eyeballs

There was a moment during a panel session when Lucia Adams unveiled the Times’ plans for a live Olympics dashboard, saying you could only have come up with the concept if a paywall meant you were completely focussed on the user. And then Steve Folwell of the Guardian said that, on the basis of an entirely different strategy, the Guardian had come up with pretty much the same thing. And later on Pete Clifton talked about MSN’s live Olympics coverage, and we’ve all see the promo video of the BBC’s all singing-and-dancing live player.

It has occurred to me that a brave move by any one news organisation would have been to work out how much money they were going to spend on building “special things” just for the Olympics, then looked at the fact that there is going to be a finite amount of audience attention for Olympics related material. And then, instead of scrapping for the crumbs falling from the television coverage table, decided to invest it all in sustainable technology to cover a niche that they could totally own themselves.


As Sarah Marshall put it so neatly on Twitter, there is a reason that Adam Tinworth runs the live blogging training course, and that I run the blogging course. Adam has already posted an impressive set of quickfire blogs posts and notes from the sessions that he saw on the day.

Keep up to date on my new blog