Alisa Bowen, head of' hugely successful website has won two awards for its TV video service and has built a global audience of nine million users.

Now the veteran news organisation is targeting the consumer by relaunching the website and extending its wireless and interactive TV services. Alisa Bowen, head of, talks to dotJournalism about the business of web journalism.

What does your job involve? I joined Reuters online 11 months ago, and had previously worked with the wholesale TV side of the business in marketing and business development roles.

I've worked on several product initiatives including Reuters TV, which has been my baby since the beginning. My job is to translate Reuters' products and get them out to the consumer.

Which are your favourite websites for online news? These are sites that are useful for me as an individual. They are not pretty or particularly imaginative, but incredibly functional.

Firstly, the Lovelace newsletter. I always look forward to that because it's reliable, dependable and gives a snapshot of the media each day.

I'm also a fan of Rafat Ali and the newsletter. Again, the quality of content is fantastic and the amount of content that is digested is really impressive. It gives an accurate picture of what's going on in the industry. - my local newspaper site from back home. It's the only way to keep abreast of news in Australia - no other medium can provide that.

I recently met Michael Nutley of New Media Age, who had just taken part in some awards for the online platforms of local newspaper groups in the north of England. He said that some of the most innovative work is being done by local news sites - they don't have huge budgets but sometimes necessity is the mother of invention! They are doing really great work.

But sites that are online only are definitely more innovative.

Some newspapers have hesitated to rush headlong into their websites because they fear for the cannibalisation of their offline propositions. I believe there is a real distinction between those two audiences and that there is the opportunity for them to co-exist. Some publishers have a self-imposed handicap because they hold back some of their web content for their offline publication.

Reuters has benefited from thinking more freely than that and, though we have a long history of text journalism, the bulk of news has always been electronic to some extent. That's given us a real advantage.

Do you think presents unfair competition to commercial news sites? This is a huge industry issue. The BBC is a fantastic site, and if the quality wasn't there then people wouldn't want to use it. Particularly with multimedia publishing, the BBC has really driven innovation in the industry and really raised the bar. It has also helped teach consumers how to use multimedia content and has driven adoption of the web, especially with the older generation.

But Reuters' strength is in business and financial news, and doesn't provide that kind of depth.

Is blogging journalism? Blogs mean that news is no longer just a domain for corporations - and I believe passionately that is the way it should be.

Any guy in his living room can tell the world what he thinks - and that is a fundamental shift in the news industry. The public is better able to interrogate business media organisations. I do think blogging is legitimate as a tool, although it does depend on quality of course, there is a lot of rubbish out there.

Reuters started working with these communities of bloggers, introducing RSS news feeds so that Reuters news could be featured on blogs and discussion groups. We're quite proud of the success of these - our site traffic from bloggers has increased 2.5 times since we introduced RSS feeds.

What will be the next big challenges for web publishers? There are two big issues.

Accountability of the media is the first. After what's happened with the BBC, New York Times and the Dan Rather case, people are increasingly sceptical of traditional news organisations.

We pay careful attention to this - Reuters has reputation for accuracy and freedom from bias. People are now wiser and louder in their objection to bias and they don't hesitate to protest. I think everyone in the media industry was thinking 'it could have been one of us'. The challenge is to be vigilant for slip-ups.

The second issue will be how traditional media can build viable businesses from niche audiences.

Is the future for web content paid or free? There has to be a mix of publishing models. Reuters content is a mix of paid and free.

But you have to remember that free is never free - there is no such thing as a free lunch. If it's free for someone to read on the site, then someone somewhere along the line is paying for it, whether it's the advertisers or someone else.

The public is willing to pay, and there are many successful business models - including the Financial Times, New York Times, the Wall Street Journal - all doing well. The challenge is that consumers expect free services, so you have to show them the value. And if they think it is valuable, they will pay - whether that is with money or by entering their details.

Compiled by Jemima Kiss

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Peggy White, general manager of
Steve Outing, senior editor at the Poynter Institute
Laura Hayes, editor of
Rafat Ali, publisher of
Alex White (formerly Alex Daley), head of the UK’s Association of Online Publishers
Yvonne Ridley, award-winning journalist
Tree Elven, web editor of
Tracy Corrigan, editor of
Anthony Gottlieb, executive editor of
Martin Nisenholtz, CEO of New YorkTimes Digital
Richard Withey, global director of interactive media, Independent News & Media Group
Mike Smartt, former editor-in-chief of BBC News Interactive

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