We want you - for online publishing!Publishers must encourage journalists to make the leap to online as the industry braces itself for unprecedented growth, according to Bill Murray, managing director for information strategy at Haymarket.

Speaking to dotJournalism about the shortage of skilled staff in online publishing, Mr Murray said journalists have been discouraged from making the transition because it has been seen as a risk, lacking the commercial support and investment of traditional media.

"Most companies have been relatively conservative about their online activities. It's no surprise that journalists have said 'if my employer is not serious about online, that's not where I want to put myself'," said Mr Murray.

"There is a big opportunity for journalists to further their careers in a way that was not possible even a year ago. Much more money has been invested into developing online presence."

Murdoch's ripples

Rupert Murdoch's symbolic New York speech in April summarised the mood of the industry, said Mr Murray, helping to capture the imagination of journalists and raise awareness of the major shift in the publishing industry. Publishers need to capitalise on that awareness by fostering a more positive, forward-looking professional mindset among their journalists.

"We are now at a point where the body is willing," said Mr Murray.

"There is a greater willingness and enthusiasm to embrace new media. It is incumbent on us as media owners to make sure we have the resources, the right training and career packages to help journalists make the transition."

Cultural shift for traditional journalists

Mr Murray is also chair of the UK's Association of Online Publishers. Research carried out by the organisation's annual census in April identified a shortage of skilled online staff.

A number of factors may have contributed to the shortfall, including the failure of suitable training courses to prepare journalists for internet work.

The perception of online publishing as being low paid or less credible than traditional media might also be discouraging traditional journalists from retraining for the web.

"Some of our members have said that it's quite a big cultural shift for traditional print journalists to move online, although there are some who have really embraced the freedom that the web offers," said Alexandra White, director of the AOP.

"We are starting to see some good training courses but they are still quite new so perhaps those graduates are not yet experienced enough to have been picked up by the big publishers."

The AOP's annual census surveys the association's members including Emap, Associated New Media and Guardian Unlimited.

Integrated publishing

The 2005 survey showed that publishers are increasingly integrating online services with other platforms.

Eight-nine per cent of companies have combined their on and offline editorial and content departments, and 69 per cent combine marketing, advertising and sales. Only twenty per cent operated stand-alone web businesses - nearly half the number recorded this time last year.

Publishers are introducing more audio and video content to their sites, but often need to resolve complex licence and third party rights issues.

Additional problems identified by members included complacency among publishers and agencies, legal restrictions and distribution costs. But it is significant that none of these factors were identified as 'severely constraining', said Ms White.

"This is heartening for AOP as it means that our lobbying work and efforts at evangelising online to traditional media companies are paying off," she said.

"It may also reflect the fact that the industry as a whole is now feeling more confident and less restrained than it was last year."

More news from dotJournalism:
Frontline video reporter spies new opportunities
Seize the moment says Associated Press chief
Good job prospects for online journalists
Study detects skill shortage


From George Rolph, 18:57 2 September 2005

Another problem is that newspapers and magazines have been very 'snooty' about who they will do business with. Regardless of the amount of talent, many writers have simply been shut out because they lacked the right contacts or political affliation. The internet, however, is a great leveller. Writers online can write what they like how they like and in their own style. They are not restricted by the pollictical biases of editors or owners.

The internet represents freedom to say what you like, to who you like, about anything you like. It also has some wonderfully talented writers and original styles such as Fred Reed for example - www.fredoneverything.net.

Newspapers need to change both their culture and their practises to make it in future, now that the internet has arrived in force. I think they will not be able to do this and we shall all witness the slow and painful decline of the printed press. Something that I personally welcome. Today's press have become a bullying, political toadying, nasty and often amoral shadow of their former selves. No longer representing the people they seem to represent only their shareholders and/or political masters.

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).