'The door is open': Guardian's Dan Sabbagh on a new approach to partnerships online
New head of media and technology at the newspaper tells Journalism.co.uk about forging new relationships and why the newspaper needs to be 'a bit scrappier' online
Speaking on his first day in the role, Dan Sabbagh, former media editor at the Times, told Journalism.co.uk yesterday that the Guardian wants to start to take "a slightly different approach in the way it deals with the world out there on the internet".
"If you look at what they've done on the environment website, its very innovative when it comes to constructing a relationship with some of the environmental bloggers and independent websites – there's some very good high-value journalism there – and creating a lot of blog networks, where the Guardian becomes part of the display of the content," he said.
He added that Media Guardian is now looking to build its own similar 'partnerships', by offering linking and visibility, hosting and potentially an advertising sales model. This follows its recent move to carry links to stories from other media websites.
"So the first thing the Guardian is doing is saying you can have your content displayed on our pages so we give you audience. The second thing is maybe we can host you to save you some of the technical cost and the third thing I'm looking to try and do is really build up a package we can offer to bloggers, to say we could perhaps make you part of an advertising network, offering to sell adverts on behalf of third party websites in a revenue share deal.
"There are a lot of great media bloggers out there who write well but need more of an audience than they get, so we want to offer them that kind of package of value. We want to become a portal for media news as much as producing our own stuff. We know that you can't do it all. We want to work in an innovative way to sort of wrap all that around so when you come to the website you'll find good stuff of all kinds."
"When you're setting up on your own you feel small and big newspapers, to state the obvious, feel big by comparison, to have a relationship with someone who'll drive you traffic and give you credibility, that's key, that's something you want," he added.
Writing in a post on Beehive City, the media news site he founded with two other former Times journalists, Tim Glanfield and Adam Sherwin, Sabbagh indicated that Beehive City would be the first to form one of these "arm's length partnerships" with the Media Guardian.
"This writer may be moving to The Guardian tomorrow, to run the paper's media and tech coverage – but Beehive City will forge on, in part through an arm's length partnership with that title," he said.
"What The Guardian wants to do is to work in partnership with independent media news and blog sites (starting non-exclusively with the Hive) to add to and amplify the existing online reporting. If there's an analogy here it's with television and independent production companies (Channel 4 and Endemol/Big Brother), although being newspapers the scale is a bit smaller than television."
Glanfield, editor of Beehive City, told Journalism.co.uk nothing had been formally agreed but that he would be interested in hearing what the Guardian has to say.
"The Guardian has already been linking to us for some time. There's no formal arrangement between the Guardian and Beehive City at the moment. But we would be interested in what the Guardian has to say. We're of course open to suggestions from larger organisations in how they can help us and how we can help them."
He added that the site itself has become a sustainable business and is making money.
"I think the site is by all measurements a success. We started as three journalists who came out of the Times at about the same time. It started as a kind of experiment to see if it was possible to make a business out of being journalists essentially on the internet and after a few months people started responding well to it.
"Very quickly it began growing. At the moment we currently have around 350,000 unique monthly users. It makes money, we work with various ad networks. It doesn't make huge amounts of money, but it makes money. It's become a sustainable business relatively quickly."
Back at the Media Guardian, Sabbagh says he hopes to bring "some fresh thinking" to the title. When asked what lessons he hoped to bring from his time at Beehive City he said there was a need to be "a bit scrappier" online.
"When it comes to online publishing you need to be more informal, you need to be a little less bothered about dots and commas, a little less bothered about writing a story in a traditional inverted pyramid kind of way. You need to be able to express ideas creatively, entertainingly, wittily.
"You need to be able to play with ideas, scenarios, stories, that aren't necessarily true, or rumours that might be true but you're not quite sure, rather than sitting there waiting for two independent sources to run something. You need in short, I think, just a different kind of approach, quite a generic approach is what succeeds on a website.
"I think what happened at the Guardian was, what happens every so often, is that, at the media and technology Guardian is that things become a little bit static, you just need to have some fresh thinking and hopefully I can bring some of that."
Freelancers for hire
- Advertise here: Contact
- Kat Marshall 01273 384293