The ONA-ASNE workshop panel on real-time news highlighted the varying impact of online on traditional newsrooms — and bottomlines. At the Washington Post and the New York Times Company, represented by Rajiv Chandrasekran, ME, continuous news, and Neil Chase, editor, continuous news, NYTimes.com respectively, online is still a blip in the overall revenue picture. A very nice blip, mind you, but nowhere near replacing the bulk of print income or making up the majority. Not so for Congressional Quarterly/CQ.com — associate editor Martha Angle says the company is on track to make at least 60 percent of its revenue this year from online. “It will be a while before newspapers reach that tipping point; we got there in 5 years.” Angle said the basic business model at CQ is subscriber driven and client based; “advertising is this wonderful icing on the cake that is almost ‘free’ money.”
Of course, this wasn’t really a business session. The emphasis was more on how continuous news works at these organizations with an eye to giving other newsrooms some pointers. The Washington Post continues to buck the merged newsroom trend — washingtonpost.com is part of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive while Chandrasekran is part of the print newsroom. The two work closely together. At NYTimes.com, the newsrooms have merged but until the new building is ready, they mostly remain in different locations. The new newsroom will have 35 seats for web producers, says Chase. He added an interesting observation: “I was expecting reluctance, at least indifference” from the print reporters. Instead, there are “too many who want to do something online and not enough infrastructure to support them.” He added later about working within the traditional newsroom: “It’s not like issuing memos and edicts … more like dealing with tenured faculty.”
— Everyone on the Washington Post’s continuous news staff has at least 20 years experience. Chandrasekran, who calls himself the least experienced, says the emphasis on veterans ” sends a message across the newsroom that continuous news matters.” When he was in Baghdad, he said having veterans on the desk gave him “great comfort” as opposed to entrusting it to “some kid.”
— Chandrasekran said someone came across a box of premium items from washingtonpost.com; the giveaways were used to get print journalists on board. “The days of bribery to file for the web are over.”
I have some audio of the session and will try to get it clean enough to upload.