Home » Industry » Online News Never Goes to Sleep [opinion]

Giving the online platform a distinct feel sets it apart from its traditional counterpart and gives the latter a fighting chance on a competitive market where several other newspapers do battle for the potential reader’s valued dollar.

Whenever I visit my mother, after the greetings are out of the way, she always comes up with the exact same question: “Une H-Metro here (Do you have the H-Metro newspaper)?”

H-Metro is not necessarily her favourite newspaper, but because the tabloid is not available online, it is the only paper she cannot access on her mobile phone.

Zimbabwean newspapers appear eager to tell their readers that they are “moving with the times” or are “technologically aanced” by spreading all the information contained in their traditional products onto the internet.

Critics say the internet has devalued news by making it so widely available, so easily accessible and so dangerously ordinary.

It seems inconceivable, however, to see the future of the newspaper industry without the internet. The web has truly become an indispensable part of the information highway, one that has evolved into arguably the number one news source for both journalists and readers.

However, traditional newspapers, despite recording progressively low sales from one year to the next, have not lost all their touch.

Traditional newspapers with established names enjoy more credibility than online-based newspapers because the former has a track record spanning many years.

Additionally, the traditional journalistic function of gate-keeping will most likely continue to be valued by readers, even those online.

Online newspapers such as Nehanda Radio and ZimDaily will happily credit information sourced from traditional newspapers primarily because they are aware that their readers would most likely believe the news.

While the trend is for people to rush to the web for snippets of breaking news, it is also the trend that the same people will seek newspapers and other traditional and more reliable media for background information and analysis.

Some observers believe online newspapers are only popular because just about all their content is still free.

In fact, readers of the traditional media are abandoning the tradition of buying newspapers in favour of the online equivalent of the same paper.

It would be an obvious mistake for a traditional newspaper to avail all the news they sell for free online.

Ignoring the internet altogether is also not the answer.

Traditional newspapers need a concrete plan for the information they put up online for free.

The plan certainly cannot be a mere duplication of their traditional news they sell for a dollar a copy.

That arrangement has proven to be a recipe for disaster because readers would prefer to access free news if given the opportunity.

An online team, a group of journalists working together to repackage traditional news into “online-ready” information, can help by producing truly internet-based news.

Ideally, internet users are looking for shorter stories preferably accompanied by visual, graphic or audio complements.

Giving the online platform a distinct feel sets it apart from its traditional counterpart and gives the latter a fighting chance on a competitive market where several other newspapers do battle for the potential reader’s valued dollar.

The online edition of the newspaper may add more stories and update the older stories throughout the day to give the platform a genuine internet feel and provide the reader with the relevant news he desires.

Some of the world’s most prominent online sports websites, such as BBC Sport and Soccernet constantly change their front pages through the day, updating its readers on anything of interest like latest transfer news, breaking news, live sports blogs and developing news.

The true value of these international sport websites lies in their ability to constantly update their readers on events as they happen.

Zimbabwean newspapers have so far failed to stay with the news, to provide readers with consistent information of interest.

Only this week, two of Zimbabwe’s biggest football teams, Dynamos and Caps United played against each other in the NetOne OneWallet Cup.

Online versions of traditional newspapers would have exponentially enhanced their value had they provided a live blog for their football-hungry readers, much like how SkySports and other international websites give a minute-by-minute coverage of the English Premier League when it kicks off in a few weeks.

International websites update their most prominent news throughout the day and also add new stories almost every hour.

By contrast, Zimbabwean print newspapers available on the internet remain unchanged throughout the day, except in some few instances when they add one or two paragraphs “breaking news”.

The “breaking news” is frequently only updated further when the print version appears, and it becomes a matter of just “copy and paste” it onto the online platform.

If “morning content” is exactly the same as “evening content”, then the online newspapers are clearly starving their readers of fresh news.

It does not make economic sense for an organisation to sell a newspaper for a dollar but splash all that “commercial” information on the Internet for others to access for free.

Print newspapers cannot be taken seriously by readers and aertisers if the only difference between them and their online versions are that one is electronic and the other is not.

Zimbabwean newspapers need to replicate what their international counterparts do — provide fresher, specifically packaged news for their online platforms.

And they have to constantly check their sources to find out if there is anything else that they need to add, or subtract.

Internet users go online all the time, and their appetite for news has to be quenched not once or twice daily, but 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Source : The Herald