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Web-first or print-first?

Welcome to The Journalism Hub…and what better subject to kick-off with than the good old print vs online debate.

It is fair to say opinion within the industry on the question of whether newspapers should "give away" their content online for free rather than "force" people to buy the print edition to find out what’s happening locally has moved pretty much full circle over the past decade.

I recall being at a gathering a few years back at which one regional newspaper editor declared that stories would be uploaded to the web "over [his] dead body." It got the biggest cheer of the day.

Nowadays, though, websites are seen effectively as editions of the paper, with most breaking news going straight online – although it remains the case that no-one has yet found a surefire way of making money from it.

The debate was highlighted this week  in a blog post by Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson on his his decision to go print-first with an exclusive letter from footballer Gareth Barry explaining his reasons for leaving Aston Villa for Manchester City.

Steve revealed that his decision to delay uploading the letter to the paper’s website for half a day had generated an extra 4,000 in sales and, confident that this would provoke the kind of debate we love to see on the site, we made it our top story on HoldtheFrontPage today.

For me, one of the great things about HTFP is the fact that it is, increasingly, the forum for discussion about issues facing the industry, and our readers did not disappoint with some fairly trenchant views expressed.

One poster calling themselves ‘Edna’ wrote: "You mean to say that giving something away for nothing stops people from paying for it…? Astonishing. If only journalists had been saying this for years, I’m sure editors and MDs would have listened."

Steve Dyson, though, had the last laugh on this occasion. As he revealed in a follow-up post on his blog today, he not only got a 4,000 + sales lift from the move, he also got an extra 30,000 web hits – the best of both worlds!