The Changing Face of Journalism panel at the Society of Editors Confence

Liveblogged notes from The Changing Face of Journalism panel comprising:
Steve Aukland, formerly Local World
David Dinsmore, editor of the Sun
Simon Fox, CEO of Trinity Mirror
Geraldine Allinson, chairman KM Group
Peter Barron, Comms and public affairs director, Europe, Africa and the Middle East, Google
* Chaired by Raymond Snoody, journalist, presenter and media commentator

SF: There are so many changes going on. I will take about two elements: Speed – we live in a world of instant gratification and journalism has always been a race but the need for sped has increased exponentially; Snacking – the average number of times people look at a phone in a day is 110. There are no white spaces left in our lives and being entertained is as important as being informed.

DD: The big change to four years ago is the number of platforms we are publishing on, on a minute to minute basis. How do we monetise the content we produce? As an industry we let the genie out of the bottle ten years ago by giving content away and our company is now trying to put it back. Only time will tell if we can.

GA: We are in the strategy of cross platform media and in the past some of our high flying journalists would go to the Sun or the Guardian and now they go to Sky or the BBC. We have cut journalists but this was because we cut products that were loss making, but there is a big demand for content. I don’t think we could put paywalls up but we need to generate revenues to keep the quality.

SA: This is a good time to be in journalism as for the first time in a long while we are in audience growth. We have a growing business but the question is can we monetise it. People who work on local news websites are creating the whole story, from writing it to subbing and putting the headline in.
Asked about UGC he said some of it would go straight online before it was checked, because otherwise you were legally responsible.

PB: Five years ago since he left Newsnight, and his last blog post was that Newsnight would never go on Twitter.
He referenced Dan Gillmor, talking about Newsfoo, said it used to be a torrent of tears about the future of journalism and now it was a torrent of ideas.
We should stop thinking in terms of traditional or legacy media and call it established media.
He said Google did not create content or employ journalists – Google news was an index.
GA said her newspaper group had yet to benefit from Google pushing readers its way.

SF: I think it strange that we have a debate about which model is right. We have chosen not to have paywalls but that means we have to attract vast audiences and w will monetise them. The Sun has chose a paywall and will have smaller audiences bug they will pay to access the content.
Choose the model that works for you and make the best of that model. We chose ours because I believe for the mass news organisation that we are and with the competition that exists, the best route was to have our content available to as many readers as possible.

DD: Asked if he would choose a paywall he said more people saw content from the Sun than ever before, although they may not realise it originated with that brand.
I firmly believe it is the Sun’s content and making it as interesting and possible that will keep people, not the football rights we have bought. Before our relationships with reads was through a retailer taking money for the newspapers from them and we did not know them; now we can have a relationship. We are not publishing our audience figures yet and I cant tell you them because someone from Ne York will give me a very big row.

SA: You need people close to the customers, hence I am not a fan of subbing teams. Editors can now go out and create a lot of extra business from their contacts and, yes, they will hold people to account if need be. Editors and journalists have a commercial role to play. If there are opportunities they can pass on the ads or take them themselves.
He stressed that if there was a story involving a customer the paper would still run it.

Asked about Leveson and the fear factor of running stories, DD said: There is a lot more consideration given to things. The Bribery Act has had a big impact ad you are restricted in who you can give money too [this is NOT a problem for just about any regional editor, I’d suggest – we don’t tend to pay except for buying copy from news agencies…]
We are finding that if we work hard we get exclusive, unique content that sets you apart.
Asked if Leveson had therefore had a positive effect he said you had go play the ball in front of you.
SF: Having just looked at 400 entries for our new Pride of Trinity Mirror Awards, I don’t see anything other than fantastic journalism coming from our teams. I have observed the highest integrity and quality of story gathering.
GA: we always try to make the best of it.
PB: The state of journalism at the moment is extremely robust health. There has been a revolution in how we harvest information and the tools are light years ahead.

DD was asked how important Twitter was: You have got to understand it and I’m not sure anyone does. There is no volume control on Twitter and you can have 50 people shouting and think “oh my god” but its only 50 people. I suspect it moves government policies on the hoof as they live in this Twitter bubble.
Information gets disseminated through it but it only takes you so far.

SF: I think you can be sure that mobile and tablet will become more dominant means of delivery of information. 4G and cheap tablets will see this explode.
Asked if it mattered for journalism if it was electronic or on paper he said: Long form read is still much better in printed form. It is an easier read on paper and it is important that paper products exists for many more years.

DD was asked how his role as editor was being redefined.
It is still something we are working hard on. We still have the traditional structure that supports the 6 day a week paper. You have to delegate a lot more responsibility. Historically we have been very good at making little decisions and letting the big boys make big decisions and that has to change.

PB said Google worked on the basis of notice and takedown. If we were responsible for the hundreds of hours if video uploaded to YouTube every minute it would be impossible.

Asked about the relationship between the BBC and local news, as referenced by Theresa May earlier in the conference
GA: They can attribute stories that they get from us and say our name when they do. Right now. They will not even mention our brand.
An unidentified BBC exec (I will add her name if I can find it) put on the spot by the panel chairman said that they did try and attribute. She said the problems of the local press could not be laid at the BBC’s door.

The panel ended with all five panellists saying they were optimistic about the future of journalism.

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About Alison Gow

I'm a journalist, particularly interested in story-telling, networks and digital innovation.
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