Dec 09

Passion vs page views

At the World Editors Forum this year (in Hyderabad), a theme is emerging: a pendulum swing back from the once-frantic chase for huge online visitor totals and towards more concentration on the quality of users’ engagement with the material. Experience and the recession have brutally demonstrated the low value of one-off visitors to news sites bounced in by search engines. “And this was the great audience we were chasing all this time: a swarm of locusts,” said one chastened editor from London.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that people who’ve made this discovery are going to build paywalls round their sites to compensate for a shortage of advertising revenue. One of the most interesting experiments in local online journalism in the world is happening in the Czech Republic where a modest project begun this year has just won a green light to spread across the country.

Some background here and here. Two elements make the Naseadresa (“our address”) network of sites and weekly papers different. They run coffee shops with added journalism. The newsroom is a cafe, which aims to be a community centre, with meetings, dance classes and music on the pavement. (The only act of self-censorship they have so far carried out was to suppress a video of senior citizens jiving in the cafe: the editors were worried that their younger readers would never let their parents return to the cafe if the video was aired). Reporters and bloggers work from the cafe, wide open to tips, material and criticism.

Second, the local sites are supported by a knowhow centre in Prague, the “Futuroom“. This supplies national and regional material, offers design and web expertise and can put together trend stories when local news makes patterns or combinations that look interesting.

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