Brady: Most Newspapers Not Using Web to Full Potential

By: Joe Strupp

Washingtonpost.com Editor James Brady told newspaper editors here Thursday that most are not using the Web to its full potential, and need to increase their use to compete with growing news competition.

?In far too many cases, newspapers are still using sites for the basic task of reprinting the paper,? Brady told dozens of editors at the Associated Press Managing Editors conference. ?We?re all still working on it, but we haven?t figured it all out.?

Brady, whose site has become the standard for what newspaper online operations can be, said he realized most papers don?t have the 80-person Web staff he commands. But he said many papers can do more with little manpower and limited finances.

?You need to stand out compared to the next guy,? he said about local papers? in the age of growing Web, television, radio and satellite competition. Citing everything from podcasts to online video and audio files, he stressed the need to take full advantage of all of it.

He added that creating databases on everything from government votes to local restaurant reviews is a simple way to make the Web site more relevant. ?This is an area where papers have really fallen short,? he said. ?You can build them in ways that the data basically refreshes itself.? Brady also said his site has drawn traffic by posting links to bloggers who have commented on individual stories. Those links, he said, spark return links. “Bloggers can drive 100,000 page views to us if the link to us.”

Brady?s talk was the beginning of an unusual all-day focus on the Web by APME conference organizers. While Hurricane Katrina is playing a major role in the conference here this week, the Internet may be getting even more attention from the hundreds of editors on hand, at least for today.

?We don?t have very many conversations anymore where what we are doing online isn?t a part of it,? said Suki Dardarian, outgoing APME president and deputy managing editor at The Seattle Times. ?One session doesn?t fully reflect online in our newsrooms. It is one of the biggest challenges facing managing editors.?

Among the events being held today are sessions focused on drawing younger readers online; making the most of online immediacy; getting the most on the web for little money; specific multimedia tools needed in the ?journalists tool box;? minority staffing on the Web; tips for improving the Web site; online coverage of Katrina; merging Web and print newsrooms; and the online business model.

?We are really serious about transforming our newsrooms, but not just on the Web,? said Karen Magnuson, editor of the Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat & Chronicle and incoming APME president. ?We are sending out text alerts and are focused on convergence. It is full newsroom integration.?

Citing one of her themes for the upcoming year as innovation, Magnuson admitted that many newsrooms had been too slow to come to the Internet and needed to make the transition as quickly as possible. ?We could have been a lot more aggressive about technology,? she said, adding that the day-long Web focus ?is appropriate given the fact that newsrooms are changing so rapidly today.?

Dardarian agreed, saying ?we all feel this urgency to figure this out, it requires us to change and be innovative. So we are going to give you a day to just immerse yourself? in the Web.

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