BitDepth 683 - June 09

How the Trinidad Guardian's Talk of Trinidad provides an example of the way that the Internet changes information access and transfer.
Lost opportunities, future potential

Social event reporting, 2009. TriniScene and other similar websites are now the go-to source for party pix.

Newspapers are not dead. 
One media distribution method doesn't replace another, but it inevitably forces its predecessor to change. Pre-radio newspapers seem to quote the voices of their subjects far less, pre-television newspapers generally made less effective use of photography.
The arrival of these new ways of perceiving the news had a subtle and lasting impact on the reader experience of what had once been a much drier, less colourful reading experience.

Along the way, newer media replaces some of the functions of older methods. With daily news updates on the radio, there was less need for progressive editions during the day. Television's lush but brief visuals encouraged the growth of contemplative, deep photography stories.
Internet publication brings clear advantages of depth and speed to modern news gathering, which newspapers have been slow to take advantage of.
All three local dailies offer a facsimile of their print publications online. Most don't publish all the stories of the print edition and none expand on them, exploiting the potential advantages of web publishing.

Macoing party people
The best way to explain how local newspapers missed out on the strengths of the Internet is to consider the evolution of party pictures.
This newspaper pioneered the idea of pictures of people at social events in Trinidad and Tobago. Under Jean Minshall, Peter's mother, photographs of the important and aspiring at the hotspots of the day, as reported in Talk of Trinidad were one of the key draws of the daily paper. The reporting model would become a mainstay of this paper and would be adopted by every daily newspaper in one form or another as a key component of the reader experience in Trinidad and Tobago.
Early in this century though, a new generation of young people reinterpreted the "maco" potential of this service and how it could be adapted to the Internet.

The reinvention of the Talk of Trinidad concept for the 21st century became websites that go to the same parties listed on the beats of newspapers, but instead of publishing ten photos from the event, the typical party page on websites like TriniScene and Toronto-Lime feature hundreds of images.
Images are posted promptly, though not with undue speed. The attraction here is unparalleled depth. Popular parties are recorded with generally artless imagery that triumphs through sheer volume.
In five years, the most popular of these websites deliver page views that match traditional print media incarnations on the Internet with one notable inversion, most of their viewers come from within Trinidad and Tobago, the majority of web traffic to the Internet publications of the dailies comes from outside the country.

Newsroom to-do list for the web.
The success of these websites allows them to do something that very few websites can, demand that their users click through three pages of advertising before getting to the content. No newspaper website in the world can do that.
The social photography train has long left the station. What can newspapers do today to revamp their web presence?

• Rethink the filtering process. The published version doesn't have to be the only version and there's no page or word count on the web. Story planning in the newsroom should embrace the rich possibilities of web publication and tie print stories to expanded offerings in the Internet edition.
• Every reporter and editor's e-mail address should be live on the Internet (not embedded as part of a graphic) and a culture of response and discussion cultivated to manage the resulting feedback.
• Columns and subject matter that seem niche in Trinidad and Tobago can be a major draw on the web, particularly when they cover subjects on which a local paper can be expected to demonstrate authority.
• The paper's archives constitute its authority. Today's edition is enriched by the publications of the past and the depth of that resource deepens the perception of news authority.
• Social networking tools are not your enemy. Facebook boasts 182,000 people who describe themselves as "Trini." Reporters and editors who have an aptitude for these networking tools should be recruited to be your ambassadors on social networks and encouraged to forage for leads among their "friends" on these networks.

Related links...
BitDepth 681 -
Newsprint, endangered
BitDepth 682 -
The Dock and the Boat

Presentation slides and audio of the presentation given by Georgia Popplewell, Mark Lyndersay and Kellie Magnus to Caribbean media practitioners in Grenada can be
downloaded here...
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