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Media agencies must go “digital first” to survive, says The Guardian

Caroline Baldwin

Embracing digital is the only way media organisations will survive, said chief technology officer of The Guardian, Tanya Cordrey.

Media bodies, including newspapers, magazines and broadcasters must think “digital first” to keep their publications afloat.

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Four years ago, The Guardian took this approach and Cordrey said it changed everything the organisation did.

One area of change included new job roles within the newspaper. The Guardian used to to be made up of editorial and sales, but now they also employee data scientists, growth hackers and developers. “This changes everything – even the key performance indicators,” said Cordrey. “Some companies think they’re doing it [digital first], but I worry that they’re not.”

Speaking at a panel discussion at Web Summit in Dublin this week, Cordrey also said print is not dead. “There’s been a resurgence in confidence in newspapers - sales have gone up,” she said. “We haven’t given up on print, digital is infectious and it permeates across the organisation.”

The Guardian now claims to have more users from the US than the UK. It used to be a third US, third UK and a third from elsewhere, but since breaking the NSA/Snowden scandal, the US hits have overtaken those in the newspaper’s home country.

“News is booming, more people are reporting than ever before,” she said.

But Daniel Heaf, CDO, BBC Worldwide, questions how sustainable this “boom” is.

Heaf said he worries about content in the digital age because TV shows, films and books are readily available and there is an infinite supply online. “We’re going to end up with challenges.”

He said media content is becoming expensive to make, and production and revenue is plummeting. For news aggregators such as Buzzfeed, the cost of content is very low and becoming popular as a result. “Aggregating other people’s content is cheaper than producing it yourself,” he said.

Referring back to the NSA/Snowden story, Cordrey said it was an example of “fantastic original reporting that doesn’t need to follow the buzzfeed model.”


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