Kelner confuses profit with success

A fair bit of press for Simon Kelner’s ‘cautious luddite’ attitude to technology, as highlighted in a recent interview with the media guardian.

Rather than poke a stick at the more obvious parts of his gruff, ink-stained editor stance, which seems to me to be as much about image as substance. I thought his view of his own website was more telling.

He does, however, concede that when compared with those of his better-resourced rivals, the Independent’s website is a poorer, almost neglected, product. “We’re aware that it needs to improve and this year we will be investing quite a lot of resources into it,” he says. “It’s being redesigned, it’ll have bells and whistles attached to it and we know that we need to step up our game on the internet. But I’ll tell you one thing, our internet presence makes a profit. Tell me how many newspaper websites can say that?”

My answer to that would be – the successful ones.

Of course, the received wisdom in the industry is that websites have to make some money but there are few people who still believe that the main goal of a website is to generate a profit. Most people are banking on a medium term strategy of helping build audience and extend revenue, not self-sufficiency.

Perhaps it speaks volumes for Kelner’s policy that despite being in profit, the website is almost universally criticised and his papers popularity is in decline.

9 thoughts on “Kelner confuses profit with success”

  1. Andy,

    I too read the interview with Simon Kelner online yesterday and was suprised at his comments especially what you call his luddite attitude to convergence.

    However I think that he is making a valid point about the Indy not rushing headlong into technology.I dont know whether you saw the piece from the University of Cardiff about Trinity putting their Welsh titles at risk thru investment in the web as opposed to news gathering and some of the comments of journalists.

    “Interviews with journalists across the region have uncovered practices including staff being forced to do more work such as video and podcasts without extra pay and more importantly without adequate training.”

    The Independent is lagging behind others on its web presence but it is still one of my ports of call for newswriting online.Robert Fisk’s reports from the Middle East contain some of the best writing on the web at the moment.

    The rush towards technology must not take precedence over quality news coverage.

  2. I think we need to be careful not to equate engaging with technology with a decline in journalism standards or a drop in news quality.

    We should also be careful that we don’t expect journos to do this exciting stuff without training.

    The fact that they are says more about the managment attitude to their staff than it does about the validity of embracing new technology

  3. The Indie’s site is pretty bad – at one point all the content was free, then it went mostly subscription (and nobody bothered to pay) and now it’s mostly free again. What’s the next ‘strategy’?

    Kelner just doesn’t understand his readership. People read The Guardian on paper because it offers them something. They will download the podcasts, read the blogs or print out G24 because it offers them something else, something different.

    Even the Express and Daily Star are investing in Web2.0 websites.

    As you’ve mentioned, what’s worrying is that any announcement regarding ‘convergence’ seems to be followed by an announcement about job cuts. Staff at Emap are suffering the consequences. We have to break this particularly vile link.

  4. I was disappointed to read Kelner’s comments. I think he’s missing a trick and will struggle in the future, as the readership declines.

    I used to buy the Indy a lot, but now I hardly bother, I find The Guardian more interesting and the mix of content online makes it my first point of call – I wouldn’t even consider The Indy. Is that not worrying for Mr Kelner, if students, the next young professionals, are not looking in the direction of his paper anymore?

  5. Andy,

    I dont believe that I was blurring the line between quality journalism and technology,but I think that Kelner has a valid point about not rushing in.Some media sites certainly have.As with the first dot com boom,companies rushed to get a web prescence simply because it was there.They forgot ,in the rush ,that it is the product that is the most important and no amount of fancy packaging will sell a bad product.

    Ed and Steve,the Independent site as a multimedia product is pretty bad but if you use it simply as a way to access the fine writing on it then it serves its purpose.Yes the Express has updated its site this week but do we really want to read about Princess Di,mortgage rates and tornadoes all week.

  6. Nigel

    I wasn’t saying you were blurring the lines. ‘We’ the media and those interested in it shouldnt.

    You are right that no amount of fancy packaging will sell a product. But I think that means you think more about what it is you are trying to wrap in the first place. The ‘product’ for the web is different than that of the newspaper.

  7. I read similar article also named confuses profit with success | andydickinson.net, and it was completely different. Personally, I agree with you more, because this article makes a little bit more sense for me

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