Well, the frustrating reality of dismal online advertising revenue has forced my newspaper to eliminate its online editor job description. That means me.
Fortunately, it’s not a layoff, but a simple shift in job title. I’ll be integrated back into the print news operation to cover one of my community newspaper’s various beats. Most likely that means coverage of a community similar to my job description two years ago before being promoted to online editor.
The back story
I’ve always tried to push the multimedia envelope in my reporting, ever since starting as the Apple Valley editor/reporter at Thisweek Newspapers in 2005. We had no online editor at our paper in that time. But, I demonstrated a talent and interest in video and online in particular and in Jan. 2008 the then-president of my publishing company created an online editor position along with an online sales position as a sort of “experiement” to see if this new dynamic online duo could create multimedia content and related multimedia ad products to boost online revenue. It was an exciting time. We took our very lame web site and revamped it, adding more video, interactivity and improved design. Within the first year the sales person’s duties shifted, eventually to include some print advertising sales (sucked back in…) and before the year was up the sales position was eliminated. I continued to work on adding content to Thisweeklive.com, including the addition of audio podcasts in Spanish, Sports podcast, and TV show/Video podcast. I also pumped out at least one feature news video per week and worked to update the web site’s home page daily, something that was woefully lacking prior to me becoming online editor. I also lead a social media campaign to get our news out through Twitter (@Thisweekmn) and Facebook. I like to think my biggest contribution was simply being the point man for Thisweeklive.com. I think newspaper web sites need a point man (or woman) the same as any print edition has an editor. It’s someone to watch out for the paper, take ownership and make it his or her baby. Thisweeklive.com was my baby.
A teaser I created for the launch of Thisweeklive.com
in April 2008. Oh, I was so young, so full of hope…
It’s been a good run
Over the past two years, I’ve enjoyed the innovation and creative enterprise my superiors have allowed me. I’ve always been treated like a professional and nurtured in all my efforts. But, alas, the amount of money we make online remains the same as the day we started this “experiment” and the company president who appointed me has moved on. How long could I continue to goof off in my online office, creating videos and podcasts, posting daily stories and frequently asking for new cameras, software or audio recorders before they realized the online office was only producing news and not $$$? Well, they realized it and it’s a luxury this community newspaper has decided it cannot afford. Instead, we’ll beef up our coverage of business and try to spread the multimedia production out among the rest of the staff.
Though I won’t be online editor anymore, Thisweeklive.com remains committed to multimedia coverage of our communities and timely updates to our news web site. In fact, look for a redesign to debut this spring. I will also continue to host the TV show/video podcast. We’ll also maintain our Twitter and Facebook accounts. We hope our online audience will not see a difference in the online offerings with me “back in the newsroom” so to speak.
I’m lucky to still have my job and fortunate to be able to continue experimenting with multimedia. But, somehow this all feels like a hit to online journalism. My supervisors will tell me not to think of it that way. Maybe they’re right.
What do you think? Will online revenue ever support online journalism?