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Telegraph focuses on digital talent as the Guardian shows how it’s done

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 12th March 2013

Today sees the start of Conclave – the ritual by which the next Pope will be selected. The eyes of the world will be watching to see this momentous event unfold.

The media are understandably all over it; a quick look at today’s papers reveals a forest’s-worth of me-too, wall-to-wall coverage.

So it’s refreshing to see the Guardian taking a different approach with its Pontifficator application.

Pulling together data about each Cardinal, the app allows you to drill down and ‘choose your Pope’ based on individual preferences. It’s data-led journalism at its very best.

Digital wars

The Guardian’s Digital First approach has been in place for some time and clearly seems to be working.

And, on the back of Pontifficator, news coming out of the Telegraph today suggests that other publishers are eager to follow suit.

The paper has revealed that it is to cut 80 print-based journalist positions (14% of the workforce) and instead will look to hire 50 ‘digital posts’ in the next six months. The move was revealed by Chief Executive, Murdoch MacLennan (my emphasis):

“Over the past few years, we have gone a long way in beginning the process of change. However, it has not gone far, or deep, enough. As a result, we must move now to complete our transition to a digital business. To do that we need to invest significantly and I am announcing an £8 million investment in our digital future, our number one priority.

“…we need to bring a new, sharp focus to our editorial operation to ensure that digital takes the leading role. As you are aware, we have already appointed a chief digital officer to lead our product strategy. I am also creating the new position of director of content. This person will be responsible for all aspects of the editorial operation. The principal task of the role will be to oversee the establishment of an all-encompassing operation to transform newsroom culture into a dynamic process with our digital products at its core, and to recruit the best talent – across web, tablet and smartphone.”

Does it work?

A crude look at the popularity of the Guardian’s Pontifficator application versus its old-skool ‘write-up’ of Conclave shows (at the time of writing) 1,927 social shares for the digital app compared to just 237 for the article.

Now, building digital apps clearly requires more investment and only the Guardian will know how profitable this has been. But in terms of pure engagement, it seems to win hands-down.

What does all this mean for PR?

For me there are two key points here. Firstly, supplying journalists with raw data that could potentially be used for something other than just a standard news piece could increasingly be a way to pique the interest of this new breed of digital journalist.

And, secondly, brands can start doing some of this themselves and bypass traditional publishers altogether. See an example of this we did last year.

As far as the Guardian and the Telegraph are concerned, the future seems to be digital. I have no doubt the same is true for brands.

Danny Whatmough