When I tell people that I’m moving from a good job on an ever
improving Sunday newspaper to set up a website, there are two common
reactions: ’have you been sacked?’ and ’congratulations’, although the
latter is always delivered with a ’have you been sacked?’
But despite the prevailing climate of ’dot bombs’ there are some
underlying assumptions about the internet that have not changed.
One is that for delivering high-quality content to targeted communities,
it beats the hell out of printing words on paper. Your fixed costs of
wood pulp, ink, men in vans, cut to wholesalers/retailers are replaced
by a much more modest cost structure. The internet is not a passing fad,
although the trend for investing millions of venture capital pounds in
it maybe. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that it will still
spawn a number of highly successful products and businesses as it
From the moment we started discussing setting up a Guardian Media
website, it became clear that it would be an exciting area for Guardian
Newspapers to develop.
First, if you are a media professional, and you probably are, a) you
will almost certainly have an internet connection on your desk and b)
you may have noticed that while there are many excellent ’niche’ media
websites cropping up, there is no generic, daily news-driven site that
covers what is, after all, a rapidly converging industry where
information and analysis is very strong currency.
This is why, despite the sound of ’content sites’ such as bullet.com and
Net Imperative crashing round my ears, I’m still confident that setting
up an ambitious project like this one even now is absolutely the right
thing to do.
The Guardian online media project has not got the immediate problem of
establishing a brand or credibility, and the fact that we can
cross-fertilise between print and the web is crucial. Established
publishers have an almost indecent advantage when it comes to developing
an online content presence.
The fact that we are funded from within the company is also a source of
relief. I meet a lot of merchant bankers and I wouldn’t want to rely on
their commitment and faith for a steady flow of funds. Most of them have
reacted to the internet shakeout with all the cool and aplomb of
Corporal Jones: the louder they shout ’don’t panic’ the quicker the dash
for the air-raid shelter.
Call me cavalier, but I haven’t even packed a tin hat.