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The Digital News Initiative is an European organisation established by Google to “promote high quality journalism through innovation and technology”. It encompasses an “innovation fund” of up to €150 million, which in the next year issued grants to 461 different projects in 29 countries across Europe. This article looks at the first project, a project to improve the design of the website for the French newspaper Le Monde.
The paper has come under pressure recently from privacy advocates because it is not able to show online readers how it generates its news content. Article submission sites are not allowed to publish pictures taken from private sources. This can work against the interests of the digital news initiative because it means that the websites have to rely solely on photographs submitted by their journalists. The digital news initiative has been working for several years with the French newspaper industry. This is the only newspaper in France, which has successfully kept in house staff to carry out the publishing of its news stories.
A new feature that has been introduced enables online users to submit their own news stories to the online newsroom. magazine allows the online business to take full control of how news is presented and distributed. The design of the website has been simplified, with smaller blocks of text and larger links, both of which provide more visible links to outside sites.
The biggest challenge for the digital news initiative when it started was how to make the whole process of getting news onto the websites simpler and more attractive. The traditional model of having web pages full of hyperlinks is difficult enough given the proliferation of bookmarking sites and social networking pages which make it easy for people to share information. In addition there was a problem of having enough content for the increasing number of newspapers being published every day. The aim was to increase the size of the newsprint so that there is more room to accommodate news stories in a shorter space. magazine was to have the news page on each paper contain different types of material rather than just concentrating on one subject.
The digital news website is operated as a dedicated web page. Instead of a regular web page showing the daily schedule of the newspaper, it is controlled and published as a separate digital news site. It can therefore be viewed in a separate window or browser window. It uses a simple system where a link to the digital news site can be clicked rather than using the mouse or keyboard.
The online information provided can be in many different forms. Most newspapers publish daily online articles, features and reviews that they have purchased from specialist newspapers. magazine give an outline of some of the important current stories, as well as commentaries from experts in the field. Many newspapers also give interviews to some of the most prominent public figures.
A digital news website allows the online users to interact with the newsroom through forums and chat rooms. In addition to this, blogs are also freely available for online reporting. The blogs and forums are regularly monitored by a team of experts who constantly comment and make recommendations for improvements. This is the core strength of the news industry as a whole and is what distinguishes it from other online media such as blogging.
The digital news industry has been successful because of the dedication, hard work and innovative thinking of the owners. It is a real challenge for newspapers to continue to provide all the information that they do, and have the resources that they do. As the digital news industry grows, it is possible that the role of the newspaper may change in some way. If magazine are a newspaper owner, would you consider a digital news strategy? You could save money, increase traffic, offer your loyal readers a new way to get the news, and compete with any major newspaper in the world.