Launching a new outlet for content is always the same game.

We see big ads promoting an app in the iTunes store.

We see press releases about the publisher embracing the digitisation of his editorial content with online integration in the newsroom.

And, at INMA conferences, we see case studies of marketing guys telling people how successful the expansion of content platforms was.

All these actions often miss the biggest deal — letting your own print team explain the benefits of what they offer in the online world.

Why? It will show that your own print employees have been convinced. And that will help you answer the main question of the future: Does your editorial team support your digitisation strategy?

A newspaper’s print edition offers the best opportunity to drive traffic to its online counterpart. A recent study set out to measure the online affinity of 102 German newspapers by counting how many times each newspaper included links to its Web site — and how.

No distinction was made between subscription and purchase models of newspapers; neither edition nor reach was considered, nor the respective distribution market. Both of those aspects were irrelevant to the objective of the study.

Also the format is not decisive: Web references adapt themselves like photos to the size of the paper. The number of pages of the newspaper plays a computational role in the examination period; the absolute number of Web references is to be considered in relation to the total numbers of pages to determine the relative amount of Web references per page.

The ascertained Web references were collected, categorised, and listed to show the variety of the Web references in the examination period. From this database, a unique profile emerges for each newspaper, revealing which kinds of Web references are preferred.

Prior to this study, all available material on the subject of convergence in newspaper editorial offices was evaluated from three points of view:

  1. There is an intermedial and presumably complementary relationship between print and online in the newspaper industry.

  2. The process conditioned relations between the internal work routine to produce content and the content publication on the distribution platforms.

  3. The theories and attempts exemplified through case studies of news media companies that have successfully converged have taught us much. (As publishers around the world discuss strategies of going online, some of them miss one necessary step to building a bridge between the old and new worlds. So before we lay out a convergence model, we should note what competing newspapers are doing.)

Qualitative and quantitative content analysis of 102 well-chosen German newspapers gives us a basis to develop the practice-oriented computation pattern.

The representation of the result of the research consists of three subdivisions:

  1. The description of the different kinds of Web references found (through qualitative evaluation).

  2. Their frequency of use in each of 102 newspapers (quantitative evaluation).

  3. The relationship of the number of Web references to the number of pages can be expressed in ranking lists, which show how many Web references each newspaper uses per page as a link from print to the Internet.

The results do not just give an overview of the number of possibilities for Web references in German newspapers. The performance expressed in the ranking discloses the differences in the online affinity clearly and could become a motivation to reach a better order in the ranking lists.

The qualitative examination culled a total of 24 different categories of Web references, which can be summarised basically in three catalogues: URL addresses in five different forms, teasers in five different forms, and technically advanced Web references to new media and services.

As a weekly average, each newspaper used 75 Web references. Thirty-nine newspapers, or 38% of the total number examined, were above this average in their use of Web references.

Of the 7,608 total Web references, 94% (7,156) can be subsumed in four categories: a simple URL address, a URL address with slash word, a simple teaser, and a teaser with a slash word. The categories belong to the Web reference catalogues of URL addresses and teaser.

Of the third Web reference catalogue, termed “technically demanding” Web references, 185 Web references were counted, which conforms to 2.43% of the total count. With 14 out of 24 categories, the third Web reference catalogue is normally the biggest one of all three.

On average per newspaper/week, 19 out of 24 Web reference categories never appeared once. Two of the 24 Web reference categories were used in each case only just once: RSS feed and chat.

These are easy benchmarks you can use to match the number of Web references of your own newspapers to see: Does your editorial team support your digitisation?