By Maria Ignatova
ONA Convention Online Staff
If offline newsroom staffs were Muppets they would be Kermit because they are green with envy, claims Forbes.com editor Paul Maidment.
Over the past five years the subscription base of his Web site has grown from 650,000 to 14 million unique visitors per month. By comparison, Forbes magazine will circulate copies to 900,000 readers in 2005.
Maidment, who is also executive editor of the print edition, was one of four panelists discussing the relationship between offline and online newsrooms at this year's Online News Association conference in Manhattan.
He said the Internet had presented the Forbes brand with opportunities not afforded to print.
"The Web gives more immediacy, depth and interactivity to the content and it doesn't impose constraints of space and time," Maidment said.
The online edition of Forbes carries video and interactive features, and is considerably more popular than the Wall Street Journal Online which has 764,000 subscribers.
Although Forbes maintains separate online and offline newsrooms, Maidment said print reporters were beginning to look favorably on the enterprise.
With deadlines shorter than the magazine's two-week print cycle, the Web offered them a chance to publish more stories and be in more immediate contact with their audience.
Another panelist, John Paraskevas, is also taking advantage of the opportunities the Web offers. A staff photographer for Newsday, he also shoots video for Newsday.com. At first, this was something he did on his own time but now it is a bigger commitment he tries to balance with working for the paper.
A New York Times graphic designer represented the other end of the convergence spectrum. Archie Tse admitted he doesn’t know much about Web design. His hope for the future, however, is that people in the offline newsroom would have the technical skills of their online counterparts and thus make newsroom integration easier.
As for the overall future of newsroom integration, Maidment quoted Bill Gates: "We have to wait and see if publishers will be better technologists than technologists are publishers." Maidment alluded to the fear that if technology-apt people have more and more say in the newsroom is not clear how this would affect journalistic quality.
The bottom line, however, is that the new generation of journalists coming into the newsroom are Web-savvy, experienced users. According to Maidment and the other panelists, those young professionals will be the ones to truly blur the boundaries between print and Web media.