How much of an overlap is there between our print and online audience? I would really love to know.
I suspect there isn't much - and whenever I win an argument to web-first a non-breaking story, that's usually the crux of my argument - i.e. it won't impact on the print sale because most paper readers won't know it's online. But I wonder whether I am shooting myself in the foot in the long term with that line.
We are unlucky (or lucky, depending on your outlook) to have a strong, freebie competitor which bites round our ankles and keeps us on our toes. If it scoops us in print, we very rarely splash the same story. But if they get there first online, we are not nearly so bothered - they're different audiences, aren't they?
But as more and more readers find us online (we now have more than half as many readers online as in print, and it's still rapidly growing), maybe we should stop thinking about different audiences and just concentrate on being the first to break news, in whichever medium allows us to get there first, i.e. online.
It's much more difficult for a weekly. If you get a sniff of a great story a couple of hours after deadline, taking the chance it won't get out for more than a week in your next issue is immense.
I've blogged before about how not reporting the stuff happening on the streets is suicide for your reputation. But as you move towards the bulk of your audience coming to you online, not being first is just as risky.
I'm not talking about rushing to tell half-baked stories - but to hold onto stories once you've got them stacked up with nothing more than crossed fingers to stop the competition sniffing them out, or stumbing on them - well, that's just stupid. Isn't it?
(Not to mention how online audiences are unforgiving of being fed week-old stories . . .)
I'm going to risk the wrath of my most print-loyal colleague now by saying this is based on current newsroom events. We did indeed get a tip-off of a cracking story at 3pm this afternoon - three hours after we went off stone. Story is now pretty much confirmed, but we are currently just hoping nobody else gets the nod.
I'll let you know how it pans out.