Nationals turn to the web for Ashes coverage

As England prepares to defend The Ashes, online sports desks are preparing to use the cricket series down under to roll out new products and editorial practices in time for the first Test on 23 November.

Blogs and multimedia will feature heavily as newspapers' websites attempt to compensate for the 36-hour delay that has always plagued print coverage of cricket tours in Australia. editorial director Edward Roussel said The Ashes would serve as a testbed for interactivity and video features that he hopes to launch in 2007.

A centrepiece of's Ashes coverage will be a large, new comment site that has been built for it by web development firm Interesource. Telegraph cricket analysts Geoffrey Boycott and Simon Hughes will comment on the matches to stimulate debate among readers.

"We're building new Web 2.0 functionality, so we'll have a very big comment site as part of the Ashes editorial synopsis," said Roussel.

Audio and video podcast coverage will also feature heavily in The Telegraph's offering from Australia. Boycott and Hughes will produce a daily podcast of comment on the key moments of the day's play.

Although The Telegraph recently signed a video content deal with ITN, its Ashes coverage will still be supplied largely by the PA.

An interactive feature uses Hawk-Eye ball tracking technology to provide users with instant interactive replays.

Telegraph arch rival The Times has already begun its multimedia Ashes campaign with a video diary from England bowler Matthew Hoggard.

Chief cricket correspondent Christopher Martin-Jenkins will provide a round-up of the day's play for Times readers first thing every morning. And Shane Warne and Five Live's Mark Pugatch will be recording a series of podcasts from down under.

The Guardian is also beefing up its online coverage of the Ashes this time around.

"The Ashes is really made for the web," said Guardian Unlimited sports editor Sean Ingle. "Play will finish at around 7 o'clock in the morning UK time — except Perth, which will be around 9.30 or 10 — so anything that's in the paper will be at least 24 hours out of date by the time it's read.

"When the great rush of people in the UK gets to work, any time between 7:30 and 10, there'll be lots of stuff already up for them to read and catch up on the day's play — reports, colour, blogs, podcasts, and Australian press reaction."

Guardian Unlimited will have six cricket writers from The Guardian and The Observer writing exclusive copy for the site. It will be the first major effort to pool resources from Guardian News & Media's three sports desks, said Ingle.

"As soon as play ends, we're going to have a match report written by one of the Observer or Guardian guys out there, that will be different from the paper. They'll file on stumps at 7am and then they'll get on with their paper story, because they will be two different types of piece," he said.

The Guardian will also be reviving its over-by-over blog-style reports, which Ingle says attracted one million page impressions during the previous Ashes series.

"It's a bit like Test Match Special for the internet generation, so we'll have colour descriptions of what's going on, while also having people emailing in," said Ingle.

Guardian Unlimited will also publish an Ashes podcast within half an hour of close of play.

The Sun Online will offer live streaming audio commentary from Australia as well as a slide-show of pictures featuring "the best-looking women from England and Australia", according to Gavin Glicksman, news and features editor on the Sun Online sports desk.

Associated Newspapers will provide daily running reports, over-by-over coverage updates throughout the night, end-of-play scoreboard statistics and immediate post-match analysis from the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday's cricket writers. It is also running a series of podcasts provided by former England captain Nasser Hussain, and a daily blog from Mike Dickson, the Daily Mail's cricket correspondent.

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