Observer experiments with web-first strategy

The Observer has begun experimenting with a web-first strategy for news.

The Observer published a story on its website at 6.30pm yesterday which revealed that the Suffolk bird flu turkeys may have caught the virus from a batch of imported Hungarian birds.

Kamal Ahmed, executive editor, news, said the newspaper broke with the tradition of saving exclusives for Sunday’s paper because it had lost too many scoops in the past – but he stressed that breaking news online would not be a regular practice.

“On a Sunday paper there is always a worry that your story will get out and you will be scooped by someone but with the web you do not have to sit there and watch what your competitors are doing,” he said.

He continued: “These are important things to think about for all newspapers. We usually hold tight and you see your stories elsewhere which is a depressing thing to behold.

“But we’ve got to be careful – it’s not something we are going to do day by day. We’re about giving our readers the best stories and analysis every Sunday. If we turn ourselves into a news organisation that sprays out stories all the time then we lose the very value of what we do on a Sunday.”

Observer journalists had considered running a story last year about British-born Muslim Khadija Ravat who was due to read the “Alternative Christmas Message” on Channel4. The paper learned some weeks before Christmas that Ravat had pulled out of the programme due to intense public pressure but their story was all over the papers by Friday.

Ahmed said: “We should have been smarter there. We had that for more than two days and it should have gone on the web. I learned a lesson from that.”

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