Telegraph web chief: 'One size won't fit all'

As Telegraph Group continues to move its operation to a new integrated multimedia newsroom in Victoria, its online editorial director has revealed that the paper's web audience is 14 years younger than its famously elderly print readership.

Edward Roussel told a NewsMarket breakfast debate this week that the average age of Telegraph.co.uk readers is 42 — compared with 56 for the paper.

He also revealed that some 60 per cent of web readers are male and about one-third are based in the US.

Roussel said there is only a 13 per cent overlap between the Telegraph's print and online readership.

The Telegraph's current ABC circulation of just under 900,000 a day compared with a last audited electronic ABC for May of 5.6 million unique users per month for Telegraph.co.uk.

Roussel said: "Groups like ours that are used to having a one-size-fits-all strategy where you know that the competitor is The Guardian or The Times, now need to think far more carefully about who are the audiences — plural — that they're targeting, and then look at each of those audiences and determine who your competitors are on an audience-by-audience basis.

"One can't simply say ‘our competition is The Guardian and The Times'. Actually in terms of football coverage, our competition may be Sky, while for political coverage, it's The Guardian."

He said that Telegraph section heads working in the central news "hub" at the paper's new integrated newsroom in Victoria will have to think more carefully about the different demographics of the audiences of their various products.

He said: "Certainly in the newspaper industry, over an extended period of time, people haven't had to ask that question and are probably a bit fuzzy about who their audiences are."

Roussel gave the example of the sports hub, headed by Keith Perry, which will have to hold onto its loyal readership of the printed sports section while also appealing to users of interactive online features such as fantasy football, which he described as having a "more C1 [lower middle class]" demographic than the average 56-year-old Daily Telegraph reader.

"You require more of your heads of department, a far wider set of skills — but if you don't do that, you may see your audience very rapidly shrink away."

He said that more reader-generated content is essential to online newspapers, but is also presenting new dilemmas.

"The amount of traffic on our blog site has doubled in the six months, and the volume of comments has increased at a similar rate across the website. Very simple tools such as allowing people to comment on our commentators is generating a large amount of traffic.

"The more successful you are, the more you open yourself up to either carrying very high costs for moderating or just letting go — as some of our competitors are doing — and thereby opening yourself up to legal challenges."

Roussel said Telegraph.co.uk had published a libellous comment last week. "We have various filters — our content is moderated — but it got through," he said.

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