World Cup web battle kicks off

The World Cup contest between national newspaper websites this summer looks set to be nearly as hard-fought as the footballing battles in the stadiums of Germany.

The major newspaper websites will be able to take advantage of the victory over Fifa, which last month gave them a free hand to transmit live still pictures from matches.

Telegraph.co.uk has geared up its football coverage this week ahead of the 9 June World Cup kick-off to include: regular video interviews with football correspondent Henry Winter, audio analysis from former England striker Alan Smith, and a daily blog by Telegraph football writer David Bond from inside the England camp.

Former TV football presenter Des Lynam will also produce a weekly blog commenting on the event itself and how the media are covering it.

Telegraph.co.uk editor Edward Roussell said: "There's going to be a huge test on how well we integrate our online news service with our printed news service. We're looking at it as potentially the biggest story of the year.

"Part of the exercise is what can we do that works online and in print? What can we do that is online-specific, but taps into the newspaper?"

The Guardian's website will produce four World Cup-related podcasts presented by TV football pundit James Richardson before the event kicks off, and then one each day until the final on 9 July. There will be a World Cup blog written by various Guardian, Observer and Guardian Unlimited journalists and guest writers. The site will also include minute-by-minute match reports and an automatically refreshed desktop scoreboard.

Neil McIntosh, associate editor of Guardian Unlimited, said that the website's coverage would be distinct from the print version of The Guardian.

He said: "It takes the piss a bit more than conventional coverage would, and we're using new technology to get pictures across from the tournament really quickly, which is relevant given the row with Fifa over photographs."

The Daily Mirror's site will include live match reports, message boards, fan forums, blogs and picture galleries where readers can send in pictures of their celebrations and England football "shrines".

Mirror online editor Steve Purcell said: "In terms of our users, it's split into three sets of news, sport and 3AM, and so obviously sport is one of our biggest drivers. Get a good sports story and page impressions go through the roof."

The Times has signed former stars of cult football TV show Fantasy Football to produce a series of podcasts throughout the competition.

Times Online's World Cup offering will also include: a video competition featuring ex-Republic of Ireland star Tony Cascarino's favourite 200 goals, real-time statistics, mobile phone content and minute-byminute match commentary.

Times Online editor Peter Bale said: "The matches should be very good for the web.

Although it's all going to be on TV, there are going to be a lot of people at work and we think we've got some pretty innovative ways to keep them interested."

The Sun will be offering online dossiers on each player and team, computer re-creations of World Cup goals, live reports of the games, a fantasy football competition, downloadable wall-charts, and PC and Mac wallpapers. Journalists working at The Sun's Mobile Match Centre will provide live audio commentary to mobile phones.

Sun online sports editor Dave Thomas said: "It's probably the first time the internet and the paper can work properly together.

It's the biggest event on Earth. They will say it's the Olympics, but in reality it's the World Cup."

Telegraph.co.uk NEW LOOK

The Telegraph is rolling out changes to its website over the next few weeks. The site is increasing the size of its fonts and stripping out unnecessary colour to make the site easier to use, adopting the same gothic masthead as the print version, limiting advertising to one advert on the homepage and revamping the blogging facility for readers to share their views.

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