Traditional Media: Embrace new modes of communication

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One-on-One Interview with Julian Desborough
Publishing Operations Director and Webstrategist, Times Online


Julian Desborough is the content web strategist at Times Online. He helped run the development of the current iteration of Times Online and facilitated the content migration from Vignette to Escenic, after which he became the Publishing Operations Director of Times Online.

The Strategy Web interviewed Julian to get his idea on the ideal web strategy for a traditional media company.

Q: Please tell us in one sentence what webstrategy means to you?
Julian Desborough For me, Webstrategy is defining and maintaining your presence in the appropriate sectors of the digital marketplace.

Q: What makes a great web strategist and why does he become more and more important for a company?
Julian Desborough A great web strategist should spot emerging technologies and opportunities in the digital sphere while advising on corporate exposure and effort on existing channels. The web strategist also has a crucial role in evangelizing the digital space to more traditional areas of the business and leading the call for change within the organisation.

Q: What are the departments in your company that need you most and why?
Julian Desborough There is not one single department that does not need a web strategist. Commercial needs someone to spot the opportunities; Editorial needs someone to maximize the value of the content they produce; Technical needs someone to constantly challenge existing technologies, architectures and workflows to maintain standards of service and ability to future-proof investment.

Q: Did you face any kind of problems and issues when collaborating with departments (reporting structure or hierarchy)?
Julian Desborough Departments that are not „online facing“ have a natural resistance to change. Most issues were around new work flows and integration issues with existing technology and workforces.

Q: What are the 3 biggest challenges you are ‚fighting‘ against in your daily business?
Julian Desborough (a) Rate of change within the organisation, (b) Ability to keep the company in line with trends within the industry, (c) Technical stability and usability.

Q: Publishing houses are said to be ‚inflexible and not really Web 2.0 focused‘? Is this something you can underline?
Julian Desborough The biggest problem for traditional media companies is their inability to embrace new modes of communication and content delivery and provide investment in a manner that does not fly in the face of normal business opportunity planning (there was a time when too much money was thrown at online ideas without sound business cases).

Q: Talking about Social Media und Web 2.0 @ Times Online, did you implement any web 2.0 projects already? Examples like blogs, wikis, youtube, etc.)
Julian Desborough We have been running more than 50 blogs over the past three years (a challenge has been integrating them within our existing content infrastructure). We invite readers to comment on articles that they read (these are displayed within the article) and we embed youtube video clips, google maps and other items into articles to encourage reader interaction. We also have created online communities around small niche collections of content such as crossword clubs and book clubs and we successfully market content and promotions to popular email bulletins that readers have selected to receive.

Q: Will every company have a webstrategist in the near future?
Julian Desborough Sadly, I think not.

Thank you for the interview and your time, Julian!

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