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Times Online Assistant Editor Tom Whitwell on SEO

As online and print newsrooms become increasingly integrated, the role of the journalist has undoubtedly evolved to incorporate a greater understanding of the role of SEO, search and interpreting data, but there is no reason this should be associated with a loss to quality journalism.

In an interview with AOP, Tom Whitwell, Assistant Editor, Online, at The Times said: “Commentators often make a simplistic connection between soft stories and high traffic. Obviously churning out lots of celebrity stories or freakshow videos can boost your unique user count, but at The Times, we've found that most of our biggest stories of the year were well reported, well written world-beating exclusives. We intend to write even more of them in 2009.”

Broaching the controversial subject at an Olswang event on 11 February, Future Publishing CEO Stevie Spring said that search and SEO are more important than ever for digital publishers. She went so far as to add: "search is just as important as the quality of your content.”

'What's Happening to Our News?'

Last month, the Reuters Institute released its 'What's Happening to Our News?' report, based on interviews with 70 media figureheads, and asking the question ‘What is the future business model for commercial news gathering and the future of professional journalism?’

Currah’s report sounds the following warning: 'In an effort to boost links and advertising, publishers are already in danger of diluting their brand by allowing it to become the digital equivalent to a windsock – given shape by the prevailing direction of the clickstream rather than by a core of long-term editorial values.'

These issues and more were tackled at AOP’s SEO Forum on 25 March:
Download speaker presentations from the event // Read AOP's Report on the event

Currah is Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, and was among the speakers at AOP's SEO forum on 25 March 2009.

Currah’s report argues that editors' attempts to follow the 'clickstream' and appeal to a 'news agenda shaped by the noise of the crowd' and search engines, is distorting news coverage. He warns:

‘A rush to generate clicks may in fact erode the distinctiveness of the brand and its connection to a specific audience.’

Download speaker presentations from AOP's SEO Forum // Read AOP's Report on the event

Source: MediaGuardian // Download Currah's full report.

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