Six months ago, as The Daily Telegraph moved into gleaming new premises, talk was of whether integration of old and new media could work. For staff, changes including the replacement of the newsdesk with a "news hub", and deadlines with assorted "touchpoints" felt like a terrifying revolution. One correspondent jokes: "It was the biggest scare since the founder bowed out."That was in 1855, when Lieutenant Colonel Arthur Sleigh sold his fledgling Daily Telegraph and Courier because he could not pay the bills.
"My introduction to the Tele-graph was a tour around an empty shell, and a vision from the then unknown Will Lewis," says Shaun Gregory, the director of new media at the Telegraph. "But it is already beginning to work. What was a newspaper three years ago is on the verge of becoming a complete multimedia company."
Lewis drove the new strategy, insisting that Telegraph readers want text in the morning, video at lunchtime and audio in the afternoon, and that they crave "click and carry" pdf documents for the commute home and blogs in the evening. He secured his own promotion from managing director (editorial) to editor. Journalists who survived a clear-out were retrained in multimedia techniques.
Lewis's logic is that Telegraph traditionalists misunderstand their readers. They are not Bufton-Tuftons, retired colonel types who cannot distinguish between a computer and a microwave oven, but rich and web-savvy. Telegraph journalists have not let their editor down. Today's multimedia online presence includes news, comment and analysis delivered as text, interactive blogs, audio podcasts, video and automated gadgetry.
On Budget day the service coped well. A podcast by Jeff Randall, editor at large, and Roger Bootle, economist at Deloitte, was online shortly after the Chancellor sat down. The web-site offered a personal wealth calculator that promised to work out the impact on individual readers. It went live at 4pm and worked out my fiscal fate at three minutes past. On Friday morning a video news report about the death of Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan cricket coach, was equally good.
"The mood among journalists is reasonably positive," says one Telegraph correspondent. "People like the layout of the new office and some of the writers really enjoy the opportunities multimedia gives us. But we are not sure how many people are engaging with it. "Figures reinforce the doubt. According to ABC Electronic (ABCe), the industry-backed measure of web-site audiences, Telegraph online ranks behind competitors, including The Guardian and The Times.
In January, ABCe figures The Guardian had daily averages of 825,393 unique users and 4,949,724 page impressions. Figures for the Telegraph were 394,637 and 2,295,954 respectively. Telegraph executives dispute the comparison - preferring to advertise figures compiled by the private Hitwise Company.
In January these encouraged the Telegraph to boast of being "the most visited UK quality newspaper website". An expert on internet audience measurement says: "The only defence for that claim is that there is freedom of speech in this country." The managing director of ABCe, Richard Foan says: "Our figures are industry used and approved." Scrutiny suggests ABCe is right.
At a time last week when blogs on The Guardian's website were attracting between 50 and 200 responses, those by Telegraph correspondents were attracting far fewer. "I have my doubts about the rush to newspaper blogging," says a leading web-site editor. "What is the difference between a short newspaper article and a blog post anyway? Judging by the number of comments on the Telegraph's blogs page, the answer appears to be not much."
The Telegraph correspondent is sanguine. "There is competition between us to get the most responses, but the numbers are not big. Seven online responses 8Trophies compared to 2.3 million daily readers of the printed product is not a lot. …