A few people have asked me for my thoughts on thepunch.com.au – trouble is until now I haven’t really worked them out.
First of all, I’m not buying into the whole ‘News is cashing in on bloggers/participation media’ argument … whilst I think there is obviously a business case around the idea, it seems that they genuinely want to create interesting content and this editorial want is driving the thing.
The content is sharp and succinct … you could even call it ‘punchy’ … and they have managed to enlist some pretty heavy hitters to provide some opinion in the first few days. They probably could have called it thesoapbox.com.au as it seems most of their contributors are on one. And that’s not a bad thing, not at all. Right now online news is dominated by boring/lifeless AAP/AP/Reuters feed content which is just so dry and commoditised.
Content wise it could make for good watercooler fodder for whatever workplace you’re in. I’m no journalist (clearly) but I know what I like. And I like this. Will I visit it often? Probably not. There doesn’t seem to be that magic thing that compels me to visit again. Maybe this will come as the writers start to gel more with the audience.
But that is just me. It’s the same with Crikey. I like it but probably visit once every few weeks. I can imagine the same thing will happen with thepunch. Again, not a bad thing. Someone visiting once/twice a month but staying for 20-25 mins at a time is much better than a frequent visitor who is in/out in 1-2 mins.
I like the layout. The pics are nice. The font is good. Comments are clear. Not a stack of advertising … yet. All good on that front. I like the approach David Penberthy has taken in building the buzz of the thing.
The only area I think they might have missed the mark on is the want for ordinary Joe to have an opinion.
“There are many excellent opinion sites in Australia but there is no mainstream opinion site aimed at general readers with a love of broad discussion and debate.”
Sites like this need debate and comments to avoid becoming a massive rant site. If they don’t the dialogue feels too one way. I know there’s sentiment from people and researchers out there that people demand to be heard online, but I just don’t think this is the case at all and the overwhelming majority of people just want to read and not contribute. I’m not so sure there is a love of discussion and debate around these areas in this country.
Ad wise I don’t know what to think. I haven’t seen the NDM pitch yet and to be honest am not sure how you can distill this audience into something that is easy to understand. Like Crikey, The Punch may suffer from trying to do too much and not being able to develop a solid identity in the eyes of advertisers.
Still, this is News Ltd. They’re not renowned for their failures and I’m sure will do whatever they need to, within reason, to make this work.