Punch on …

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.


2 responses to “Punch on …

  1. Gemma Crowley

    Punchy yes but will I go back … not sure. I agree with you Ben on that one.

    A host of weighty contributors have been called on board and providing succinct and well written content, commenting on the issues of the day with interesting and provocative opinion.

    Interesting – I’d have to say this word pretty much sums up the site. Leigh Sales post this morning offers her top ten finds from her latest ‘recent trawlings’. She puts out there a few great finds that I’m sure are of interest to some, but nothing out of the ordinary that other bloggers aren’t already doing. To put it simply, I’m not hanging onto the edge of my seat waiting for the next top ten reads to come out in a fortnight’s time.

    And I get the same feeling when trawling through the entire blog – well written articles that provoke thought, however nothing ground breaking.

    Again agree with you Ben that the site itself is easy to navigate with a clear and concise layout. There are enough points of interest on the home page to draw me into each corner for a minute or two, the images breathe life into the posts, I scan the content … and move on. Impressed – but not enough to actually read the written efforts before me.

    So overall, I like it but the big question you put out there Ben – will I go back on a regular basis, have to say – probably not. I simply don’t have time to read every newspaper each day and then go online to read further opinions and commentary on the same stories. Perhaps when interested in a particular issue I’ll drop by to see what the contributors have to say – however I can’t say it will make it to my list of blogs I regularly call by.

  2. News are clearly throwing everything they can into driving audience to the site. The top story on news.com.au now links directly to a post on The Punch (without really warning the reader).

    As a reader, I hate being driven between mastheads without warning.

    It’s much like Fairfax’s approach with The Vine – it isn’t necessarily attracting new audience, just moving them around the network with contextual links. This props up the numbers on the smaller sites, but means numbers like session duration will be low because punters aren’t genuinely interested in the rest of the site.

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