As digital publishing slowly but surely comes to eclipse traditional, printed media a big question arises: what happens to the publishing schedule when there are no fixed dealines?

This is a problem being tackled head on by the Financial Times, which this week outlined plans to break the newspaper‘s dominance on the news commissioning cycle. Many people talk the talk on “digital first” but very few follow through to its logical conclusion. 

When you look at a newspaper organisation through a purely digital lens, it very quickly becomes apparent that newspaper group publishers produce a lot of words:

Guardian daily word count

That’s via a fascinating tool built by developer @RRees. Built using The Guardian’s API, it tells us that through the paper and website, it has so far today published 67,000 words. That’s equivalant to Lord of the Flies in length and then some. At the time of writing it’s not even midday yet.

This raises profound questions about whether newsbrands are investing in right places.

Another hack, built by Dan Catt, shows the split between the paper and the website, which throws up some interesting questions:

Guardian seven day word count 

In the last seven days the Guardian, Observer and between them have published 1.3 million words – and the split between print and web is more or less even. Now here are the questions:

What was the production cost for the print vs web content?

What’s the tangible revenue returns from advertising and copy sales (or digital subscriptions) from both?

what on-going overheads are attached to both? So, people whose job it is to solely focus on print vs all that investment in web technology?

Is that content mix right, considering that in August The Guardian had an average Monday-Friday print circulation of 140,000 a day (it doubles on Saturday) yet more than 4.5 million daily unique browsers online?

There’s no easy answer to this, but what’s clear is that running a digital version of a “newspaper” or magazine – in which the exact same publishing model is ported to screens rather than print – will not work in the long run.


On a different theme, Dan alerts me to his visualisation of the gender balance of the The Guardian’s journalists and contributors, which makes for interesting viewing.

Guardian gender byline balance