There’s an [Edmonton Journal] app for that

By Shaamini Yogaretnam

John Connolly, publisher of the Edmonton Journal, speaks to MediaCamp Edmonton about the newspaper's digital-first push on Feb. 4, 2012.

EDMONTON — The spirit of MediaCamp Edmonton is alive and well in publisher John Connolly’s talk on the Edmonton Journal‘s move to digital first. The Journal faces the challenge of remaining a newspaper with a loyal readership but moving towards digital-first priorities.

For Connolly, audience development is key, but how do you develop an audience? By being open to innovation in areas of content and advertising. Enter the Edmonton Journal app and the numerous partnerships the Journal has forged to bring news to the community and the community back to news.

“We want you to know the Journal,” said Connolly. “We want you to work with us on one or more platforms.”

Aaron Clifford, an independent developer with EgoAnt Productions, echoes the need for partnership between developers and journalists.

“Figure out what your goal is,” Clifford said. “And decide how you’re going to measure success.”

The Edmonton Journal wanted to connect with people as their foremost goal. Clifford came up with the Edmonton Journal Writer Personality Quiz as way to reach out to the Journal’s base audience. Readers could take an online quiz that paired them with the personality traits of a Journal writer. Quiz-takers could then share the results on social media sites like Facebook and create conversation among their friends.

Projects like the quiz work largely because of a devout readership but they also help to brand the Journal, engage with the community and get the attention of a new audience.

Collaboration, creativity and cash are the things informing the success of digital initiatives, Clifford said. News organizations need to collaborate with developers, show a willingness to think outside of the conventions of print and be willing to pay for the applications based on their complexity.

Digital first doesn’t just mean that online content trumps that which appears in print. The Journal’s use of digital tools is a great example of how to use the online world to inform the print edition. In 2011’s PC leadership race, the Journal used a Google Docs poll to measure voters’ support and then made that data available both online and in a print story.

An illustration of the 'Getting an app for that' presenters by Kyle Sams, Guru Digital Arts College student. (Left to right) Aaron Clifford, John Connolly, and Karen Unland at MediaCamp Edmonton on Feb. 4, 2012.