Over the past year our newspaper has come of age. Many wonderful individuals have come and gone, leaving their mark on the pages and on the way we see ourselves. In the process, The Express Tribune, as an institution, has become stronger. Although sometimes one is nostalgic for the initial idealism which often burst onto the pages in eccentric and interesting ways, on the whole the changes have been good for the paper and the quality of journalism has consistently improved.
Thanks in part to the steep learning curve and inevitable growing pains, we have also moved beyond being seen as a paper only for the young and we now attract a more broad-ranging readership in terms of age and demography. The paper has arrived, carved out its niche, and has now begun to sink ever-deeper roots. I’m proud to say that we have done this without losing sight of our original ethos and principles.
People often ask me – and I ask people in turn – what explains the success of the paper? More often than not, the answer I receive (and now give), is our presence on the internet and on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. People say we have a good-looking and easy to navigate website, that we are ‘all over Facebook’ and that our Twitter presence is very active. Although the internet poses fundamental issues, especially to the business of our business (the print industry itself), the newspaper’s online presence has been, what I consider, our greatest edge.
Last year, I claimed that our online circulation or ‘traffic’ was neck to neck with the country’s most widely-circulated and oldest print newspaper. Today, I claim with increasing confidence that we are now the most read Pakistani English newspaper. An article that gets printed will have more readers – and ultimately more impact – if it is published in our paper versus any other.
Initially almost our entire online readership was from within Pakistan, but today only 44% are from within the country, a fact that I find astonishing. 25% of our total online readers now hail from the UK or the United States and the rest are from just about every country in the world that has internet access.
Although we always understood the importance of the internet, what I personally underestimated was the virtuous cycle of network and social effects this would lead to. As more people read us and share us, other people also feel compelled to read and follow if only to be abreast of the conversation taking place. It’s a snowball effect.
Which brings me back to the theme I started with: coming of age. As we have accrued more readers across the world, and as increasing attention is directed at us, maturity becomes paramount. We have grown quickly from a new newspaper into one that is seen as leading the pack. And as a leader we are now held up to a higher standard of responsibility. As expectations grow higher, the need for us to live up to those expectations also becomes greater, and so does the need to move forward in a more methodical way.
This does not mean that we won’t push the boundaries, or that the journalism we produce needs to be any less bold or dynamic. Far from it. But it does mean that we have a responsible and attendant understanding that now, more than ever, what we print and publish matters. Almost any piece published in The Express Tribune today will surely offend someone out there. It will have its supporters and detractors. But what is guaranteed is that it will have a reaction, and often a visceral one. And as we think about the coming year and how our journalism can play a role in helping our country progress, this is important to note and consider.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.