It was the end of 2010 when our publisher, wrapped up one of our meetings with a casual “So I guess this is it huh? 12-13,000 people a day is the daily limit for a Pakistani newspaper in English.” He had that look in his eye; one of a wild dream of online publishing glory lost, but at least we tried our best and did a good job. I remember looking back at him incredulously and saying, “Not at all. This is just a fraction of our reach – we’ve only begun to explode!”
It is now 2012 and I am taking my daily dip into the vast ocean of Google’s real time site analytics. It’s only afternoon and we have 726 active visitors on the site – we’re averaging 75,000 unique visitors a day now. My comment moderation team is cracking up as they approve comments bashing ET for “biased reporting” against Imran Khan. They love having the freedom to approve any/all comments bashing the newspaper – besides, one of the moderators is a PTI supporter.
I feel calm and in control. What was once a desk of four people stuffed in a room that was meant to be a store room back in 2010, has exploded into a team of 15 in its own hall with access to over 100 reporters across Pakistan. A lot has changed, and my team can feel it too. We still frantically take notes from the TV as breaking news happens, but at the same time the phone is ringing with our own reporter calling in the updates; he’s finally realised the importance of his byline making it to the website.
As I switch over from browsing analytics to scanning Twitter for news leads, I try to remember when our paper fundamentally made the switch to an unofficial ‘digital first’ strategy. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but the website is sucking me back into its 24-hour cycle. I’ve got a direct message on Twitter asking me to report on the target killings in Karachi. I pass the message on to my shift in-charge who dials our Karachi crime reporter. Our crime reporter will be emailing a few paragraphs and a police quote from his smartphone – deadline: 15 minutes. Another 15 minutes for one of my subs to edit the story and add in the necessary contextual background. I thank my Twitter friend for the update, and remind the team to follow protocol and send the story over to the city desk for the print edition; convergence at its streamlined best.
The blog desk is sorting through their roster of regular bloggers to see who can address the latest spate of killings with a fresh angle while squabbling over whether an incoming rebuttal to an Imran Khan op-ed trumps a blog on an Islamic SMS spam. I’m free. Sort of. I still have to decide whether introducing a word limit to our comments section would actually play against or in favor of the trolls that inhabit our site.
I love my job.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.
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