Unlike most newspapers in North America, Canada’s Globe and Mail is not losing newspaper readers these days. But while the growth in readers of the traditional newspaper product is modest, according to Jim Sheppard, the executive editor of globeandmail.com, the growth in numbers of people visiting the globeandmail.com  is “staggering.”

Sheppard told the faculty at Carleton University’s School of Journalism recently that the Globe’s web audience has grown by 50-75 per cent this year. Some of the growth may be attributed to Canada’s recent federal election and the economic meltdown, as the Globe is known best for its coverage of both politics and business news. But weeks after the election, he says, the audience is holding.

And, he says while the majority of visitors to the site still come for the text stories, the numbers show more and more people are going to the multimedia and interactive packages.  Few, however, are bothering to watch the videos. That’s unfortunate as some of the Globe’s video documentaries, such as Boy in the Moon and The Art of Leonard Cohen are compelling and often included as examples on sites that showcase great newspaper videos. They are also featured prominently on the Globe’s website.

Sheppard says the Globe sees multimedia journalism as a high growth area. So, it has moved to integrate its web and print operations to better co-ordinate the way stories are covered for the web and later in print. Starting this week, the Globe will no longer have web only reporters. Instead when assignments are made, they will include web assignments. And, he says, editors will start earlier in the day to consider what elements beyond just text may be included in the full package that will be offered to readers and viewers online. 

As the Globe and other news organizations change their ways to attract and develop these new online audiences, he says, reporters and editors will have to adjust to thinking about themselves not as traditional journalists, but as storytellers.

Jim Sheppard, executive editor of globeandmail.com talks about the new realities at the Globe

More later on his advice for aspiring journalists and journalism educators.