Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's owners, not papers, that are the problem

WHEN three of America's greatest dailies - the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun - plus the rest of the mighty Tribune Group fold into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, then obituaries for newspaper publishing itself flow fast and glib, generating gloom that washes as far as Fleet Street. Added to that comes news that the New York Times itself is to mortgage off its spanking new building to deal with next year's debt dilemmas.
But (courtesy of Forbes magazine and sundry statisticians) consider what Sam Zell, the Tribune Company's latest owner-cum-wizard-financier, blames on this 'perfect storm' of a credit crunch. In the third dire quarter of 2008, the Tribune company still had an operating cash flow of $90m on $1bn in revenue. And, within that, the 10 papers it owns made $13m on $654m revenue.
That's not fatal. That's still tolerable trading business in the teeth of recession. Except that the $8.2bn media empire Zell took private control of 12 months ago for only $300m of his own money is $13bn in debt, largely made up of leveraged wheezes from Old Sam's almanack of amazing takeovers. So its creditors are in the soup, alongside pensioners who won't get their money and employees who ploughed good dollars after bad. It's a horror story full of human misery. But it has very little to do with curse of the internet or similar standard rationales of decline.
Simply, here is a fine collection of famous-name titles and TV franchises run slap into Lake Michigan by panicky sellers and optimistic buyers. There'll surely still be papers in Chicago, Baltimore and LA when it is all over, and they'll still make money. But the road to Zell was paved with lousy calculations. He bought, and has now essentially sold out, the Tribune company as though it were another a plot of land to plonk his rented caravans on.
The central problem isn't the internet (a dampener on profits and spreader of uncertainty, at worst; not the end of everything). The problem is newspaper ownership flawed by misplaced ambition and short-sighted management.
Sam Zell may be the hardest case on the block, but dozens more share his pathway to the pits. Why is the New York Times having to turn its new home into a crutch? Because it has a $400m debt repayment due next spring, and this is the only way left to meet it. Why are the Denver Post and 53 other MediaNews-owned dailies in such straits? Because their debt is eight times earnings, before tax. Why did Trinity Mirror, Britain's biggest chain, drop out of the FTSE 250 last week? Because its shares have tanked - down to a seventh of recent value.
It's easy, in such dire circumstances, for satire merchant Jon Stewart to ask 'What's black and white, and completely over?' The death of the newspaper itself has never seemed nearer. Yet keep hanging on to those exceptional circumstances of exceptional idiocy. Keep remembering that it's not one damned thing that has caused this crisis, but one damned thing after another.
And remember, too, what a little old-fashioned journalistic nous can still achieve. Newsweek magazine looked at the Wall Street Journal post-Rupert Murdoch the other day and pronounced it 'a fusty paper revitalised'. Cue Mr M himself, delivering a familiar lecture. 'The newspaper, or a very close electronic cousin, will always be around. It just may not be thrown on your front doorstep the way it is today.'
Now that, of course, may be wrong, too. But there's no telling at this point who's right. You can say that the chains have made a hash. Yet you can also say that, even now, some papers - take the FT, Guardian and Sunday Times from November's ABCs - are gaining rather than losing circulation. And the Sun trumpeted its biggest ad revenue issue ever a few days ago.
Which analysts saw that coming? Not Deloitte, whose prophecy of one in 10 US papers and magazines going to the wall made headlines last week. Not any of the high-priced gurus who advised Sam Zell, either. Call it, rather, an imperfect storm: and don't rush for the lifeboats.

Unseasonal greeting for the BBC's gifts
Pause, as the BBC offers a sackload of presents to its public-service rivals, and scratch your head over the process. Here's the know-how to make your own iPlayer, plus regional newsrooms to share with ITV, and Worldwide partnerships to keep Channel 4 happy. Newspapers won't need to pay for TV listings any more, and - in the wake of a quiet Telegraph deal - they'll be able to use BBC video on their own websites. Santa, you might suppose, has arrived a little early this year.
But no... C4 sees no 'immediate and financial sizeable upside here'. Other newspaper groups grumble about what the Telegraph's getting. The BBC Trust points out that it hasn't even blessed the plan yet.
There's general cynicism over the perception that Auntie is desperately trying to stop her licence fee being top-sliced away in the public service review that Ofcom has set in motion. And so a big offer turns into another sour shouting match.
There's the process problem. In any kind of sane commercial deal, the interested parties wouldn't be snarling at each other outside Ofcom's office. They'd be talking quietly in private. Newspapers would find they could have what the Telegraph's got, too. ITV might discover real prospects of newsroom sharing. And C4 could put its thinking cap on, rather than reach for the cold water bucket.
There could, in short, be careful negotiation, with the chance of partnerships properly explored: and maybe a deal at the end for Ofcom to sanctify, rather than impose.
Alas, though, all we seem to have is a shrill bidding session with instant appeals to the umpire. Partners in the so-called 'broadcasting community'? Not while all open roads lead to the regulator, and any true business discussion lands you straight in the ditch.

Worldwide news, local tragedies
The good news, as the year winds down, is that only 86 journalists around the globe died in the cause of duty. Only? Remember 2007, when 173 were shot, stabbed, blown up or otherwise killed. But there is bad news alongside such modest relief.
The journalism department at Cardiff University has begun producing extremely valuable analyses of International News Safety Institute figures, recording who's died where in what circumstances - and, more and more, the slaughter seems local. The 15 (and still counting) dead in Iraq this year are all local journalists.
Indeed, as you move round danger spots - India, Afghanistan, Somalia, China, Russia - you see clearly who's first in the firing line: largely, not Western correspondents with proper training, return air tickets and a circumspect editor, but local men and women serving local media, murdered in the alleys they call home. (The figures after eight months were 57 locals to five internationals, and that balance doesn't seem to have shifted.)
Anna Politkovskaya was not alone. From Mexico to Pakistan, it's brave men and women who turn over society's stones who then lose their lives. They die trying to tell the truth - 1,360 of them in the last 12 years, on INSI's reckoning. Carve their names with a salutary pride.

Craig Brown 'wittiest writer in Britain'
Craig Brown 'is the wittiest writer in Britain', according to Stephen Fry. He is also the most recently unemployed, after an utterly bizarre Telegraph decision to dump him. Lose 50 more journalists in a crunch? Re-summon Charles Moore to the colours and get him columnising twice a week? Such things may be reasonably understood when the devil drives. But Brown (who probably says nice things about Fry, too) is a pearl beyond price, a funny man of infinite resource. On any rational view, he's the last chap you should push overboard. But 'he was very expensive,' says a defensive Telegraph hand. Or perhaps he meant this was a very expensive mistake.

Source: Guardian UK

New York Times Freezes Wages

Non-union employees at both the newspaper and the Web site will receive no raises in 2009.

The New York Times Company told print and Web employees of its flagship New York Times newspaper this afternoon that non-union staff would receive no pay raises next year.
"Advertising revenues at both the paper and the Web site remain weak and the financial outlook for 2009 is daunting," the staff was told in an internal e-mail from publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., obtained by
Newspaper companies have seen massive revenue declines this year as a result of a weak ad market and continued erosion of their traditional business by the Internet. In October, advertising revenues from its New York Times Media Group, which includes properties such as the Times and the International Herald Tribune, dropped 15.3% over the same time last year. At the time, the company said advertising revenue for the group was down 10.6% over last year for a total of some $900 million.
As a result, the organization has been aggressively trying to cut costs. Earlier this month, the Times announced it was planning to borrow as much as $225 million against its new Manhattan headquarters because of a cash flow squeeze.
In September, it said it would close its wholesale newspaper and periodical distributor, City & Suburban, which delivered the Times and more than 200 other publications to newsstands and other locations in the New York area. And the Times newspaper has consolidated some print sections, such as mashing its sports section into its business section.
Nevertheless, Sulzberger told employees today that efforts are falling short. "We felt it was essential to take this step to further control our costs during these hard times."


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Government should step in to save press, analyst says

THE chief executive of media research firm Enders Analysis is calling on the UK government to relax the competition rules to allow media companies to diversify and survive, according to Press Gazette.
Claire Enders predicts "catastrophic" results if something is not done. In five years, a third of the country's newspapers, two national newspapers and half the jobs of the regional media will be gone.
The local press will have "substantially" declined by 2013, Enders said at a Westminster Media Forum conference. They have been facing the brunt of the economic crisis, and experiencing the worst setbacks with investors as "everybody's been trying to get out of the local press."
Regional newspaper titles, which "keep communities alive," are currently closing at a rate of 10-15 a week, Enders said.
Although closures will most likely continue, Enders said, the way to ensure that titles would survive is permitting cross-media ownership, which the UK government currently forbids. If newspaper groups were allowed to buy each other, print, TV and radio companies would be "diversified further," Enders said.
Removing the barriers to consolidation "is the only way to keep those jobs alive," Enders said.

Source: Press Gazette

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hong Kong's SCMP cuts staff in restructuring

HONG KONG'S leading English-language newspaper, the South China Morning Post, laid off 30 employees Friday, amid belt tightening by global media companies struggling to weather the global economic downturn.
The layoffs were the result of company restructuring that made some positions redundant, said a spokeswoman who would only give her surname Chan, citing company policy.
It is not immediately clear how many editorial jobs were cut. Chan said the company could not rule out additional layoffs to come.
"Every company is trying to broaden sources of income and cut costs ... layoffs are our last resort," Chan said.
The South China Morning Post (other-otc: SCHPY.PK - news - people ), which has about 900 staff, is one of two English-language dailies in this former British colony.

Source: Associated Press.

Media: Don't Cut Jobs, Cut Bad Business Model

Behind the current flood of job cuts are broken companies requiring a more enterprising fix.
The recession is prompting massive layoffs in all media sectors, even at the biggest players. The sheer magnitude denotes a scramble for survival that masks the urgent need for major restructuring. However, the intense focus on cutting rather than building is unlikely to leave media players as they prepare for digital growth.
Job losses in an unreformed legacy structure only address part of the reinvention equation. It also requires the closing of some traditional operations and the launching of new operations to accommodate new skill sets and growth paradigms. It is unclear how much of the latter is occurring in a market driven by fear.
Even more overwhelming than the most recent unemployment numbers, bordering on 7% nationally, is the dearth of efforts to innovate for better times. There is a troubling lack of evidence across the domestic business landscape that funds from the federal bailout or cash reserves being hoarded by corporations are being put to work for the future.
"It's time to not just address the immediate economic threats, but to start laying the groundwork for long-term prosperity," president-elect Barack Obama said last week. It is essential to look behind the nearly 2 million jobs lost so far this year to determine what, if anything, companies are doing to competitively reposition themselves. With job losses now shifting to the service and creative sectors-- traditionally economic growth drivers--it is difficult to see how companies are managing anything more than trying to get through the next several quarters.
The 12,000 job cuts at AT&T (T) (4% of the workforce), as much a function of its fading wire line phone business as a battered economy, are just the beginning of belt-tightening throughout the $1 trillion telecom industry. After eliminating 1,500 jobs (10% of its workforce), Yahoo (YHOO) is still slashing positions while searching for a new CEO and business strategy. The 850 job cuts (7% of the workforce) at Viacom (VIA) were said to be part of a comprehensive restructuring that was not detailed. About two-thirds of an estimated $450 million pre-tax charge is related to programming writedowns; the overall result will be $250 million in 2009 pretax savings.
"Viacom's long-term health will depend on our shared commitment to adapt, to innovate and to make difficult choices. To compete and thrive, we need to create an organization and a cost structure that are in step with the evolving economic environment," Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said in a memo last week.
Although Viacom and NBC (GE) management stress the strength of their franchise brands, some of their workforce reductions are aimed at eliminating overlap between their traditional and digital online businesses. NBC is soon expected to announce as many as 500 jobs cuts (or 3% of its workforce) as part of $500 million in cost reductions, which are in addition to the 1,350 jobs lost across all divisions of parent NBC Universal.
Time Warner (TWX) has eliminated more than 1,000 positions, a majority of them from its Time Inc. publishing unit. Disney (DIS) and CBS (CBS) have not made public planned reductions in workforce or operations. None have explained how any reorganization and refocusing are geared to new business lines or future growth.
In fact, much of the cutting has been aimed at trimming core business lines--such as delaying movie releases until next year, reducing the number and size of films and television production. Networks and studios--the more marginal of which could be consolidated--are under pressure to cut operating expenses in programming and production, home entertainment and distribution.
Like Viacom, some will take one-time charges and writeoffs related to content. But without a strategic plan for new job functions, operations and revenues, there can be no meaningful rationalization of existing resources. Just look at Detroit's big three automakers. Taking huge chunks out of their workforce does not reinvent their broken business model, which lawmakers are loath to fund.
Many media concerns, such as Tribune Co., are too dogged by loan covenants and debt payment deadlines they cannot make and are riveted on deep cost cuts and asset sales. Fitch Ratings and S&P say they expect more newspapers and newspaper groups will default, close operations and be liquidated in 2009, leaving some cities without a daily print newspaper by 2010.
Advertising-dependent newspaper and magazine publishers also are bracing for a major falloff in subscriptions next year as consumers cut back. A year from now, the marketplace could be saturated with distressed print and broadcast properties, the sale of which could be the only way for some media companies to make themselves financially whole. But who is buying?
As it turns out, the job cuts so far and other cost reductions will be an insufficient response to a projected 10% decline in advertising revenue in 2009, led by the imploding automotive (about 15% of all ad spending) and financial industries, as well as retail and travel-related businesses. Weakening DVD and home video sales, fixed content costs and dramatic ad revenues losses "carry a high incremental margin" that may need to be addressed with more dramatic action.
"The industry needs to continue to make more moves to reduce variable operating expenses, and soon," says Barclays Capital analyst Anthony DiClemente. In other words, media must provide its own bailout.

Source: SeekingAlpha

Singapore: free daily Today drops weekend circulation

SINGAPORE free daily newspaper Today, owned by MediaCorp, plans to slash its weekend circulation down to 150,000 copies. MediaCorp Press Managing Director Philip Koh says that in light of the recent economic turmoil across the industry "every cent matters."
Nearly eight months ago, Today's total circulation was boosted from 250,000 to 300,000, meaning that if the weekday circulationg remains at 300,000 the current average circulation will amount to 275,000.
Today was launched in 2000, while its weekend edition in 2002. Four years ago the paper decided to venture with its competitor Streats, also launched in 2000.
Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), which owns Streats, has a 40 percent stake in Today. In addition, the company started a Chinese language free daily two years ago called My Paper.
Publishing group MediaCorp is controlled by the state, whereas SPH is state-owned.

Source: Newspaper Innovation

Friday, December 12, 2008

Publishers too timid to go online

Gary Andrews asks THE questions of the moment. After noting that local papers are struggling to stay afloat, he writes: "The irony could well be that by getting distracted by fire-fighting on the print front, local newspapers get caught out by the smoke starting to come from online." Then he asks...
"Would any newspaper be brave enough to completely shut down in a physical format and move everything online, adopting a more Web 2.0 way of doing news? Would it work? And how on earth would they monetise it?... But, even if it is a desperate last throw of the dice, what does a paper have to lose if it tries it?"
Andrews adds: "Not that I'd want to see papers disappear from their communities, but if it's a choice between online-only news and no news at all..."
Yes, yes and yes again. There's the rub. However much we love print, however much we'd like to see newsprint survive, what counts is the journalism, not the platform.
Why will not publisher take the risk by transforming a print paper into an online paper? It's surely better than simply closing titles altogether? By which I mean, better for the community.
It's amazing how often we heard about the public benefit when newspaper publishers were screaming blue murder about the BBC's proposal to expand its regional coverage. What benefit is there in shutting titles?

Source: The Guardian UK

Is online-only inevitable?

ARE there any newspapers willing to move completely online, foregoing the current struggle for a print edition? This is the question journalist Gary Andrews asks, analyzed by Media Guardian's Roy Greenslade.
Local papers, feeling the squeeze in recent months, could find a way to save their product in venturing completely online, but who will be the first to take the plunge? The Independent is considering it, but is facing criticism for abandoning the roots of newspapers.
Andrews asks another important question: what does a paper have to lose by going digital?
There is the matter of paying for it. Monetizing an all-online venture has yet to prove completely successful for newspapers, especially if their content is free. But the newspaper industry is hemorrhaging money trying to save its print edition and provide multi-platform services for its audience, and soon may not be able to produce the physical format.
An online edition, Greenslade says, is surely better than no edition at all. Even though going online would mean the death of newsprint, Greenslade says, "what counts is the journalism, not the platform." As providers of a service, news organizations (no longer just newspapers) have an obligation to the community they serve to keep producing news, no matter the outlet.
The transition to an online-only product is not to be a paroxysm of desperation. It very well may be that newspapers have nowhere else to go but online, but if the move is to be made it must be done with appropriate consideration for the business model and the community it serves.

Source: Guardian

Washington Post forms new strategy for future

IN a memo to staff obtained by Politico, Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth discusses the long-term strategy of the paper: to make its product "indispensable" to its customers.
The strategy includes three-pillars, to focus the paper "on Washington, for Washingtonians and those affected by it," to provide "utility, engagement and convenience for local readers" and "extend the brand with new products and new platforms."
To achieve its goals, the Post will address readers' "core needs," and increase its "practical utility" online. The paper will "diversify" its business model by creating new, relevant products. Weymouth emphasized speed in the transition, saying that the paper's mission of "making sense of Washington has never been more important."
Over the summer, a team of 40 WaPo staffers from various departments created a detailed analysis of the paper, evaluating its effectiveness for both readers and advertisers, its cost-effectiveness in how it publishes and its competitive "advantage" compared to other news outlets.
Despite a growing online market, Weymouth wrote, the results are not enough to "offset the larger declines in print revenue and profitability."
Weymouth said the strategy review was not to find a quick "fix" for the business model, but instead propose an "integrated set of choices" to maintain the paper's quality and position the company for a financial rebound.
The intention is to prioritize what is important for readers, Weymouth wrote, to focus "increasingly scarce resources." Based in Washington, Weymouth reminded staff that the paper's market is "not only an affluent, highly educated, growing market, but that it is, of course uniquely, the nation's capital and the seat of government."
The changes, Weymouth concluded, do not change the paper's "bedrock principles." She outlined that the Post needed to be "creative, adaptive and resourceful" in the way it positioned its business.

Source: Politico

Indonesia: In "emerging nations," more cell phones used to access Internet than computers

MOBILE phones are the primary way of accessing the Internet for people in "emerging markets," or those with poor fixed-line telecommunications, mobile technology companies are reporting.
It could be inferred from the information that in emerging nations, focus on the mobile market would produce higher revenues for advertisers or even news organizations trying to increase readership.
Countries such as Indonesia have many areas "lacking high-speed cable broadband connections, DSL lines or even regular phone lines for dial-up service," the Wall Street Journal is reporting.
Improvements in mobile technology have made it easier and quicker to go online via cell phones. The cost can also be cheaper than buying a computer or paying for home Internet service.
Wireless network operators and companies have seen emerging nations as "crucial" for growth, WSJ reports. They've developed their software to work with the technology available in poorer countries, compressing software to be quicker to access via mobile technology.
In developed markets, WSJ reports, the focus is on "smart-phones," which have similar functions to PC's with video and graphics. Cell phones in poorer nations are required more for checking email or social networking sites, and are hundreds of dollars cheaper.
Desktop browsers are still the larger global market than mobile versions, however, the mobile-browser market is "surging," WSJ reports.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Report finds newspapers should reduce print frequency

A new Deloitte report says the "impossible" market for newspapers and magazines will make one in 10 newspapers "either shut, move online only or cut publication frequency by more than half."
Paid Content speculates that the most recent and heavy round of layoffs in the UK will not be enough to save the industry--instead, the report says, "publishers should reduce print frequency."
The switch to online-only, according to Paid Content, will not be profitable. Even the "most successful of online print counterparts" is not making enough money to sustain the business.
According to the Financial Times online, "If online-only cannot be made to work financially, a newspaper's online presence may need to be reduced significantly to encourage people back to the physical product," which is exactly opposite the current trend, Paid Content reports.

Source: Paid Content

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Newspaper Bubble, Too, Has Burst

The bankruptcy filing of the Tribune Company on Monday is just the latest, largest evidence that the American newspaper industry is suffering the hangover from an immense buying spree in 2006 and 2007 at what turned out to be the worst possible time for the buyers, just as the business was about to enter a drastic decline.
Newspapers would be in trouble either way. The steady leak of advertising and readers from print to the Web has become a widening torrent in this recession year. Most newspapers remain profitable, but the margins are dropping fast, with the industry losing about 15 percent of its ad revenue this year.
But the companies in the weakest condition are there largely because they borrowed a lot of money to buy papers, often at inflated prices, and the biggest of those deals were struck in 2006 and early 2007. Tribune’s was the biggest of those deals, $8.2 billion to take private the company whose assets include The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and 23 television stations, a transaction that almost tripled the company’s debt.
In the year before that takeover was announced, the McClatchy Company bought Knight Ridder, including papers like The Miami Herald and The Kansas City Star; the MediaNews Group bought several papers, including The San Jose Mercury News and The Pioneer Press in St. Paul; investors in Philadelphia bought The Inquirer and The Daily News; a private equity firm, Avista Capital Partners, bought The Star Tribune in Minneapolis. Smaller companies like GateHouse Media bought up dozens of local papers.
If it were possible to unwind those deals, “the business would still be in pretty difficult shape,” said John Puchalla, a vice president and senior analyst for Moody’s Investors Service.
“It wouldn’t have changed the downturn,” he said. “But it sure would have changed the vulnerability to the downturn. Ten to 15 years ago, most newspapers were carrying a pretty low amount of debt. But companies have levered up over time, and in the last couple of years, some companies pushed it too far.”
Most newspapers still have earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization that are equal to 10 to 20 percent of their revenue. That is down from 20 to 30 percent in the middle of this decade, but tolerable — if not for the burden of making debt payments.
The Star Tribune, the Philadelphia papers and the Journal Register Company, publisher of The New Haven Register, have all suspended debt payments while trying to reach sustainable new terms with their lenders. Executives at the Minneapolis paper have talked of bankruptcy.
McClatchy and MediaNews have succeeded in paying down their debts to more manageable levels, but they also had to negotiate new terms this year with their creditors. Freedom Communications, which publishes The Orange County Register, recently warned that it might not be in compliance with the cash-flow requirements in its debt covenants.
Credit ratings for nearly every newspaper company judged by the major ratings agencies have been downgraded well below investment grade.
“I think there will be more pressure on these companies, and more bankruptcies,” said Dave Novosel, senior analyst at Gimme Credit, a research firm.
Some newspaper companies would like to merge with others in the same region, but have been barred from doing so by media ownership regulations. A 2006 deal in the San Francisco Bay Area between MediaNews and one of its investors, the privately held Hearst Corporation, which publishes The San Francisco Chronicle, was blocked on that basis.
Putting papers up for sale, as several troubled companies have done, will not solve the industry’s problems, said David C. Joyce, a media analyst at Miller Tabak & Company, a small investment banking firm.
“Selling assets also means selling off cash flow, and they need that cash flow to service the debt,” he said. “And any sales would be fairly close to fire-sale prices, because people aren’t buying assets, especially in the newspaper business.”
There are some exceptions to this story, including the Gannett Company, the largest newspaper chain in the country. Companies like Gannett that do not have a lot of debt, and did not make major new newspaper acquisitions in recent years, are in much better shape than their peers, despite sharp revenue declines.
Looking back, what happened to newspapers in 2006 and 2007 directly paralleled the bubble in the housing market, with similar results.
“There was very cheap credit available,” despite risks that should have been obvious to everyone, Mr. Novosel said. “The banks were willing to lend, and people were willing to buy at these prices because they figured if asset prices kept going up, they’d be fine.”

Source: NYT

The Fundamental Problem of Newspapers on the Internet

I introduce you to the fundamental problem of newspapers on the internet: The Krugman Paradox - named by me after watching (PETS) ads appear next to Paul Krugman for three days after it was announced he won a Nobel Prize.
I couldn't believe there wasn't a better way to monetize his presence on (NYT). Further investigation revealed that the Krugman problem was not unique.

Here goes.

The Krugman Paradox is a phenomenon referring to newspapers' websites and the sites' inability to produce economically sustainable advertising revenue, despite their highest audience reach in the history of their industry. The paradox indicates that newspapers must increase the effectiveness of their online advertising if this is to be their main revenue stream.

Prior Art:
On April 7, 2008, Nicholas Carr put forth a theory he referred to as "unbundling". Boiled down to its core, the theory states that advertisements (bundled with content) in a printed newspaper produce a product worth more than the sum of their parts. The opposite is true online where ad performance must stand alone on a single web page. As he writes,
As soon as a newspaper is unbundled, an intricate and, until now, largely invisible system of subsidization quickly unravels. Classified ads, for instance, can no longer help to underwrite the salaries of investigative journalists or overseas correspondents. Each piece of content has to compete separately, consuming costs and generating revenues in isolation.
On September 10, 2007, Doc Searls wrote about the utility of traditional advertising and how better ways of connecting customers to products and services have been created on the internet. He cautions newspapers who assume advertising will always be around at the levels prior to the existence of the internet. As he writes,
While rivers of advertising money flow away from old media and toward new ones, both the old and the new media crowds continue to assume that advertising money will flow forever. This is a mistake. Advertising remains an extremely inefficient and wasteful way for sellers to find buyers. I'm not saying advertising isn't effective, by the way; just that massive inefficiency and waste have always been involved, and that this fact constitutes a problem we've long been waiting to solve, whether we know it or not.
…The holy grail for advertisers isn't advertising at all, because it's not about sellers hunting down buyers. In fact it's the reverse: buyers hunting for sellers.
On April 22, 2008, Jay Rosen responds to Searls' comments to highlight the idea that whether ad spending grows, shrinks, or stays the same:
Advertisers aren't in business to advertise; they do it to reach customers making a buying decision. If there were some other way of reaching that person, some other way for buyers and sellers to communicate, advertising would become more and more superfluous.

Despite the highest readership of any newspaper in the United States, the New York Times only generated $330 million in online advertising in 2007. Total operating costs for that same year totaled $2.928 billion.

It is widely reported that total newspaper operating costs would be reduced by 35% if newspapers eliminated their print product. Using the NYT example again, costs could be reduced to $1.903 billion.
Online advertising in general is growing approximately 12% year over year.
The New York Times is following this trend.
NYT online advertising revenue is projected to be ~$350 million or $29.17 million per month.

The reaches an average 15.6 million people per month (quantcast) and newspaper websites in aggregate reached 69.8 million people (naa).
65.4% of readers come from the USA. is reaching approx. 3.3% of the US population (15.6 million x65.4%) =10.2024 million/(305 million).

Revenue per person:
$29.17 million month / 15.6 million unique monthly visitors = $1.87 per unique per month.
Each unique reader is worth $22.40 annually in online advertising revenue (a far cry from the 1 subscriber = $1000 which is what it was before the arrival of the internet).

The gap to break-even is still a whopping $1.553 billion.
If advertising rates stay the same, The New York Times needs to raise its unique audience 5.437 times in order to break even. Here is how it breaks down:
5.437 X 15.6 million uniques per month =
84.82 million uniques per month X $1.86 per unique =
$158.6 million per month X 12 months =
$1.903 billion annual online advertising revenues =Break Even NOT YET PROFITABLE
Questions for further examination or the "Stalin Problem" (reality):
Is it unrealistic for to grow their national audience reach much more than 3.3% considering their print audience reach is ~1million or roughly .3%?
Generating 84.82 million uniques per month would make the number 5 website in the entire world, ahead of
Preliminary conclusions:
Assuming the Krugman Paradox is real:

Analysis of the Krugman Paradox suggests that pursuing online audience growth strategies to grow revenue may not be the best way to grow revenue
Analysis of the Krugman Paradox suggests that absent online advertising innovations, newspapers must seek alternative revenue streams to achieve economic sustainability.
Notes about my data:
NYTimes internet revenue figures include,, and other company websites. I'm not too concerned though, because parsing out this data would only make their revenue numbers WORSE.
"Correlation does not imply causation", further investigation needs to be done to find out if the Krugman Paradox is real.
Of course, further research needs to be done in order to see if this situation is representative of the industry as a whole.


Gazette & Herald switches to tabloid format

Weekly newspaper, The Gazette & Herald after 200 years has put the kibosh on its broadsheet format and has switched to a tabloid.
According to Gazette editor Chris Buxton, "We set out to create a slightly up-market tabloid version of what was a highly-respected broadsheet. The aim was to modernize the look without losing the unique local feel of the paper. We're very pleased with the end result and the reception it has received."

Source: Hold the Front Page

Pulitzer Prizes to include online-only journalism

The Pulitzer Prize Board announced Monday that it will be expanding all of its 14 journalism categories to feature "text-based newspapers and news organizations that publish only on the Internet," AFP reported.
The Pulitzer Prizes have included Internet material from newspaper websites in all journalistic categories since 2006 but online-only news sources were previously restricted to breaking news and breaking news photography.
The submissions are to come from online and print US newspapers or news outlets that publish at least on a weekly basis and are committed to original reporting and coverage of current events.
Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler said the step was consistent with the Prizes' historic mission, mentioning that the association makes "appropriate adjustments" to the evolving media scene. He added that online content has been permitted for nearly a decade.
Categories include local coverage of breaking news, feature journalism, investigative journalism, explanatory reporting, commentary as well as coverage of national and international events. The deadline for the 2009 Pulitzer Prizes is February 1.

Source: AFP

Journalist switches from online-only to print after "missing out" on the news

An Editor and Publisher column by Ted Knutson detailed his voyage as a consumer of news from print, to online, to print again after realizing how much he was missing in the online news world.
To save money after losing a staff position, Knutson stopped buying newspapers and went for all his news online. A trend, he noted, that follows the "rest of the world," who are trading in print services for online. He received his news only online for months.
He put the kibosh on that plan after taking a writing test for a job and finding his result as being too "news poor."
Knutson said he was "satisfied" with the news he received online, but once he returned to print editions, he realized that he was reading more stories and longer stories each day.
The print newspaper, he said, had several advantages to the online version, and the main advantage is something that online publications also prize: time.
Online editions pride themselves on how quick and easy it is to stay up-to-date. Knutson ran across "news he didn't realize was there" leafing through the print edition, rather than "just looking at a handful of headlines on the home page of a newspaper's Web site."
Print advertising is more engaging and enjoyable than in the online version, Knutson said, another plus for print. Print ads don't detract from stories, unlike "drop-down" ads online, which can even steer readers away from the newspaper's webpage.
The sentimentalist in him appreciated the news in his hands every day. Knutson's action during a crisis period for print newspapers is no doubt appreciated by publishers, but it remains uncertain if he's starting his own trend.

Source: Editor and Publisher

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Can Young Journalists Cope With An Uncertain Future?

I recently returned home from a long road trip that gave me a chance to catch up with media industry friends and mentors working in D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago. I welcomed the opportunity to talk about the trends that are affecting all of us and hear how they are coping, and strategically planning for their (uncertain) futures. Perhaps it’s my tendency to see optimism whenever possible, but it was refreshing to observe that my pals had not given up on our commitment to accurate news and thoughtful public discourse.

It was disappointing, however, to hear over and over again that as the economy continues to tank and that reflective (and expensive!) holiday time of year rears its ugly head, we’re all suffering from a feeling of paralysis, unsure of how to grow professionally when we’re anchored by financial realities and legitimate concerns about the substance of our chosen vocation.

With this on my mind, I began engaging a number of friends and colleagues on a subject that weighs on my thoughts constantly: Is what happened to classified advertising happening to editorial content, and if it is, are we building the skill sets we’ll need when an aggregator and revenue power house like Google jumps into the market and becomes a primary generator of original content?

What will the rules about ethics and transparency be in such a scenario, and in the meantime - as reporting beats are routinely eliminated - are we all really just becoming opining, mini-aggregators? (For the record: Decidedly I am, my MSM friends are not.)

“I don't think anyone in journalism today feels really good about their futures, whether they work at a small market paper or even if they've embraced new media,” says my 25-year-old friend who has worked for a major national daily and is now a content producer for a top political news site. “Everyone jokes, covering up real fears about how we'll all be laid off from old-school papers and about how professional online news won't actually take off like we hope it will.”

I’d feel less alarmed about prospects for the future if I felt that news organizations were safeguarding and evolving their core product: unbiased beat reporting. It’s one thing to lose a few excess Home & Garden reporters to streamline coverage and reduce production costs, but as companies like the Tribune prepare to consolidate something as essential as their Washington bureau, I see flashbacks to trying to sell recruitment ads at the L.A. Times while all my clients told me it was more effective to buy $25 ads on Craig’s list.

Instead, the profits associated with the valuable and expensive skill, and access, that separates reporters from Joe Schmoe (not to be confused with the Joe the Plumber), is being siphoned to Drudge, Talking Points Memo, Real Clear Politics and so on. Some of these sites do pay for their own content creation, but the arsenals are nowhere near as loaded as that of the still-functional newspaper industry, which retains the opportunity to be middle, if not early, adopters.

So, not only do young journalists have to ask whether their employers are innovative enough to compete even five years out with the complex user interfaces being designed by social media juggernauts who could easily enter the news content game, they also have to ask, simply, if they are wasting their time perfecting obsolete skills.

On Monday, I asked a variety of friends who’ve been journalists for anywhere from 2 – 12 years whether there is still value to the beat reporting skills that have been emphasized in our training at journalism school and in our first jobs. Most said it is incredibly important, but obviously on its way out the door or, at the very least, undergoing an extreme makeover: From riding with cops to vague, loosely-affiliated topics and keyword searches.

“Beat reporting is exceptional training from a fundamental perspective because it requires both intimacy and a hardened distance. The closer you are to a subject on a day-to-day basis, the harder it is to let your feelings not invade the work you are doing on that subject,” says my friend Chris Sprow, who has written for newspapers and now works for ESPN the magazine. “The demise of beat journalism to some extent will mirror the divided nature of actual journalism, where we are resigned to the notion that judgments invade every realm of coverage.”

I agree wholeheartedly, even though I have chosen to leave MSM-style journalism to write commentary for new media outlets. However, it’s a personal preference and not a reflection of my expectations for what constitutes adequate reporting, nor do I see what I do as the core value proposition of the news industry.

Chris continues: “The newspaper and the beat was nothing more than a local monopoly on the transfer of information, not the quality of the information itself. Now, news sources must use resources to bring the information better and more insightful than ever before, as opposed to just having it … Young people might believe that advocacy journalism is where they have to be, they believe there’s a fundamental right to pick a side, be clear about it, and report from that venue. It’s a modern belief in the loss of objectivity as okay as long as you’re honest about it, as if that’s a pillar of sainthood, but picking a side is the easiest thing we do. It’s instinctive. Somebody will still have to tell the stories, and the stories precede the sides.”
If you can wait it out to see who’ll sign your next paycheck, then hoorah. Some of my other friends, however, have opted to find practical applications for their existing skill sets. Justin Goldsborough, a copy-editing enthusiast who went to Medill with me and also studied millennial generation news consumption habits, has reinvented himself as a social media communications manager with Sprint in Kansas City, where he notes that the local KC Star beat reporter has launched a blog dedicated entirely to covering his company.

“The meaning of being ‘a journalist’ has changed a lot in the last 10 years,” says Justin, who is now an active blogger/Twitterer/social networker. “The journalist who used to report about Sprint is covering ‘traditional beats’ in a different way. Doesn't mean they should stop printing Sprint stories in the newspaper. But they should also provide people with an outlet to join the conversation, which adds a new chapter(s) to the story.”

I don’t worry that these big questions will sort themselves out, but I do worry about our collective well-being as we all make deeply personal choices about where to go from here. It is disconcerting when a young journalist seeks out guidance, but older colleagues, professors and friends can’t give any insight beyond “be a diversified storyteller” and “pay attention to business and revenue trends so you don’t get screwed” (which I, too, admittedly support at a basic level and espouse all the time). You walk away wondering if most of us are so resigned to the momentum shifts and so overextended that we no longer have energy for the endeavor we set out to pursue, or how we’re going to preserve it and establish unique contributions given a plethora of choices.

I believe the answer is to build your own vision for yourself, creating a clearly-defined niche or beat or whatever we label it, to own and be an expert in. (If your boss doesn’t get it, up-manage him.) I also think we must surround ourselves with veteran colleagues and mentors who recognize that our paths are not the same as theirs, who will not be affronted by our easy mastery of multi-media storytelling, but who will impart on us the nuances of the important trade of news gathering. It would also help if managers institutionalized this kind of mentorship and facilitated training opportunities that bridge this gap.

Please share your stories, coping mechanisms and professional development strategies with me at I’d also like to hear your thoughts on the questions I raised about the collapse of classified advertising, the likelihood that a company like Google will eventually bump the New York Times from its perch and concerns about ethics and transparency in an opinion-dominated news market. I will be addressing these topics in my next few columns.

Source: Editor & Publisher

Print media are in dire trouble – but blogs are no substitute

The big three car makers are now the focus of attention in the US. The good news is that their incompetence and fecklessness are not being overlooked. The odds of their being saved seem mercifully lower now than before, especially as other industries, facing the same brutal environment, are not sure why they shouldn’t be bailed out as well.

Take the newspaper industry. It has been faltering badly under the pressure of new media for a few years. For much of the past decade, circulation for all papers has been declining at about 2% a year. The last year has been a test case of sorts. Newspapers had the story of a lifetime: an election campaign of historic interest, suspense, drama and personality. From Hillary to Barack, from John Edwards’s love child to Sarah Palin’s Down’s syndrome child, from John McCain’s wild lunges for relevance to the first black president, it was the kind of year in which circulation should have boomed. If you live for a story, this year was an embarrassment of riches.

And yet the decline didn’t just continue. It accelerated.

Between March and September the 500 biggest newspapers in America reported an average circulation decline of 4.6%. In six months. That’s close to a 10% decline per year. No newspapers showed any but fractional gains. It is therefore a near-certainty that many towns and cities in America will no longer have a newspaper after the down-turn. And that may apply not just to small names but to some big ones as well. The Los Angeles Times, for example, has gone from a circulation of 1.1m to 739,000 since the turn of the millennium. Its staff has been halved. Morale has never been lower.

Landmark names – the news equivalent of General Motors, Chrysler and Ford – are increasingly on the chopping block. The Chicago Tribune has seen its weekday circulation collapse by 8% in the past year. The Gannett company, which owns scores of papers, has announced a 10% cut in staff after a 5% reduction earlier this year. The Christian Science Monitor has gone from a daily to a website with a weekly print edition. The Rocky Mountain News is for sale. The profit margins of even the most established papers, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, are so slim, the future looks extremely dodgy. Some analysts are even predicting that The New York Times will go belly up by the spring.

Declining circulation has been accompanied by sliding advertising. The internet stole most classified advertising from papers long ago. The recession is killing what’s left. The car industry – a big component of newspaper advertising – is in freefall, and department stores are fast fading. There is also a vicious cycle in which the often brutal across-the-board staff cuts and buyouts have removed much of the good-quality reporting that prompts readers to buy newspapers in the first place. And so, as the quality declines, and Google looms, the product increasingly spirals downwards.

What of the web? This was supposed to be the saviour. And, to be fair, the newspaper industry, after a sluggish start, has made great progress. The New York Times website is one of the best and most informative in the world. The Washington Post has added bells, whistles and blogs, blogs, blogs. Only a few years ago journalistic titans were derisive and condescending towards bloggery. Now they are competing to grab a slice of the action.

The problem here, however, is that online advertising, while growing, is not growing fast enough to replace print advertising. It almost certainly will one day, but the distance between the print sinking ship and the online life raft was always perilously long. And now the recession has whipped the waters between into hurricane turbulence. I have a feeling that if and when the storm ends, there will be few ships left and only a few survivors clinging onto small but buoyant dinghies.

The economics of this are brutal. Print and paper and delivery by lorry are immensely cumbersome and expensive compared with a modem – or even with a mobile reading device that you can take on a train or bus in the morning. A single blogger in his bedroom can reach as many readers as a big paper, with no overheads and no staff and no product costs except band-width. That kind of economic competitive advantage is entirely a function of technological change and it is unavoidable.

To give my own example: I started blogging eight years ago. My once quirky blog, born in time to cover the 2000 election campaign, has steadily grown in traffic over the years, but this year, with the election campaign and a media revolution, it went into the stratosphere. In October last year my blog got 3.5m page views; in October this year it had 23m page views. The story of the campaign, in other words, did find a readership (and page views of big online papers soared as well). The growth just didn’t occur in newsprint, and the next generation of readers – those now under 30 – barely knows what a newspaper is.

Now compare my little blog’s traffic with The Baltimore Sun, a big metropolitan paper with a long history and great reputation, featured most recently in the HBO series The Wire. It had 17.5m page views in October; The Dallas Morning News got 12m; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution got 14m. The operation largely run out of my spare room reached many more online readers than some of the biggest and most loss-making papers in the country. The economics are remorseless: as news goes online, the economic model for papers cannot survive. If advertising follows page views, the game will shortly be over.

The terrifying problem is that a one-man blog cannot begin to do the necessary labour-intensive, skilled reporting that a good newspaper sponsors and pioneers. A world in which reporting becomes even more minimal and opinion gets even more vacuous and unending is not a healthy one for a democracy. Perhaps private philanthropists will step in and finance not-for-profit journalistic centres, where investigative and foreign reporting can be invested in and disseminated by blogs and online sites. Maybe reporter-bloggers will start rivalling opinion-mongers such as me and give the whole enterprise some substance. Maybe papers can slim down sufficiently to produce a luxury print issue and a viable online product. There’s always a hunger for news, after all.

Or maybe, as I urged in this space a few years ago, you should take a moment to savour the piece of grubby newsprint in your hands this Sunday. Because it is going to disappear far sooner than most analysts predict.

Source: Times Online

Monday, December 8, 2008

Who's the mogul now... Murdoch vs Sulzberger

THIS has been Rupert Murdoch week in New York, which has only added to the many difficulties of Arthur Sulzberger junior. Ordinarily, given that he has just slashed the dividend paid by the increasingly troubled New York Times Company, which he has run since 1997, Mr Sulzberger might have been grateful that everyone’s attention has been on another media mogul. But “The Man Who Owns the News”, a new biography that has made Mr Murdoch the talk of the town, contains a savage critique of Mr Sulzberger and describes in convincing detail Mr Murdoch’s ever-stronger desire to acquire the New York Times.

The New York Times is Mr Murdoch’s “favourite train wreck”, writes his latest biographer, Michael Wolff, who had unprecedented access to the tycoon, his family and his employees. (This is not an authorised biography, but Mr Murdoch is said to be broadly pleased with a book that celebrates his acquisition in 2007 of Dow Jones, owner of the Wall Street Journal.) “I’ve watched [Mr Murdoch] go through the numbers, plot out a Times merger with the Journal’s backroom operations,” writes Mr Wolff. “He has conjured, too, how in Murdoch style, he might convince the Sulzbergers to let him in, if he promises to leave Arthur in charge—and how he could then make Arthur his puppet.”

Until recently, Mr Murdoch’s dislike of Mr Sulzberger—the feeling is said to be mutual—could be attributed mostly to a right-winger’s visceral dislike of the Manhattan-liberal journalism of the New York Times. But, if Mr Wolff is to be believed, in recent years Mr Murdoch’s young wife, Wendi Deng, “has turned him into…well, almost a liberal.” Instead, it seems, Mr Sulzberger strikes Mr Murdoch as a frightening case-study of how a newspaper dynasty can go wrong. Mr Sulzberger took over his father’s newspaper business, and Mr Murdoch would like one of his children to inherit the reins of his firm, News Corporation. Ailing newspaper dynasties may offer a cautionary tale to Mr Murdoch, but they also present him with a commercial opportunity. The Bancroft clan that controlled Dow Jones (but no longer had a management role) was another example of a newspaper dynasty that had lost its way. Mr Murdoch saw them off, against the odds, so why not repeat the trick with the Sulzbergers?

So far, the Sulzbergers have remained unwaveringly loyal to their latest son to run the family firm, though he gets more embattled by the day. He has had to give board seats to two activist investors who had loudly criticised him. Circulation has been eroding bit by bit, to an average of 1,077,000 per weekday in the six months to March. Advertising revenues fell by 13.7% in the third quarter, as the recession caused companies to slash marketing. The New York Times Company’s share price has fallen by almost 60% this year, to its lowest in 24 years, taking the firm’s market capitalisation to $1 billion. Mr Sulzberger’s decision on November 20th to cut the firm’s quarterly dividend by three-quarters, in order to conserve precious cash, could cost family shareholders $18m a year—though he had the full support of the controlling Ochs-Sulzberger Trust.

Ultimately, the Bancrofts lost the Journal because the family was torn apart by intergenerational warfare: the younger family members, who had no real connection to the newspaper business, were keen to sell and thus bank their inheritance. There are reports that the fifth generation of Sulzbergers is similarly restless, though as Mr Sulzberger has pointed out, the eight-member family trust that controls the company is much less exposed to this pressure than the many Bancroft-family trusts were. That said, an obvious heir has yet to emerge to Mr Sulzberger—nicknamed “Pinch”—who took over as chairman from his father, Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, who had in turn succeeded his father. The fate of the Bancrofts has reinforced the belief of many observers that once the Sulzbergers cease to be practically involved in running the business, it will be only a matter of time before it is sold. That said, because Mr Sulzberger is only 57, succession is not yet an urgent question.

Grey days for the Gray Lady

Mr Murdoch apparently blames Mr Sulzberger for the New York Times Company’s many problems. For a start, trying to make the Times a national newspaper loosened its essential ties with New York. Mr Sulzberger’s excessive chumminess with some journalists contributed to two scandals that hurt the paper’s reputation: the invented stories of Jayson Blair and the jailing (over her refusal to disclose sources in the Valerie Plame affair) of Judith Miller, a reporter who, the Times later said, it had protected too much. And although Mr Sulzberger talked about the need to evolve from being a newspaper into an internet brand, it was Mr Murdoch who became the new-media titan by acquiring MySpace.

Well, up to a point, Mr Murdoch. Mr Sulzberger’s problems are largely those of the newspaper industry as a whole, the business model of which has been knocked sideways by the rise of the internet. News Corp’s shares have actually fallen by more this year than those of the New York Times Company. And it is only Mr Murdoch’s diversification many years ago into television and the internet that has camouflaged what a poor financial investment it was to buy the Journal. Moreover, the Times has done a better job than almost any other paper (except perhaps the Journal) in moving online. It now boasts the most visited American newspaper website, and on November 5th, the day after the presidential election, it had an impressive 61.6m page views. Mr Sulzberger’s acquisition of, a search engine, was a decent buy, though he could certainly have done more to develop it.

Yet the harsh fact is that, his fault or not, Mr Sulzberger has yet to find a business model on the web that generates enough money to support the Times’s high-quality, but expensive, global network of reporters. He is running out of time to do so. Meanwhile, Mr Murdoch dreams of becoming his puppet-master.

Source: The Economist

Friday, December 5, 2008

Mobile internet users spending up to 2.5 hours online

LONDON - The average mobile internet user is surfing around 160 mobile web pages per day, while heavy users are logging in up to 10 times per day and spending up to 2.5 hours online, according to research.

The survey, carried out by mobile social network among 15,000 of its users worldwide, found that only one third of all respondents were reducing their mobile internet time to save money during the current economic crisis.

Users were spending most of their time online writing and checking emails and personal messages, finding out what their friends were doing and uploading pictures and videos.

More than 90% of respondents said they would increase their mobile internet usage even further if they could access reasonably priced flat rates, higher network speeds and faster phones with longer battery lives.

Antonio Vince Staybl, chief executive of, said: "Mobile phone usage is 'growing up' and changes communication with friends and family, as well as the traditional internet usage dramatically.

"Conventional entertainment and communication will become more personal and bigger than ever and come together on one digital media device."

The worldwide survey was conducted in mobile internet amongst 15,000 active users, aged between 16 and 52 years, between September and November 2008.

Source: Digital Bulletin

Mobile internet users view 160 web pages a day - survey

A survey, carried out by, has found that the average mobile internet user is surfing around 160 mobile web pages per day. The report went on to say that heavy users are logging in up to 10 times per day and spending up to 2.5 hours online. The survey involved 15,000 users worldwide.

The credit crunch has resulted in one third reducing their mobile internet time to save money. The majority of users spent their time on email or personal messages, and uploading pictures and videos.

90% of respondents said that they would increase their usage of their were a reasonably priced flat fee subscription - such as in the Netherlands - faster networks, and phones with better batteries.

The survey group included people between the age of 16 and 52 years, from September to November 2008.

Source: Brand Republic

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Singapore: Citizen journalism platform Stomp launches mobile portal

Singapore's citizen journalism media platform Stomp announces that it is launching a new mobile Internet portal that will allow users to access articles, post forum threads and look at photographs from social events. The portal will be updated daily and is divided into three sections: Singapore Seen, TalkBack and Club Stomp.
"People living in this fastpaced country want to access news and information anywhere, at a convenient time to them," said regular Stomp user Nicklaus Tan. "Stomp's new mobile portal not only allows users to access the site at their own convenience, it also encourages people to get more involved in citizen journalism."

Singapore Seen provides photos and video sent by citizen reporters while TalkBack offers the ability to post threads and communicate with users. Meanwhile, Club Stomp features updates and information on the country's clubbing scene.

The portal is latest project by Singapore's The Straits Times New Media Unit, after it launched the country's first online TV service, RazorTV, in August 2008.

Source: AsiaOne Digital

Mumbai attacks create media frenzy

The saturation of news by Indian media during the Mumbai terrorist attacks is now a subject of debate for the country's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, who are charging that the intensive live coverage may have helped the terrorists.

Citizen journalists, who used the Internet to post updates and criticisms on services such as Twitter and Flickr, made the realm of Internet reporting an unparalleled sensation. Traditional media were "too slow and inaccurate," citizen journalists said.

Eyewitness reports from blogs, file-sharing and social networking functions on the Internet delivered information "faster than conventional media and challenged some of its reporting," Variety reports. Despite their coverage of the attacks, which some called a "social media experiment in action," citizen journalism reports were often false or inaccurate.

As for the mainstream media, the deputy commissioner of police ordered a blackout of the country's TV news channels for a half an hour, arguing that the transmission of live relay and clips caused "an impediment in the police action" and endangered the lives of hostages and police.

During the MIB's meeting, representatives from the Indian Broadcasting Federation and News Broadcasting Association criticized the government for "failing to keep up with developments in the media industry," and failing to create a procedure for coverage of national emergencies.

Pakistan's media also weighed in on the reporting, with the News describing Indian broadcasters in a "race for propaganda" and providing "unsubstantiated" charges about the origins of the attackers.

The judgment comes after an "explosion of specialist news TV channels in India" in recent years.

Source: Variety

Journalism's problem is a lack of public trust

James O'Shea, ex-editor of the Los Angeles Times, believes that future of newspapers depends on public trust. He believes that newspapers will continue to exist, but that the real question is "what kind of journalism will we have in the newspapers that manage to survive the current wave of circulation and advertising declines plaguing the industry."

He brings up a recent interview with Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell who believes that "the newspaper industry truly still doesn't understand that it is in a business with customers and the business must reflect the needs and demands of the customer. And to the extent that we don't do that, we will disappear." O'Shea does not believe in Zell's philosophy because of "how that vision is applied in newsrooms he controls."
"Instead of scanning the events, policies, tragedies and joys of the world and giving readers a balanced. in-depth, report on what is important, significant and interesting, editors now place a premium on stories that will appeal to "frenzied families" or "carefree couples." These are categories of readers that the paper's marketing studies suggest are turned off by reports of war, corruption and complex issues like financial calamity."

O'Shea compares the what the Tribune is doing to "trying to improve education by replacing the teachers and giving the students only the books they want to read." He believes that "if journalists want serious journalism to survive and thrive, journalists, and only journalists, will have to resolve the central problem we face: The public finds little economic value in what we do. Otherwise they would gladly pay for the news rather than rely on our increasingly unreliable partners in advertising to foot the bill."

Ultimately, O'Shea believes that the "main problem journalism now faces is the lack of public trust in journalists." Coupled with giving away content on the Internet, its no wonder that "the public places little value on something that our own industry thought so little of that it gave it away for free."

He also recognizes that readership is not a problem because if "you combine the print and on-line audiences of the Chicago Tribune or the Los Angeles Times, they both reach more readers than at any time in their history."

"But the system that financed the news that they provide readers for less than the price of a cup of coffee is crumbling, and there's nothing on the horizon to replace it."

O'Shea feels that for newspapers to thrive and prosper they "have to figure out how to deliver journalism that makes the public believe we once again are a public trust, something of value and something they won't hesitate to pay for. Instead many papers today are trying to give readers entertainment, without the drama and without the laughs."

Source: Nieman Watchdog

Newspapers’ bitter prospects for survival

“It is. Are you?” The Independent newspaper’s launch slogan would not sound quite so convincing today. At the time it came into existence in 1986, it thrived on being different from the pack of other broadsheets. However, nobody at the time would have contemplated a newspaper that shared information technology, payroll or personnel functions with a rival group.

While not as radical as the Independent plans, there have been other recent signs the broader industry is embracing changes that would once have been unthinkable.

Five years ago, the idea that one national newspaper would entrust even its printing to the presses of its main rival would have been ridiculed. But this year production of the Telegraph titles shifted to the new and sophisticated Hertfordshire presses of the Times owner, News International.

It is a sign of the times, analysts say. In 2002, 12.8m national newspapers were sold on an average day. This year, it was fewer than 11m and in 2013 it will be slightly above 9m, according to Enders Analysis, the media research specialist.

Advertising revenue across national titles is predicted to fall from £1.9bn last year – a figure broadly flat over the previous five years – to £1.2bn within five years.

“There is no ‘out of the woods’ moment for the UK national press,” Enders analysts said in a recent note, “as the industry will reposition at a lower level of advertising revenue from 2010 and continue to decline.”

The conclusion of the Enders analysis is that, without consolidation or radical cost savings, nine titles under the aegis of the Independent, Mirror and Express groups, may face “divestment or even closure within six years”.

Hard times have made for strange bedfellows in what used to be Fleet Street. The diaspora of the 1980s, with newspaper groups leaving EC4 for Canary Wharf, Wapping, Kensington High Street and south of the Thames, is being reversed, albeit in a small way.

The migration of the Independent and Independent on Sunday’s staff to the Kensington HQ of Daily Mail & General Trust in January is seen by the people who run Britain’s newspapers as the first manifestation of an emerging trend.

“Some pretty bizarre conversations have been going on within our industry,” the head of one national newspaper organisation told the Financial Times. “The Express recently asked the Independent for an estimate of how much it would cost to provide business coverage for them.”

It is strongly rumoured that another group recently offered to provide full editorial coverage – news, sport, business, features and everything else – to a rival for a sum of money.

In such an extreme scenario, a newspaper would only need to employ a few designers and sub-editors to knock editions into shape and a small cadre of commentators and famous names to provide a distinctive voice. The offer was apparently politely declined, but on the grounds it was too expensive rather than unworkable.

A former British newspaper owner, who asked not to be named, said: “The plain truth is that there is an oversupply of newspapers and an undersupply of advertising revenue.

“But there is no lack of demand for information, for intelligent comment, for good journalistic writing. It is just a question of being innovative with regard to using the web and keeping your costs under as great control as possible.”

Douglas McCabe, one of the Enders analysts, said a catastrophic decline in national newspaper display advertising has combined with a structural change that has seen the internet emerge as a key rival. “What it means is meltdown for newspapers,” he said.

As a consequence, newspaper owners will need synergies and consolidation, if not of whole companies, then within groups or possibly alliances across the industry.

“God knows they have got to get together and have those sorts of conversations,” added Mr McCabe.

By Ben Fenton, Chief Media Correspondent

"News is still big, it's the newspaper that got small"

According to Roger Ebert, newspapers are declining in quality and becoming less like "town criers" and more like "neighborhood gossip." Ebert believes the latest evidence of this trend came this week when the Associated Press imposed a 500-word limit on all entertainment interviews.

The word limit applies to all reviews, interviews, news stories, trend pieces and "thinkers," according to Ebert.

Apparently the AP wants its writers to focus on brief celebrity items such as "divorces, affairs, addiction, disease, success, failure, death watches, tirades, arrests, hissy fits, scandals, who has been 'seen with' somebody, who has been 'spotted with' somebody, and 'top ten' lists of the above."

Ebert believes "The CelebCult virus is eating our culture alive, and newspapers voluntarily expose themselves to it. It teaches shabby values to young people, festers unwholesome curiosity, violates privacy, and is indifferent to meaningful achievement. One of the TV celeb shows has announced it will cover the Obama family as 'a Hollywood story.' I want to smash something against a wall."

Essential this obsession with "celebrity culture is infantilizing us," according to Ebert. "We are being trained not to think. It is not about the disappearance of film critics. We are the canaries. It is about the death of an intelligent and curious, readership, interested in significant things and able to think critically. It is about the failure of our educational system. It is not about dumbing-down. It is about snuffing out."

"The news is still big. It's the newspapers that got small," Ebert added.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times via Poynter

National newspapers going free within 10 years

Former editor of the Daily Mirror Piers Morgan said that all national newspapers will be free within 10 years, and his paper should be the kick-off to the transition, according to Press Gazette.

Now a television personality, Morgan's interview in the British Journalism Review outlined the Mirror's path toward survival, starting by beating its competition, The Sun, in going free.

Morgan said he did not see a "future" for the paper any other way, saying Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey needed to realize that the Sun would "kill" the Mirror if it did the same.

Free daily Metro has gained on the Mirror's falling distribution, and is now only 60,000 copies from overtaking the paid paper's daily circulation of 1.42 million, according to ABC figures for October.

Readers are "bombarded" with free papers, Morgan said, which are only getting better in their content and quality.

Morgan praised the efforts of journalists working on the Mirror today who face a "ferociously competitive environment" with TV and the Internet, who face a "more difficult job than their predecessors."

Despite the Mirror's efforts, however, Morgan predicted that newspapers in print form would "die out," and only be around for another 30 years because of the onslaught of new media forms and the free daily paper industry.

"Look, if you gave away a free cup of coffee to every commuter in every city in Britain, eventually nobody is going to buy a coffee because their perception of a cup of coffee is that it's worth nothing;" Morgan said.

Source: Press Gazette