Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sun Online pulls record traffic

SUN Online passed 18 million unique users for the first time in December, defying the traditionally quiet Christmas holiday period as it became the only national newspaper website to post a month-on-month increase in traffic.
The News International website, which incorporates both the Sun and News of the World's online offerings, saw a 15.42% month-on-month increase to post a record 18,961,552 unique users in December, up from 16,427,790 in November.
Year on year Sun Online was up 81.02%, according to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic published today.
Sun Online's network, which includes thesun.co.uk, newsoftheworld.co.uk, page3.com, dreamteamfc.com and sunbingo.co.uk, had a previous record high in October last year, when it pulled in 17,127,539 unique users.
The collapse of Woolworths and predictions of house price falls were not enough to help any of the quality national newspaper websites increase traffic last month compared with their November figures, which were boosted by coverage of the US presidential election.
Guardian News & Media's guardian.co.uk, which publishes MediaGuardian.co.uk, remained the most popular UK newspaper website, with 22,829,024 unique users in December, a fall of 12.34% month on month. Guardian.co.uk was up 43.08% year on year.
Telegraph Media Group's Telegraph.co.uk remained the second most popular UK national newspaper website, drawing closer to guardian.co.uk by pulling in 21,051,959 unique users in December, despite a month-on-month fall of 8.3%. Telegraph.co.uk had a year-on-year increase of 99.55%.
Mail Online had 19,663,467 unique users in December, a fall of 5.78% month on month but up 44.27% year on year.
Times Online recorded 19,116,658 unique users in December, a fall of 11.49% month on month but an increase of 71.09% year on year.
Independent.co.uk had 8,752,008 unique users in December, a month-on-month drop of just 1.53%, but a year-on-year increase of 165.86%.
Mirror Group Digital's network of sites, which includes Mirror.co.uk, recorded 5,324,463 unique users last month, a fall of 10% month on month. A year-on-year comparison was not available.
"We had a really good Christmas and New Year period," said Sun Online editor Pete Picton. "We hit that with good stories at a time when everywhere else was quiet."
Showbiz and television were the highest-ranking areas of the site over the month with stories about Amy Winehouse the highest rated, Picton added.
Sun Online also benefited in December from increased aggregation from sites like digg.com and delicious.com, he said. "It was a formula of good content, then us seeding that well to get pick up," Picton added.
Sun Online drew 34.42% of its audience from the UK in December, a lower figure than the 42% domestic audience share it received in November, to record a total of 6,534,562 UK unique users. The site recorded a total of 302,859,902 page impressions last month.
Guardian.co.uk drew 36.87% of its December traffic from inside the UK – 8,416,168 users – and had 192,372,123 page impressions in total last month.
Last month 32.68% of Telegraph.co.uk users, or 6,878,870, were from the UK. Telegraph.co.uk had 173,681,725 page impressions.
Times Online drew 6,768,188 users from the UK – 35.41% of the total online audience, and total page impressions for December were 125,621,215.
Independent.co.uk drew a larger proportion of its online audience domestically, 41.13%, with 3,599,870 UK users. The site had total page impressions of 38,308,353.
However, Mirror Group Digital had the highest proportion of domestic users among UK national newspaper websites last month with 55.36% – 2,947,871 users – of its total. No page impression data was available.
Mail Online had the lowest proportion of domestic users with 30.32% of its global audience coming from the UK, 5,961,607 unique users. Last month it also recorded 150,736,006 page impressions.

Source: Guardian.co.uk

The customized newspaper is right around the corner, if you're willing to go there

NEWSPAPERS are "one size fits all" publications fighting to survive in a world gravitating toward personalized and niche media. But what if you could have the best of both worlds – the serendipity of browsing a newspaper combined with content and advertising that was tailored just for you?
This idea has been kicking around for years, but in Europe, the Swiss Post (that's the postal service, not a newspaper) and the German tech startup Syntops are making it happen with their Personal News project. This is a small experiment, but a fascinating one that offers a mashup of section fronts from select newspapers in Europe and the U.S. An overview of Personal News, a three-month pilot project that launched in December, was presented by Syntops CEO Gregor Dorsch at this month's conference on Individuated News.
Here's how it works:
You register online and select up to seven newspaper sections by checking a box. Participating newspapers include The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Austria's Der Standard, Switzerland's Tages-Anzeiger and others. You can change your selections daily as long as you do so before the nightly 7 pm cutoff:
The participating newspapers deliver their product in PDF format to the Swiss Post, which then sends them to Syntops where the company's custom software, Syntops GmbH, assembles individualized PDFs. The PDFs are printed and dropped off to Swiss Post by 7 a.m. for delivery to the home by 11 a.m. There also is a digital version of Personal News available online.
The front page of Personal News includes a personal greeting (Good Morning, Mary Lou!) and lists your newspaper choices in an index. The interior pages consist of full pages from the selected newspapers, exactly as they appeared in print.
Personal News is offered in limited geographic areas of Zurich. The experiment was marketed to potential subscribers in this area, who agreed to pay 40 Swiss francs, or about $35 USD, to take part in the project. About 250 people are participating so far, and have agreed to provide feedback as part of the study. Results will be announced after the pilot wraps up at the end of February.
This project is a relatively simple example of "mass customization" in that it involves the generation of individualized PDFs that are assembled and then printed one-by-one on a conventional press. This is a much slower process than what is needed for the printing volume of daily newspapers.
The possibilities are more exciting when you considered the capabilities of the newest digital presses, such as those manufactured by the digital press manufacturer Oce, that enable variable printing on the fly. This means that the each newspaper that comes off the press can be uniquely assembled based on the reader's content and advertising preferences.
Let's think about what we could do with that.
At a very basic level, readers could exclude sections they don't want. For example, I go online for classifieds, so don't bother giving me the print classified sections. While you're at it, you can keep the sports section. Or maybe just give me the sports section on the weekends.
Whenever newspapers change anything, like taking away a comic strip or the TV listings to save money on newsprint, a certain segment of readers howl and even cancel their subscriptions. With this type of personalization, we'd never have to field a complaint like this again.
We also could give readers a way to opt-in for more coverage on subjects they care about. Or better yet, we could transcend the broad and increasingly useless section categories of newspapers to deliver information focused on important life stages and events. If you're faced with taking care of an aging parent, information about elder care would be invaluable. If you're traveling to Africa this summer, wouldn't it be great to see more news coverage about the region you intend to visit? If you're trying to lose weight, how about content that helps you achieve that goal?
Many newspaper readers also get news online. What if your online preferences, based on what you read and the habits of like-minded readers, could help to shape what flows into your customized print edition? What if this content also could include the perspectives of your favorite bloggers?
By the way, I'm not suggesting that we create newspapers solely driven by the personal choices of readers, I just want a mix that's more relevant to me than what any general interest publication can offer.
Now let's talk about revenue. In addition to the potential for more subscription dollars, consider the possibilities for personalized advertising. Suddenly the newspaper becomes like direct mail, with advertisements customized at the household level and only delivered to readers for whom they are relevant. Readers could even opt-in for the types of advertising content they want, such as vacation deals or sales on back-to-school clothes for kids. When my grandmother was very ill, I would have been so grateful to receive ads for Spanish-speaking home health care providers because it took me forever to track them down through calls to individual agencies. Advertising can become a more valuable and relevant service when imagined in this way.
This year, we'll see more experiments with mass customization at the Los Angeles Daily News and Investor's Business Daily. There's a good roundup of forthcoming initiatives in a recent Seybold Online report. And if you're looking for inspiration, read Vin Crosbie's powerful case for mass customization and make plans to attend the Global Conference on Individuated Publishing in Washington DC this June.
Vin summed up the opportunity well in saying, "Give me the consumer the bulletins and urgents plus all the stories about which editors truly think everyone should be informed. But let the consumer pick which sports, teams, and topics fill the rest of the paper. Better that the childless bachelor gets stories about a car he desires than school lunch menus. Better a fashionable young woman gets the stories about the latest couture from Paris and Milan than sports or that AP story on page 7 about record wheat harvests in the Sudan.
"Customization makes the daily newspaper more relevant to each person's interest and needs. It will make the daily newspaper much, much more valuable."

Source: Knight Digital Media Center

Online-Only ‘Not On The Horizon’ - Interview with Jimmy Leach, Digital Director The Independent

The Independent is unlikely to be sold or go online-only despite growing speculation, according to a senior online executive. Jimmy Leach, editorial director for digital, spoke to paidContent:UK hours after Independent News & Media told the stock market it was looking to sell off unprofitable, non-core assets to maintain a healthy balance sheet despite an “unwarranted” share price slump. Leach, the former head of new media at 10 Downing Street who joined the Indie in July, says that an Indie sell-off is not on the cards and that his small team must use social media to drive traffic in lieu of a big marketing budget…

Independent sell-off? Online-only?
: “It’s not on the horizon. Those conversations are above my pay grade but I would have said that [making profit] isn’t why (INM CEO) Tony O’Reilly has newspapers in the first place.” A few people have openly questioned whether the loss-making Indie titles could be sold off and new Evening Standard owner Alexander Lebedev reportedly expressed an interest. But Leach says a more plausible scenario is that INM sells its non-controlling stakes in other companies around the world. Observers have suggested INM scrap the print editions and concentrate on Independent.co.uk—but Leach says that move is highly unlikely.

Exposure through social media:
Independent.co.uk has been busy signing social media partnerships: last November it launched its Independent Minds blogging platform in partnership with LiveJournal; it now has its own YouTube channel and there are content deals with news betting site Hubdub and news aggregator Reddit. “If you can’t spend massive amounts on marketing you have to find other ways of doing it,” he says. “You have to go where the audience is rather than expecting them to come to us.” He says that with a bigger budget the paper would consider investing in advertising to draw people into the site, but then he wonders whether that would make sense in the long term.

Audience vs revenue: Some have questioned whether social media really can lead to increased profits, but that’s definitely Leach’s plan: “The longer the journey they make on the site, the more inventory you’ll sell and the more money you’ll make,” he says. The YouTube deal includes a revenue-sharing agreement, but Leach is realistic about its monetary worth: “YouTube haven’t successfully monetised themselves, let alone [allowing partners] to get a fantastic share… It’s more to drive awareness that we’re here.”

Low resources Independent.co.uk has quietly doubled its online audience to 8.88 million unique users in November, according to ABCe, compared to 4.6 million a year ago. But the Indie has a fraction of the online staff or marketing budget of its rivals: Leach runs a team of just 10 people. INM group revenues increased 27 percent in the nine months to October, though it is unlikely Independent.co.uk is making a major contribution to profits.

Associated move: The Indie and the Independent on Sunday will shortly leave their current London Docklands home and move into DMGT’s Associated Newspapers office in Kensington. The two companies will reportedly share IT resources and Leach predicts the tie-in to end there: “I’d be quite surprised if there was any editorial sharing. I’m not entirely sure what that will entail, I’m sure they’ll discuss all possibilities.”

Source: PaidContent:UK

France’s Le Monde: redesign a la lite

IT has been three years since Le Monde, France’s iconic daily, changed its look. In 2005, the design aimed to get rid of what some referred to as its austere look, with heavy columns of text, and not much display of photography. With that redesign, carried out by Palmer and Watson, came the addition of a large color photograph on the front page ( big step forward for LeMonde), as well as a typographic overhaul, with a new version of Matthew Carter’s Rocky, that very attractive font. Of course, the intention of that new design formula was to capture younger readers, something that has become a cliché statement as editors and publishers haul out a new design.
Last Monday, LeMonde appeared with a new look——redesign a la lite, I would call it—-introducing a navigation bar to highlight three stories on the inside. Headlines on Page One appear bigger and heavy rules separate topics. Page Three displays a single topic and a huge five-column photograph and what appears to be a dramatic cut in the amount of text presented. For LeMonde, this is, indeed, a big step, approximating a popular newspaper or magazine more than the classic, text-driven icon we have grown accustomed to. I bet this new Page Trois has some editor crying in a corner.
Inside page layout does not present too many changes, except for those 12 point black rules to separate topics. Indeed, this LeMonde is more pictorial, but that is the limit of the “new” in this relaunch.
Briefs are still not so brief, but they do appear (progress!).
Perhaps the more dramatic visual change is in the second book, Economie, where major pieces are displayed with large headlines, illustrations and with a series of secondary readings that do help readers get through reportages and analysis of economic news.
There are no surprises here, just a good basic clean up, a bolder use of headlines and photographs, and, for LeMonde, an approximation in 2009 to what many other dailies worldwide already did ten or more years ago.
To me, the surprise, is that now it is normal procedure for even the most classic of newspapers to make design changes three years after introducing its last redesign. It is a good thing. Constant evolution is better than paralysis for the sake of tradition.

Source: Garcia Media

Online newspaper readership climbs 16 percent

DESPITE a virtual meltdown in the newspaper industry, the nation's top 10 online newspapers posted a 16 percent increase in December Web traffic, according to a report released Tuesday by Nielsen Online.
Such results bode well for an industry that is currently undergoing tumultuous times, with a growing number of pulp-based publications contemplating bankruptcy, scaling back delivery days, or switching to an online-only format, as readership continues to decline and advertisers shift their spending online.
Unique visitors in the month of December rose to 40.1 million, compared with the same time a year ago, according to the report.
Chuck Schilling, Nielsen Online's research director agency and media, noted in a statement:
Nine of the top 10 newspaper Web sites experienced positive year-over-year growth.
News coverage in December ranged from how the 2008 holiday season would be affected by the weakening economy to Obama's latest nomination for his administration, all of which helped to drive this impressive growth.
The New York Times posted a 6 percent increase in its December Internet traffic to 18.2 million unique visitors, compared with the same time a year ago, according to the report.
USA Today jumped 15 percent to 11.4 million unique visitors and The Washington Post climbed 12 percent to 9.5 million.
Publications posting substantial increases included the New York Daily News with a staggering 99 percent increase to 5.9 million, the Los Angeles Times with a 73 percent jump to 8 million and the New York Post with a 60 percent increase to 4.6 million.
Despite such gains, the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which audits the paid circulation figures of publications, noted the six-month average for the top 25 U.S. Sunday newspapers, dropped by 3.2 percent to 7.2 percent for the period ending in September, over year ago figures. The Washington Post fell 3.2 percent, while the New York Daily News dropped 7.2 percent.

Source: cnet news

British public losing trust in newspapers, survey finds

LESS than a fifth of British people say they trust newspapers, down from about 30 per cent last year and well below the global average, according to a new report published today.
The 10th annual Edelman Global Trust Barometer, based on a survey of more than 4,500 college-educated adults with an interest in news, found that despite the take-up of social and digital media, 25 to 34-year-olds now trust the traditional media more than the older generation, aged 35 to 64.
But trust in the media overall has fallen in the past year, with 19 per cent of respondents in the UK saying they trusted newspapers.
This is down from 29 per cent in last year's survey and compares with a global figure of 34 per cent.
Television fared slightly better, and was trusted as a news source by a third of the people questioned.
In the year that saw widespread coverage of the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand affair, trust in radio fell from 53 per cent to 33 per cent.
According to Edelman, which interviewed people in 20 countries, the UK now has the lowest level of trust in the media as an institution, at 28 per cent.
The countries where respondents felt they trusted the media the most were Indonesia, on 79 per cent, and China, with 73 per cent.
The Edelman research was based on telephone interviews over a six-week period in November and December with people with a high household income, who said they regularly consumed the news media and had an interest in public policy issues.

Source: Press Gazette

Papers must charge for websites to survive

You don't get free gas from a gas station.
You don't get free meals from a restaurant.
You wouldn't walk into the Googleplex ... that's Google's corporate headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. ... and expect a staffer to rush to the lobby with 1,000 free shares of Google stock for you.
At least we don't think so.
So why is the newspaper industry the only one in America that is expected to give its product ... in its electronic version ... away for free?
Wrestling with that question will determine the fate of this nation's newspapers.
Our answer: except for the "Big Four" national players, newspapers will not survive unless they 1) convert out of print and totally into the Internet, 2) confine themselves to local news and, most importantly, 3) charge for it.
Astonishingly ... despite many erstwhile titans now tottering on the brink of bankruptcy or outright extinction ... we're talking about big ones like the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, Rocky Mountain News, Chicago Sun-Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer ... almost no one in the industry charges for their web site product. Even as they swirl down the drain, they give it away for free.
"Giving away information for free on the Internet while still charging 50 cents to $1 for the print version of the paper was one of the most fundamentally flawed business decisions of the past 25 years," says Prof. Paul J. MacArthur, who teaches public relations and journalism at Utica College. "Newspapers told their paying customers that the information truly had no value. They told their paying customers that they were suckers. Why would anyone pay 50 cents for something he or she can get for free? This poorly conceived and obviously flawed strategy has helped put the newspaper industry into its current financial condition and hastened the demise of many publications."
Prof. MacArthur is one of the experts across the nation who responded to my web site, www.ourblook.com, and our special project examining the future, if any, of newspapers.

Step 1: Papers are being overwhelmed by enormous newsprint, production and delivery costs ... and a huge amount of staffing associated with them. All no longer needed.

Newspapers can still "deliver" their product ... instead of being flipped from a speeding pickup truck at 4 a.m. on or near a driveway, its content can be delivered electronically to a customer's computer or to a portable wireless electronic reading device such as Amazon's Kindle.
What's more, "content providers, once called newspapers, are experimenting with on-demand delivery particularly to mobile telephones," says Michael Ray Smith, communications professor at Campbell University. "Telephones are computers and computers make moving information more convenient than ever. In some cases, information alerts and bursts can be downloaded from a source at work or home or even in transit and then read while on the road."
Let's hope that papers have a heart and offer the best severance packages and retraining possibilities they can to their blue-collar workforce, many of whom tend to be long-term, loyal employees.
But obsolescence is obsolescence.
Oh, yes, the four papers that probably can survive in print ... of course they're USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Washington Post.
They're in the right place ... "I see New York and Washington always having newspapers because they are the seats of financial and political power," says David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, an influential public relations firm in D.C.
They have a national base in their financial and/or political reporting and an affluent readership that surely is strong enough to keep them going.

Step 2: Carve out a niche that makes the paper's web site dominant, irreplaceable and one of a kind.

"I would like to offer a two-word solution to the financial woes of our ink-stained friends: 'local news,' " says business consultant Jonathan Stark, who has consulted for a number of U.S. papers. "Newspapers have real roots in the communities they serve. They have history, tradition and personal relationships. In some cases, they are a source of local pride. If newspapers are willing to let go of their print-based history, invest in their writers, embrace technology and dedicate themselves to being THE source for local news, they will have readers for as long as people can read."
Who else can do it better? Local TV station news anchors and skimpy throwaway weekly papers can't. They feed off the big local paper anyway.
While papers have cut their editorial staffs not only to the bone but inside the bone, there's no excuse for them not coming up with a dynamite local news website. That's because they can reallocate the staffers who work in national or international news or other areas of the paper to the local effort. Go for it ... marshal all the resources into this one specialty. Local news, local features, local business, local sports, local commentary. If necessary, use "citizen journalists" for neighborhood news. Cover the community top to bottom.
This is not only a financial and logistical advantage. It creates a journalistic improvement, too, as news can be instantly added and obsolete or inaccurate information removed. The expertly crafted story or hard-charging enterprise piece or beautiful set of photographs can remain on the site for readers' enjoyment for a while instead of becoming tomorrow's bird cage liner.
In doing so, it would behoove the papers to play it straight. Millions of readers have deserted newspapers in disgust over political agenda-driven reporting.

Step 3: How much to charge? The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, one of the few if not the only sizable metro paper to charge for its web site, makes readers pay $4.95 a month. Since that's about 16 cents a day, we'd say it's far too low. We'd make it a nice round number, easy to remember ... $20 a month. That hopefully would bring in a substantial amount of revenue.

Readers, of course, have become conditioned to free content on the Internet. Many expect it, some stridently demand it. Can that habit be broken?
"The only way you can charge online is if you have something so special that no one else can re-create it," says Paul Swider, a former St. Petersburg Times reporter who also did a citizen journalist web site for the paper. "Don't charge for national politics because there's 1,000 other outlets to which the reader can turn, so you're done. But if you have a synthesis or data or other unique quality of content that others can't duplicate, you could charge for it and succeed."
That means local news.
And what of the current business model of newspapers ... the one that has them give content away free on the Net in hopes of luring huge number of readers and the attendant "page views" to lure advertisers. Well, if it works, why are so many papers failing?
Papers should do both ... charge for their content and work hard to get advertising on the site. Wouldn't a lot of advertisers prefer quality over quantity in readership ... wouldn't potential business customers be a lot more likely to be those who pay for the paper instead of those who freeload?
Walter E. Hussman Jr., publisher of the Democrat-Gazette, noted in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal in 2007 that the U.S. newspaper industry collectively spends about $7 billion a year to gather news. "By offering this news for free and selling it to aggregators like Google, Yahoo and MSN for a small fraction of what it costs to create it, newspaper readership and circulation have declined," he wrote. "Why would readers buy a newspaper when they can get the same information online for free?"
He added this point: ads have much more impact in print than on a computer screen. "While consumers often find pop-up ads a distraction (on a web site) and banner ads as more clutter, readers often seek out the advertising in newspapers."
Hussman's paper, incidentally, while not exactly flourishing, has suffered much less advertising and circulation declines than most other of his peers. Since Hussman whipped the much larger Gannett in Little Rock's famed newspaper war of the early '90s, we'd say he knows how to survive in this business.
Which brings us back to our original question: why do people expect newspaper web sites to be free?
And there's no good answer. The so-called experts use airy, meaningless phrases like "because that's the Internet culture" as if this notion just floated down from heaven somehow.
In fact, that's how Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who benefits immensely from basically free news, views it. In an interview with Fortune's Adam Lashinsky, he actually said, "the culture of the Internet is that information wants to be free."
Information doesn't want to be free any more than gasoline wants to be free or food wants to be free. When Mr. Schmidt stands in the lobby of the Googleplex and hands out free shares of his company stock, then maybe we can believe the "free" rationale. Until then, papers should charge for what they do so they don't go out of business. Simple as that.

Source: Knight Digital Media Center

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Times revamps Saturday issue

The Times's Saturday issue is being revamped. It's to have four new sections - sport, Saturday Review (a broadsheet for arts and books), Weekend (lifestyle) and Playlist (an A5-shaped what's on guide). The glossy magazine, also refreshed, remains. The main news section will now accommodate money.
The point of the exercise is to make the paper easier to navigate and is clearly the result of improved printing facilities. Instead of tucking sections into each other, they will now appear separately, with the broadsheet acting as a sort of "breaker" among the sections.

Source: Guardian.co.uk

Could editorial outsourcing save newspapers?

Editorial outsourcing has frequently been presented throughout the Western world in a very negative light. The idea of trained American or European journalists and copy editors losing their jobs to workers across the world in India or Australia who will work for far less has appalled many, and others worry about a drop in quality. But is it really as bad as it sounds, or are people rejecting a good business model in favour of a misplaced emotional attachment to traditional values and a fear of change?
The Editors Weblog spoke to Tony Joseph, CEO and co-founder of Mindworks Global Media, which takes on copy editing, layout, and website optimization for clients around the world, and James MacPherson, Editor of Pasadena.now, who has taken the controversial step of hiring a staff of writers in India for his site which reports on local events in Pasadena, California.

Mindworks: an extension of client's newsdesk
Tony Joseph explained that what his teams essentially do is become an extension of the client's news desk. Each member of staff only works for one publication as part of a dedicated team, and the team keeps the same hours as the newsroom with which they are working so that they can stay in constant communication via instant messaging, phone and email. He stressed that his editors only come in after the content has been generated, and after a senior editor has decided where the article will go.
Each member of staff works as one only one publication and stays in constant communication with the client's newsdesk via instant messaging
One of the fears of editors when contemplating outsourcing is that workers will be out of their sight and hence out of their control, and mistakes will be made. Joseph explained the steps that Mindworks takes to reduce this. Two crucial principles which he described as "absolutely essential" are "zero loss of visibility and zero loss of control". The work of Mindworks' staff
is visible to everyone in the newsroom chain, as they access the client's content management system, and Joseph insists that his editors work within the client's existing hierarchies. A six to eight week alignment and training period is used to ensure that the work of the Mindworks team is fully integrated into that of the client. Various indicators are used to track the alignment process, such as headline editing; Joseph explained that in the first week of alignment 25-30% of headlines written by his staff are changed at the client's end, so they analyse and assess why these are being changed and make it part of the training.

Pasadena: doing away with reporters
MacPherson has adopted an unusual strategy for news reporting, one which he compares to the work of an intelligence agency, or newspapers in the 1920s. He has entirely separated the process of content gathering and writing. In fact, none of the people he employs could be described as 'reporters' in the traditional sense, rather he has 'observers,' who are "boots on the ground" in Pasadena, and 'writers' in India. The observers attend events and gather data, generally in the form of audio and video clips. Macpherson or his wife then put together an assignment package, containing interview transcripts, video clips, links to web resources or anything else relevant and this is then sent to the writers in India. The writers save their articles within the site's CMS, where it is checked by management before it is published. "It would be absurd," commented MacPherson, "to put anything out to the public that had not been proofread here in Pasadena."
Observers are "minimum wage workers," MacPherson explained, and the India-based writers are paid between $7.50 and $10 for each article, which usually takes them under an hour to produce. So compared to paying American journalists, this is undoubtedly a cheaper option. MacPherson was vehement that he had not hired Indian writers to replace Americans; rather he hired the Indians first, then hired five additional Americans in response to intense criticism, and was forced to let the Americans go when advertising revenue was showing no increases. Outsourcing writing "has saved our publication," he emphasised, "we wouldn't be a viable business without it."

Trained journalists
Both Joseph and MacPherson only employ trained journalists for their outsourcing. Joseph clarified that his recruits are either from India's top journalism schools, or have ample experience in the field: an average of five years amongst junior staff. Many of his staff have worked in the US. MacPherson explained that he found high quality writers via Craigslist and other websites and he has six people employed on a part time freelance basis. One of his Dehli-based workers is actually originally from Orange County, California, not far from Pasadena itself.

Is outsourcing the future?
Tony Joseph is confident that his company will continue to grow: "our engagements are increasing rapidly both in terms of number and size of operations." Currently, Mindworks handles 13 or 14 titles. He believes that the outsourcing concept is "gaining momentum" as newspapers look to make cost-cuts and increase efficiency in this time of crisis.
MacPherson is considering hiring more writers in response to a "huge influx of advertising," as a result, he believes, of the fact that "small community websites are beginning to supplant print newspapers." He explained that he is developing "a proof of concept website that the industry can look to," and expressed his hope that the methods he develops can be used by small and medium size community newspapers and websites to keep "doing what they are doing and survive." As a general business model, he proposed the idea of having a few veteran journalists and editors, the kind of people who are "the heart and soul of the local newspaper," supported by 'observers' on the ground and writers, researchers and designers in India.
The Telegraph Media Group was recently the latest major news organisation to announce that it was outsourcing sub editing of some of the Daily and Sunday Telegraph weekend supplements. It is using Pagemasters, an Australian company owned by the Australian Associated Press, which counts Fairfax media among its clients. Telegraph digital editor Edward Roussel explained that his belief that "Newspaper-web companies should focus internal resources on what they do best: creating premium editorial content." Another option is to adopt a form of in-house outsourcing, such as that which Reuters has been operating for several years. It employs a team of about 100 financial journalists in Bangalore who cover Wall Street news. Editor in chief David Schlesinger justified the move by explaining that the New York journalists could now be sent out and about to cover more interesting stories. A crucial difference is that these journalists are Reuters staff and their office is a Reuters bureau, but the fact remains that they are reporting on things happening on the other side of the world, and doing so successfully.
If newspaper revenue continues to fall, people will have to look for more ways to cut costs and editorial outsourcing may well become more and more appealing, even if there is initial reluctance at the staff cuts and modified work practices that have to be imposed. From a business standpoint, it makes sense to get the work done wherever it can be done cheapest, as long as the quality is maintained, and doing things as cheaply as possible is increasingly becoming a must. As MacPherson put it, "people keep saying they don't like what I'm proposing, but what's the alternative?"

Source: Editorweblog.org

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Let's see in 4 years

LET'S be generous and give Obama the whole four years of his initial term to make significant progress on the following issues. Here are some questions about “change” that we are going to be keeping track of until 2012.
* Will Obama repeal Patriot Acts I and II as well as reversing Bush’s signing statement and acknowledging the repeal of the John Warner Defense Authorization Act?
* Will Obama support Dennis Kucinich’s efforts to bring war crimes charges against Bush, Cheney and others for deceiving the country into a war or will he protect them against such charges like Nancy Pelosi has done?
* Will Obama bring war crimes charges against Bush, Cheney and others for authorizing torture and will the torture of suspects under U.S. detention, a complete violation of both the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, cease under an Obama administration?
* Will Obama withdraw American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan without sending them away again to bomb another broken-backed third world country in the name of a UN-supported “humanitarian” war?
* Will Obama cease his support for the Bush-administration backed banker bailouts, hated by the majority of Americans, and target the real cause of the problem - the Federal Reserve - or will he continue to give taxpayers’ money to banks who are merely hoarding it all for themselves?
* Will Obama seek to continue the militarization of America and preparations for martial law through Northcom and the secret government or will he dismantle the police state that has been constructed over the last eight years by the Bush administration?
There can be no excuses - either Obama will be proven to be a liar or he will, backed by Democratic control of Congress and the Senate, follow through on his mandate for “change”.
People like Congressman Ron Paul are too long in the tooth and have watched too many political campaigns to glibly jump on the bandwagon of political platitudes.
Those caught up in Obama fever who would have otherwise voted for Ron Paul should heed the warnings of Dr. No.
As the coming of the new messiah drew closer, Paul had some sobering reminders for a CNN audience last night, pointing out that Obama will not cut spending, government will get bigger and more intrusive, foreign policy will remain the same and unpopular financial bailouts will continue.
We hope we are wrong, but forgive us for our cynicism, because whatever has emerged from the two-party monopoly in the past has always proven to be the problem - not the solution.

Barrack Obama Acceptance Speech

IF there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.
It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.
It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.
We are, and always will be, the United States of America.
It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.
It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.
A little bit earlier this evening, I received an extraordinarily gracious call from Senator McCain. Senator McCain fought long and hard in this campaign. And he's fought even longer and harder for the country that he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine. We are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader.
I congratulate him; I congratulate Governor Palin for all that they've achieved. And I look forward to working with them to renew this nation's promise in the months ahead.
I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart, and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on the train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden. And I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years the rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation's next first lady, Michelle Obama, Sasha and Malia.... I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the new White House.
And while she's no longer with us, I know my grandmother's watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight. I know that my debt to them is beyond measure.
To my sister Maya, my sister Alma, all my other brothers and sisters, thank you so much for all the support that you've given me. I am grateful to them.
And to my campaign manager, David Plouffe the unsung hero of this campaign, who built the best -- the best political campaign, I think, in the history of the United States of America. To my chief strategist David Axelrod who's been a partner with me every step of the way.
To the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you've sacrificed to get it done.
But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you. It belongs to you.
I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn't start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston. It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give $5 and $10 and $20 to the cause.
It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation's apathy who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep.
It drew strength from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on doors of perfect strangers, and from the millions of Americans who volunteered and organized and proved that more than two centuries later a government of the people, by the people, and for the people has not perished from the Earth.
This is your victory.
And I know you didn't do this just to win an election. And I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -- two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.
Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us.
There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after the children fall asleep and wonder how they'll make the mortgage or pay their doctors' bills or save enough for their child's college education.
There's new energy to harness, new jobs to be created, new schools to build, and threats to meet, alliances to repair. The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.
There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.
But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.
What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.
This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.
Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.
In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.
Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.
Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.
As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.
And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.
And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.
To those -- to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you. And to all those who have wondered if America's beacon still burns as bright: Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.
That's the true genius of America: that America can change. Our union can be perfected. What we've already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.
This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.
She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin. And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can. At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can. When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.
She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.
A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.
Yes we can.
America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves -- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?
This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment.
This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.
Thank you. God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

USA Today to stop publishing international edition, seeks partner to continue operation

USA Today said Friday it will stop publishing its international edition on Feb. 6 but will look for partners in Europe and South America to continue operating it.
Under such an arrangement, similar to one USA Today recently launched in the Caribbean, USA Today would produce the articles, photos and other content, and the partners would print the newspaper locally and sell ads themselves. USA Today would get an unspecified per-copy licensing fee.
"This allows us to continue our international presence under more favorable financial conditions," USA Today said in a statement to The Associated Press.
The paper said discussions were continuing, but it gave no timetable or word on prospects.
USA Today, published by McLean, Va.-based Gannett Co., is the nation's top-selling newspaper with an average daily circulation of 2.3 million. About 60,000 is for the international edition.
USA Today, like most other newspapers, has seen advertising revenue drop as the recession compounds declines from the ongoing migration of readers and advertisers to the Internet. This week, the paper announced a one-year wage freeze and joined other Gannett properties in imposing one-week unpaid furloughs for most U.S. employees.
The decision to pull back abroad comes as its national rivals, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, are both expanding, particularly online.
The Journal, under News Corp., already has European and Asian editions in print and is looking to gain readers by developing a Web site and content tailored to readers there, not simply stories about those regions written for a U.S. audience. The Times, meanwhile, has combined forces online with a sister paper, the International Herald Tribune.
Ken Doctor, a media analyst with research firm Outsell Inc., said all papers are having to focus on what they do best, and as an American-focused product, USA Today may be deciding that the costs of publishing abroad weren't worthwhile.
USA Today's Web site would remain available to visitors abroad.

Source: AP

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

UK: Sales woe continues for quality dailies

ALL the national quality daily newspapers recorded month-on-month and year-on-year sales falls in December.
The Independent simultaneously recorded the smallest month-on-month decline and the biggest year-on-year fall in the quality daily market last month, according to the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations figures published today.
In December its headline circulation included 43,854 copies on average each day distributed overseas.
The paper's circulation was 200,242, down 12.33% year on year, but only 0.43% down compared with November. Just 115,496 copies of the Independent – 58% of total circulation – were sold at full rate in the UK.
The Times remained just above the 600,000 mark – by 962 copies – with a 3.36% fall from November and a 2.33% decline year on year.
News International's quality daily distributed 23,301 copies overseas and had a full-rate UK circulation of 398,031, 66% of its headlines December sales figure.
The Daily Telegraph fell just 1.35% compared with November, from 835,497 to 824,244 copies sold each day on average. But this was a 5.64% decline year on year from 873,523 in December 2007.
The Daily Telegraph's full rate circulation in the UK was 355,394 in December – just 43% of its total sale. The paper's overseas distribution was 40,081.
The Guardian, which is published along with MediaGuardian.co.uk by Guardian News & Media, had a circulation of 343,010 in December.
This was 4.29% down compared with November and 2.95% less than December 2007. 81% of the Guardian's circulation was at full-price, the highest in the quality daily market.
The Guardian distributed 38,510 copies overseas and had a full rate circulation in the UK of 273,885.
The Financial Times recorded a circulation of 435,319 in December, 2.94% down compared with November and 2.23% down year on year.
Last month the Financial Times had a full-rate circulation in the UK of 77,205. 134,318 copies were circulated in the US, 126,071 in Europe and 39,756 in Asia.
Last month, the Guardian distributed 14,372 bulk copies – copies sold to hotels, airlines and gyms for a nominal fee and given away to customers.
The Independent's bulk sales were 35,575 in December, the Daily Telegraph distributed 98,336 across the month with the Times distributing 55,569.

Source: The Guardiaon

The Profitable Strategy of Newsroom Integration


The Editors Weblog has been following the Integrated Newsroom trend for several years. Major papers around the world from the Guardian to the New York Times to Kuwait's Awan, and the Hindustan Times of India have merged print and online operations. But there are plenty of papers that haven't taken the integrated route. In the following article, Espen Egil Hansen, Editor-in-Chief of Verdens Gang (VG) Multimedia, Norway, shows that keeping print and digital teams separate at his paper have led to steady profits for both newsrooms.

I am generally sceptical of the idea of one media house, one newsroom. When was the last time anyone won both the 100 meter dash and marathon during an Olympic game?
There are two fundamental issues that call for a greater degree of separation and specialization - what I like to call the model of focus.
First and foremost; newspaper and internet are by nature so diverse that they demand completely different working methods and organizations in order to succeed. This applies at all levels: in the editorial department, sales, distribution and management. To argue that "newspaper" and "online news" are the same because both are news, makes as much sense as saying that a roaring river and a glass of water are the same because both are water.

"The newspaper and the internet are by nature so diverse that they demand completely different working methods and organizations in order to succeed."

The strength of the online journalism is the possibility to develop the product minute by minute, interacting with the readers. Their experience and presence (the readers are where we aren't, they know what we don't) becomes an integrated part of the continuous journalistic working process. An article does not have a deadline, the readers submits comments, we ad links and so on.
The strengths of the newspaper are opposite. Towards deadline one search for the most exclusive story and the best possible angle on another story. These stories are then being thoroughly edited and presented on a limited space.
While internet by nature has its strength in that the users themselves can choose from a stream of information (the roaring river), the strength of the newspaper is its well edited presentations (the glass of water with a twist of lemon).

"The idea of integration is a threat both to the printed product and for the online news site."

Furthermore, the basic differences in business models, rate of development, distribution and so on are also so substantial that they in my opinion demands specialized organizations in order to succeed.
The second fundamental issue that calls for a greater degree of separation is that we are living in the middle of a media climate change! The glaciers (the traditional publishing houses) are melting, the storms (the competitors) are getting violent and coming from unexpected places, and the changing circumstances for life are such that ancient species must succumb to new ones (goodbye Tribune - hello Facebook)
Where we earlier had to cope with a certain number of newspaper and channels on TV and radio, we are now exposed to an infinite offer of information wherever we are. As I am writing this, on one of the first days of 2009, I am simultaneously following one of many Twitter-feeds reporting a new round of bombing in Gaza. The news agencies will report the same stories during the next hour, but without the nerve and credibility of someone who are in the midst of the falling bombs...

"As I am writing this I am simultaneously following one of many Twitter-feeds reporting a new round of bombing in Gaza."

In this entirely new media landscape, I believe the specialists will win. The ones that are best adapted and that are able to change fast enough. What until now has been regarded as the power of publishing houses - tradition, position, stability and financial security - is now turning to become a weakness.
The idea of integration is in my opinion a threat both to the printed product and for the online news site. To the printed product because the integration in a way conceals a level of costs and way of working that is not sustainable in the long run. And the threat to the online site is that it will inherit the way of working, organizing and a level of cost that is not competitive in this market.
In the publishing house of VG we have, with success, chosen the model of focus. We have two companies, two boards, to editorial departments, to chief editors, two managing directors and so on. We cooperate where appropriate for both organizations (which means a lot), but at the same time we are free to choose whatever necessary in order to succeed on our own platform. We've made some tough choices. While down-sizing by 100 people in the print organization we hired 40 more online. No one was moved from print to online. With this model of focus we've achieved the number one position online and in the print market. Both editions have for the last couple of years been very profitable.
Our success is obviously not a guarantee for this model of focus being the best one in the years to come. Neither is our success with the model a guarantee that it will work in all other media houses, and markets. It makes greater sense to integrate if you're at a number two position (or lower), than if you are leading in the market. The current financial turmoil is accelerating the media climate change, and we must constantly evaluate whether our organization is optimal.

Source: Editorsweblog.org

Monday, January 12, 2009

What this year holds for newspapers

IF 2008 was a bad year for newspapers, 2009 could be worse. Analysts expect ad revenue to decline even further before perhaps starting to come back in 2010, as the classified woes that have plagued the industry show no signs of abating and Detroit further slims its ad budgets. Newspapers will begin experimenting with new forms of delivery, such as eliminating print editions in favor of the web, and further cut back on outlying circulation that’s unimportant to advertisers. More jobs, too, will be eliminated, though that’s a strategy that will not continue indefinitely as papers reach a point where they can no longer cut back. In order to keep advertisers, newspapers are expected to further simplify the ad buying process, hoping to curry favor with harried print media buyers. Ed Strapagiel, executive vice president of Toronto-based market research and consulting firm Kubas Consultants, talks to Media Life about the coming year in newspapers. This is the first in a series of 2009 previews with experts in different fields of media.

What was the biggest story in newspapers in 2008?
From a newspapers point of view it would be the decline of classified advertising due to continued poor automobile sales and the real estate bust in the U.S.
And now, with a weakened economy, this affects newspapers in print classifieds and secondly in online revenue.

What is the single most important thing for media buyers and planners to know about newspapers in 2009?
I bet they already know this, but right now they can drive some pretty favorable deals. Secondly, they can do especially well if they can increase their newspaper spend. The rate of return on any additional spend can pay off huge.


How will the recession affect newspapers?
In the last two or three recessions, newspapers were the first to suffer and the last to recover. So I don’t see why that pattern should change.
The other issue is that the last couple recessions, particularly 2000 and 2001, newspapers came back at a significantly lower ratio versus GDP. Not only was there cyclical downturn but also permanent downturn.
In a recession, advertisers forget about business as usual and reevaluate on a clean-slate basis. The past couple of recessions, when newspapers did recover, it was at a level lower in relation to the economy than previously.

What are three trends to watch for in 2009 in newspapers?
Format reduction--newspapers saving some money on newsprint. If you’re an ad agency type you know a half page in smaller format isn’t as effective as a larger format, and so there will be some issues there.
Newspapers are rationalizing some of the more expensive distribution, including out-of-town copies, and that will appear to reduce circulation. But a lot of that circulation was ineffective in the first place, so we have to be careful of overreacting.
Also, a number of newspapers will try to simplify their approach to the marketplace. Buying newspapers can be very complicated, there are different sections and peripheral publications, and certainly newspapers have a reputation of being difficult to buy. I expect some work in that area but it will take a long time to completely change.
And newspapers will still work on their online offerings, both in terms of content and appeal to web surfers and usefulness and programs for advertisers.

What will be the single biggest change in the industry over the next few years?

Unfortunately newspapers haven’t really figured out the online model yet; some homepages have 100 links on them. There’s an issue of if they should have a dedicated online sales force. So there are still a whole lot of questions.
I think longer term, probably what we’ll see is a far simpler, streamlined approach to advertising selling. A smaller, better, faster, smarter and cheaper sort of thing, with much less emphasis on sales reps and custom deals and much more on online and automated pricing.
There are a few papers out there doing this now, but if you look at Google AdWords, which handles print and TV and radio, they do it all without human interaction. So looking down the road, that will have to become the way to sell. The old system where you have to talk to four different reps to get everything done just won’t work.
Having said all that, newspapers as a product will still remain very viable for a long time.

How is new technology influencing newspapers?
In some ways newspapers are seeing local classified advertising and other local advertising being eroded by all sorts of local classified sites and community sites.
Some are owned by newspapers, some are competitors, and it’s not just Craigslist. In every city there’s probably dozens of others. Some are free listing sites, but they will sell an enhanced listing. No one of these has a particularly large market share, but the sheer quantity is taking money from the marketplace.
Having said that, newspapers are trying to understand how to cope and deal with them. They’ve focused on Craigslist but they haven’t been able to exploit its weaknesses. They’re still trying to figure them out.

How many more newspapers will go to online-only at least one day a week?
That’s certainly starting to happen already. There are a couple of papers in the U.S. that have done some cutback things on Mondays, a typically low newspaper day. Also, some are cutting classifieds on certain days of the week.
So that’s all a part of pulling back, but it’s a slippery slope because one of the things about a daily newspaper is, it’s a daily newspaper. You have to be out there and consistent, as soon as you start playing with that and pulling back, you can lose your top of mind.

When will we see an end to the massive layoffs in the industry?
Particularly in the U.S. but also around the world, one expected the fourth quarter to be very poor. But what happened is retailers had already geared up for Christmas, so fourth quarter may be a little soft but not a disaster.
But going into the start of 2009, retailers have basically prepared themselves for a lower level of sales. When you get that, you don’t spend a lot on advertising. So the first two quarters of this year could be pretty terrible.
Looking ahead for this year, the industry’s expectations are at rock bottom.
We do a manual survey every November and ask what to expect for next year, and the news is very grim indeed. Going forward we expect newspapers to bring in about 10 to 15 percent less revenue than last year, or that’s the scenario they’re planning for.
And knowing that, they’re going to have to cut costs. The only way they can make significant cuts is by reducing staff, but even that process can go so far.

Will classifieds begin to turn around anytime soon, or is that going to be dwindling from here out?
I would expect them to start turning around in the second half of this year, but the recovery process will be very slow. A lot of it depends on the economy and various push-pull cycles. People will eventually have to get a new car, etc.
I do expect a bit of an upturn in the second half of this year, but in all likelihood it won’t be a sharp turnaround at all.

When will we start to see newspaper ad revenue recover?
I think it will be up in 2010 over 2009. This year could be the bottom.

Do you expect circulation declines to begin to plateau anytime soon and why?
I expect circulation to keep declining slightly. Part of it will be due to loss of newspapers in competitive markets, such as Denver.
In other cases newspapers are finding ways of crawling back and becoming more local. A lot of job losses in the business have been on the editorial staff, so you might say, “Gee, the quality of the product is going to diminish.”

But on the other hand, in the immediate past, all those journalists hadn’t made much progress in reversing the decline of readership, so what are we really we talking about here?

Source: Medialife

Middle East: new media reporting on Gaza

THE current Israeli-Gaza conflict has proved ground-breaking in terms of the way that news is being spread. For a start, Israel has blocked foreign journalists from entering Gaza since launching its air attacks on December 27, so although Al Jazeera has been reporting extensively as it had correspondents already inside, as does the AP, many media organizations have no reliable source of independent information. It is the perfect time for blogs, Twitter, and other forms of citizen journalism to show their merits.
Israel has adopted various alternative methods of spreading information, bypassing traditional news sources and "enlisting an arsenal of Internet tools to take their message directly to a global audience," according to the New York Times.
The Israeli government started to use Twitter last week, the first government to do so. The New York consulate held a Twitter based 'press conference' on December 30 hosted by David Saranga, consul for media and public affairs. The Jerusalem Post reported that thousands of online "attendees" followed the consulate's Twitter page. Saranga explained that Twitter is useful as is "reaches a young generation that does not consume mainstream media" and that due to the anti-Israeli sentiment that was being expressed on Twitter, the consulate felt it was "important to present a voice."
The Israeli army, the IDF, set up its own YouTube channel on December 29, which shows videos with titles such as "weapons in Gaza mosque struck by Israel Air Force 1 Jan 2009" or "IDF artillery and helicopters strike Hamas terrorists involved in Gaza fighting 4 Jan 2009." It has more than 13,500 subscribers and the channel has been viewed over 1 million times.
The PR battle has also targeted Facebook, with rival Facebook groups supporting each side both gaining tens of thousands of members, and an application called 'QassamCount' which allows users to 'donate their status' to show the number of rockets that hit Israel. There have also be protests against the attacks on Second Life.
So it is relatively easy to find out the official Israeli standpoint on matters. But it is much harder to get independent perspectives from inside the Gaza territory. According to the Guardian on December 28, "few bloggers are reporting from Gaza itself because of the lack of electricity." Poynter writer Alan Abbey wrote that what he had found so far on Twitter (in English) was "heated rhetoric from non-Gazans and international observers." He believes that Twitter and blog coverage was more effective during the Mumbai attacks than the present conflict and blames the "technically primitive and politically controlled" situation in Gaza.
However, there are bloggers out there (such as Laila El-Haddad, Jawad Harb, Professor Said Abdelwahed), podcasts (such as those on Mideast Youth), and many news organisations are taking on Palestinian stringers to report from inside Gaza, or publishing alternative sources, such as the BBC's diary of an aid worker. Although these alternative sources and methods of communication cannot replace the professional journalists from established news organisations in the field, they are definitely helping to fill the gaps.

Source: Guardian, Jerusalem Post, New York Times, The Times, Poynter, Channel 4, BoingBoing

Urgent Deadline for Newspapers: Find a New Business Plan before You Vanish

IF 2008 were an ordinary year -- one during which iconic American firms like General Motors didn't teeter on the verge of bankruptcy, the stock market didn't lose a third of its value, and foreclosures, hemorrhaging 401(k)s and holiday retail blight weren't in every headline -- the precipitous decline of the nation's newspaper business might have been the biggest financial story.
Positioned at the intersection of commerce and mass culture, big daily newspapers for more than a century could outshine in popular cachet what they lacked in industrial size. Like movies, radio or television, they were part of the rhythm of American life. And like those industries, they have had to grapple over the years with new technologies that complicate their old business models: Radio bulletins made newspaper extras less urgent, for example, while the nightly news hastened the death of the evening paper. Neither of those killed the industry, though. By the mid-1990s, newspapers were fetching unprecedented prices in the string of mergers that created behemoths like the Tribune Company, which in 2000 bought up the Times-Mirror Company for $6.45 billion.
All the while, the various Wall Street darlings of American newspapering were struggling to adapt to the most disruptive technology of all, the Internet. And by this fall, it was clear that this was a challenge of an entirely different magnitude. Tribune, whose holdings include The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun, declared bankruptcy, unable to meet massive debts that owner Sam Zell took on to buy the chain. The venerable New York Times saw its stock value fall by 60% and borrowed against its gleaming new headquarters off Times Square in order to meet its obligations.
Experts predicted that there would be big cities without daily newspapers in the very near future. In December, Detroit's two dailies nearly proved them right, announcing the end of home delivery on all but three days of the week. The Christian Science Monitor had already done the same thing, slashing its print edition to one issue a week while directing readers to its website.

Selling Sacred Real Estate
"It's fair to say that newspapers will disappear and I don't think we should shed that big a tear for them," says Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader, co-director of the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative. And unlike the traumas of automobiles or real estate, the change is fundamental, not cyclical. A down economy may have sped it along, but the business model itself would have been troubled anyway. "My kids can't imagine why anyone would read the newspaper," Fader notes.
To be sure, newspapers have tried to adapt. They were late to the Internet, but have embraced the online environment with multimedia content, blogs and headlines pumped to mobile phones. The New York Times this month swallowed a bitter pill, joining other newspapers in selling ads on its most sacred real estate -- the front page -- in an effort to squeeze more revenue from its traditional product. Says Fader, "I don't think it's the fault of the newspaper; it's just technology moving on."
So does this mean the news business will simply die out? That's unlikely. But according to a number of Wharton faculty who have followed the subject, someone will have to come up with a new business model that pays for the sometimes costly work of gathering news while also squeezing a profit out of a readership whose options include the entire world wide web.
The paradox of the great newspaper crack-up of 2008 is that the nation's appetite for information remains ravenous. Millions more people consume free online reports from The New York Times' global news bureaus than ever paid to do so back when the firm's finances were riding high. Indeed, that very phenomenon has added to the challenges facing smaller metropolitan papers, whose monopoly status once obliged readers to either settle for the attenuated version of the world offered by their local daily, or seek out expensive out-of-town papers.
Of course, the web doesn't simply pit one media firm against another. A number of major stories in the past few years -- from November's Mumbai terror attacks, which featured real-time online updates from eyewitnesses, to the 2007 pet food recall, where a few pet-oriented web sites became the most credible sources about what foods were killing dogs and cats -- demonstrate that trustworthy, independent sources of key information can quickly elbow established brands aside by winning readers who are as eager as ever to follow the story.
The Internet's impact is likewise not limited to global stories: It enables neighborhood-level blogs and web sites that offer a degree of detail no traditional newspaper can offer to every corner of a metropolitan area.

Broccoli vs. Red Meat
The problem, from a business point of view, is that few of today's eager, fickle readers are willing to pay for their online news. So far, consumers have been lucky, getting free of charge the information essentially underwritten by a dwindling number of print subscribers and advertisers. The vertiginous declines of major dailies suggest this won't always be the case, leaving newspaper firms in the dangerous position of having to cut the staff whose reporting attracted readers in the first place. (Online advertising is growing fast, but per-reader revenue on the web remains far smaller than for print.)
So how can a professional, reliable news product turn a profit -- or at least break even -- for its investors? No clear route back from the abyss has emerged. But Wharton's media-watchers offer a few ideas:
* The Philanthropic Route: Wharton business and public policy professor Joel Waldfogel has researched the impact of news media on society and fears that a decline in serious reporting about public affairs will harm our democracy. Of course, that reporting, especially at the local level, is precisely the sort of expensive undertaking that cash-strapped news firms have often slashed as unprofitable. Waldfogel notes that in Minneapolis, San Diego and a number of other cities, laid-off newspaper staffers have turned to charitable sources to underwrite reporting for new online ventures. "We subsidized the healthy vegetables with the red meat," Waldfogel said of the old newspaper model, where many readers would buy the paper for late sports scores, enabling important public interest reporting in the process. "Now there's been this decoupling. It's really hard to support the broccoli at all."
* The Niche Route: Forget Capitol Hill. Forget the State House. Maybe even forget City Hall. Steve Ennen, managing director of the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative, says one key to success is to provide news and information for the most local of levels. "I'm talking block-to-block," says Ennen, citing localized web presences that have proved successful in Europe and Latin America. The problem with devoting your own resources to covering popular topics like Hollywood or national politics is that someone else is also doing so -- in the process, swiping your readers. A news business that gets down to the nitty-gritty, though, can quickly have the field to itself. The same goes for other niches, from ideologies to narrow interests ranging from news about pets to the latest on Pakistan. Waldfogel predicts the online news market will eventually look like the politically polarized newspaper market of a century ago, before monopoly status encouraged most publications to seek middle ground.
* The Pay Route: The New York Times famously cancelled its policy of keeping parts of its web site off-limits to non-subscribers. But Wharton marketing professor Eric Bradlow, co-director of the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative, says subscriber strategies aren't always doomed. Companies from Dow Jones, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, to any number of small trade magazines that offer highly specialized information to affluent subscribers manage to keep content behind a for-pay firewall, defying the conventional wisdom about an Internet audience that demands freebies. The key is a degree of specialization, whether by locality or by subject matter, that the traditional general-interest paper didn't deliver. Newspapers could, Bradlow suggests, "release partial information or certain stories through e-mail or other media as a way to get traction and then drive people towards the web site, which could be a pay model. It's a classic, 'we're going to give some stuff away for free model.'" Bradlow notes that pay satellite radio has flourished despite the availability of free AM and FM radio and the ubiquity of iPods.
* The Participation Route: One way the Internet differs most dramatically from print is readers' expectations of being able to interact with one another -- and with the source of the information. But this contrasts with the traditional newspaper idea that content, even content that is labeled "opinion," is produced by professionals with specific training and standards. Wharton management professor Lawrence Hrebiniak says that's something news companies are going to have to get over as they transition to an online existence. "Newshounds are looking for interactivity," he says. "Whatever gives him or her a chance to say something, to have an opinion, even if 90% of it is self-serving, it works."
* The Commercial Route: Fader, like most observers of the media business, says survival online will require rethinking basic values about things like bias, opinion and, especially, advertising. As an example, he cites book reviews. At most newspapers, book sections have been killed off for lack of profits. But Americans still consume book reviews in large quantities: It's just that they do so on Amazon.com, where readers' sometimes-withering opinions about books for sale are included on the page. "Where a lot of people go to find 'journalism' is on commercial sites," he says. "They go and read the reviews and ratings on Amazon.... It's going to be a tough struggle and very few newspapers as we knew them yesterday will exist in five years. Those that [survive] will do so by getting off their high horse and doing things that would have been commercial heresy. Imagine a New York Times book review with a link to Amazon."
As their stock values have plummeted, the harshest critics of newspaper firms have compared them to the railroads of a half-century ago -- unable to cater to customer desires, even as technological change threatened to wipe them out. A more charitable comparison, Waldfogel says, might be to the music business, which saw its profits dissolve in the face of free downloading. "It's not exactly piracy that's killing newspapers, but it's something like it."
Of course, there's another parallel: The music business, criticized for bland, generic acts, was flawed in ways that left customers broadly unsympathetic to its plight, just as daily broadsheets, after two decades of cuts and Britney Spears coverage, have lost much of their claim to nobility. The question is whether there's a model that can revive the good pieces -- the investment in people who consider it a professional duty to spread the word about everything from local traffic disruptions to national political chicanery -- while giving customers the whole world of options they now expect.
Either way, Fader predicts, at least some newspapers will remain -- as boutique products for a niche market willing to pay a premium for the charmingly old-fashioned idea of a hand-delivered piece of paper printed with news stories. "The kooky luxury boutique item will exist in a niche form for a long, long, long, time, until our generation fades away," he says. "Some people still like vinyl records."

Source: Knowledge Wharton

Why the New York Times Won't Cease Printing

THE end of the world is nigh! Or the end of the print edition of the NYT, anyway, at least according to Michael Hirschorn, in a piece which has been generally well-received by a blogosphere. For me, however, the article makes very little sense: Hirschorn seems to think that given a choice between defaulting on debt payments and stopping its print presses, the Sulzbergers might choose the latter. But they wouldn't: for one thing that's not a decision the NYT's lenders would actually want, and for another thing the New York Times Company has any number of assets it could sell off, especially in Boston, before taking such a drastic move.
Hirschorn also seems to think that the newspaper might soon be up for sale, if it isn't already, and reels off a familiar list of potential buyers: Geffen, Bloomberg, Slim, Murdoch, Google, Microsoft, CBS. But even they can't save the print edition, he says:
At some point soon--sooner than most of us think--the print edition, and with it The Times as we know it, will no longer exist. And it will likely have plenty of company.
The second part is right: many smaller newspapers will close their print editions, which have lost the classified-advertising bread-and-butter revenue stream upon which they've historically relied.
But the New York Times is not a small newspaper. It has an enormous display-advertisement inventory, and sells most of it at high rates. It's also incredibly well placed to go national, as smaller papers close, and become a replacement for people who've lost their local paper and who shudder at the prospect of ever reading USA Today.
Hirschorn, by contrast, is thinking small: he calls the Huffington Post "the prototype for the future of journalism", and singles out the NYT's DealBook blog as "a cash cow for The Times". I'm not sure what Hirschorn's idea of a cash cow is, but that characterization just looks strange coming, as it does, in the wake of Hirschorn's easy dismissal of the extremely-lucrative T Magazine as "lifestyle fluff". I can assure Hirschorn that DealBook's email ads make a lot less money than T's luxury gloss.
And then, to top it all off, there's this:
As of December, its stock had fallen so far that the entire company could theoretically be had for about $1 billion. The former Times executive editor Abe Rosenthal often said he couldn't imagine a world without The Times. Perhaps we should start.
Er, no. The NYT has two classes of stock, as Hirschorn knows full well: the secondary-market price of the non-voting stock can't simply be extrapolated to get the amount that someone would need to pay for voting control. And in any case, $1 billion is still a lot of money. To put that number in perspective, over the past four quarters, the New York Times Company has lost about $30 million. I think it's pretty safe to say that the NYT is going to continue to exist in its present form for quite a long time yet.

Source: Portfolio.com

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Online is the future and the future is now

WTH bosses focused on commerce and ratings, papers are falling behind where it really matters, says Roy Greenslade - creating online material and innovations people are prepared to pay for.

If you thought 2008 was bad for the newspaper industry, this year will undoubtedly be worse. I would say that, wouldn't I? I have long been the harbinger of doom and, for reasons I cannot grasp, I am criticised for telling it like it is. But here is what I forecast for 2009, based on a combination of what has happened this year and over the past 30 years.
At least one major regional owner will go under. Even if there is no further consolidation, there will be "accommodations" between rival publishers. More, many more, local titles will be closed or merged. More freesheets will vanish. Needless to say, more journalists will lose their jobs. As for the national newspaper industry, it is probable that a couple of publishers will throw in the towel. I somehow doubt that their titles will vanish altogether, but that must be a possibility too.
At the risk of repeating the "perfect storm" cliche, the combination of a structural and cyclical decline at a time of recession, a continuing credit drought, rising newsprint prices and the flight to the internet is transforming an already grim situation into a perilous one.
Advertising revenue will not recover in time to save companies that, however liquid they want us to believe they are, cannot service their debts. On that front, Johnston Press faces the toughest test, as does its incoming chief executive, John Fry. Trinity Mirror's debts are smaller, but it is challenged on both the regional and national fronts. As with other media stocks in recent weeks, investors have tended to be more positive than throughout the rest of the year. But the next run on low-priced shares could trigger meltdowns.
Though Newsquest, the chain owned by the largest US newspaper publisher, Gannett, is not publicly quoted in Britain, its status is precarious. Gannett's corporate decision-making will surely be influenced by one of its leading US rivals, the giant Tribune conglomerate, having sought protection from creditors and the fact that the New York Times Company has been forced to pawn its headquarters. That's the context in which severe cuts at Newsquest's Scottish papers and in various English regions should be seen. Titles have been closed, and there will be more. However, these desperate measures may not produce enough savings to prevent Gannett demanding more drastic cuts.
By contrast with its three major regional rivals, the Daily Mail & General Trust is in a far better position. It is a diversified media conglomerate with a far greater market capitalisation. I would guess that its board, if not its dynastic chairman, Lord Rothermere, wishes it had dispensed with Northcliffe, its regional arm, but it soldiers on without apparent embarrassment at failing to find a buyer a couple of years back.
Whatever problems it faces in the regions, they are nothing compared with the debilitating freesheet conflict in London. DMGT, with London Lite, and News International, with the London Paper, are making huge losses every week by together distributing 900,000 copies. A truce offer a couple of months ago from DMGT was rejected by Rupert Murdoch's News International, which has never come to terms with DMGT's success with its morning free, Metro. Murdoch still has hopes of winning the contract that allows Metro to be given away exclusively at tube stations.
But can he justify pouring more millions away if advertising declines further? Note that the other London free, City AM, which boasts a 100,000-strong distribution to a well-heeled audience, has made substantial losses in the past year. There must be a possibility that its owners will be struck by the irony of publishing a business paper that makes no business sense.
With every newspaper publisher - regional and national - engaged in a frantic round of cost-cutting, with redundancies, pay freezes and expenditure squeezes, production outsourcing has become the new mantra. Witness the fact that the Telegraph Media Group's supplements are now being subedited in Australia. Other owners will undoubtedly follow suit.
Meanwhile, and here is the rub, necessary online innovation is being stifled. There is a lack of genuine inventiveness about how to forge a new form of journalism, because companies are too focused on dealing with commerce. Many regional and local paper websites are so clunky that they cannot hope to gain new audiences, let alone retain the current ones. Staff required to "service" print and web on a 24-hour basis are not given the time and space to experiment and there is precious little encouragement from managers who are interested only in bottom lines.
Similarly, many national paper websites are chasing ratings rather than innovating - in the long term, building trust and credibility is far more important. The importance of online journalism cannot be stressed too often. It is foolish to call it the future because the future is now.
It is certain that overall newsprint sales will decline further during 2009. It is also sobering to realise that even if a national paper were to close - whether the Independent at one end of the market, or the Daily Star at the other - rivals will not benefit much. When Murdoch pulled the plug on Today in 1995, when it was selling almost 600,000 a day, the majority of readers vanished into thin air. Now, of course, they will vanish into cyberspace.
The fight that counts in 2009 is the one for online eyeballs seeking news and informed comment, not for the passive audience handed a freesheet with the minimum of journalistic merit or public benefit.

Source: Roy Greenslade - Guardian.co.uk

Which Dies First? Demand for Newsprint or Production of Newsprint?

There’s a distinct possibility that what may ultimately kill major newspapers will be totally unrelated to anything electronic. It’s a possiblity that a shortage of newsprint may kill more newspapers than a dramatic shift to online.
* The permanent closure by the end of the first quarter of 2009 of the Grand Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador newsprint mill, representing 205,000 metric tons;
* The permanent closure by the end of 2008 of the Covington, Tennessee paper converting facility, representing 70,000 metric tons of coated grades;
* The immediate idling, until further notice, of the Alabama River newsprint mill, in Alabama, representing 265,000 metric tons;
* On a revolving basis, approximately 20,000 metric tons of monthly newsprint downtime at other facilities across the organization until market conditions improve.
Consumption of newsprint in North America will continue to fall. The Far East consumption of newsprint may increase, but that does nothing to help North American mills. As this develops, machines are being changed over to more profitable higher grades of papers.
At the same time, newspapers are shrinking. Not only are pages getting fewer, they are getting smaller.

A price decrease was just announced.

Normally a good thing when newspaper bottom lines are hurting. But for a business that is totally dependent on one raw material - with absolutely no alternative on the horizon - keeping those suppliers healthy is critical.
Like a the automakers, the newsprint makers are looking to liquidate assets. AbitibiBowater will sell it’s hydro-electric plant, for example, in order to free up cash.
If newspapers aren’t careful, they may save so much newsprint, the manufacturers may decide to cut production even more.
I think this is called a esculating downward spiral. Demand down, raise price, demand declines more, reduce production, raise price, demand falls further…
I only hope that more major metro papers follow the Detroit Free Press model. At least it will free up some newsprint for us little guys.

Source: markvanpatten.com

US: Internet overtakes print as primary news source

ACCORDING to a report published by the Pew Research Center, the Internet overtook print newspapers as a news source this year in the United States.
The report found that Internet usage surged from 24% to 40% in a year, overtaking the 35% who rely on newspapers, the Guardian reports.
The New York Times reports that the change "does not represent a decline in the popularity of newspapers," but rather a "near-doubling" of the number of people that name the Internet as their primary news source. Newspapers actually gained a percentage point in popularity over the last year.
Michael Dimock, the Pew Center's associate director believes that the US presidential election has a lot to do with the shift because most people prefer to follow their candidate in a way that mainstream media does not allow.
The shift to the Internet has been hard on newspapers because they have been unable to generate the same kind of advertising revenue as they used to. The most recent example was in December when the Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy. Columbia Journalism professor, Sree Sreenivasan believes that "the problem is that advertising dollars from newspapers are being replaced by digital pennies."
The Guardian's Roy Greenslade believes that 2009 will be a rough year for newspapers and he predicts that more freesheets will vanish, more journalists will lose their jobs and more publishers will shut down. Greenslade believes that "rising newsprint prices and the flight to the Internet is transforming an already grim situation into a perilous one."
Greenslade feels that "there is a lack of genuine inventiveness about how to forge a new form of journalism, because companies are too focused on dealing with commerce." Which is the ultimate problem for newspapers - how to retain and gain audiences because as they are trimming costs, they are also cutting content and their ability to innovate.

Source: New York Times, The Guardian, Roy Greenslade, Poynter