Thursday, May 21, 2009
Indeed, attention given to the current condition of journalism is far from being a mere response to the laments of the concerned within the profession. The value and necessity of traditional journalism is appreciated by the biggest names in the very medium that has facilitated the rise of those presenting the greatest threat: the Internet.
Vint Cerf, the 'Father of the Internet', recognised the timeless worth of the chief principles of classic journalism: selection and prioritisation in the midst of endless reams of information, the Baynewser reported. Vint Cerf, a leading computer scientist who designed Internet protocols and the first commercial email service, is known for his public interest in the relationship between the Internet and society. While speaking at the Sixth Conference on Innovation Journalism, held at Stanford, Google's Chief Internet Evangelist emphasised the increasing importance of branding,
"In this gigantic mass of information that's accessible to anyone who's interacted with the Internet, how can we help people learn to trust opinions, learn to trust selections, choices and reports coming from journalists? ...[Branding] is one of the elements that will help you compete against all the other sources of information that people are exposed to."
Whilst maintaining that branding could serve as a safe guard of the fundamentals of journalism, Cerf advised those embracing the digitalization of the news to make sure it wasn't seen as a basic choice of medium. Rather, innovation was necessary.
These latter comments are hardly ground breaking- journalists have been making use of the worldwide web since its inception. There does seem to have been, however, a rush in the development of online services designed to air the views and news of amateur hacks. The New York Times recently reported on, for example, the new application of a well-used document-sharing site, Scribd, which will allow anyone to upload their work, charge for it and keep 80 per cent of the revenue. Moreover, collaboration projects between amateur contributors and news organisations are crystallizing, such as the partnership between
Two studios are being built that will be used by FT correspondents to provide content for FT.com's video and audio channels online.
Content will include news, analysis from across the world and head-to-head interviews, as well as special projects and reports, making full use of the opportunities video offers. The audio studio will be used for podcasts as well as round table discussions.
The Pearson-owned business newspaper will charge non-subscribers to use the online video service, if they use the service more than 10 times a month. If visitors use the site more than three times in a month, they will be asked to register.
FT.com has had more than one million video views for its current service, which was boosted by the launch of the FT mini-player in July. The paper already produces up to 170 videos every month.
The site attracts 11.4 million unique users a month, generating 83.2 million page views (ABCe figures, March 2009), and of these, 109,609 are subscribers, an increase of 8% over the same period last year.
The new video channel will continue to be supported by pre and post-roll advertising, although Jon Slade, global online and strategic advertising sales director, said it was looking at developing a less interruptive experience for users.
Slade said the sales team that worked across all media platforms would work with advertisers to give them better insight into users' online behaviour. Advertisers on the video service include Microsoft, IBM and Rolex. "We've seen a big shift in luxury brands moving in to the online video space," Slade added.
Richard Edgar, head of video, said if the FT was not involved in publishing in these new formats, it would lose its audience.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
HOW did readers know what to think in 1984? Once you get over the minuscule, blurred pictures and the lack of colour, the first thing that strikes you about the newspapers of that year is the paucity of opinionated columnists. The finger-jabbing, red-faced anger of today's commentariat, the passionate, omniscient certainty with which they declare opinions, scarcely existed 25 years ago. Incredibly, the Sunday Times – under that most opinionated of editors, Andrew Neil – did not then have a single serious regular weekly columnist, its political pundit Hugo Young having recently decamped to the Guardian.
The paper had three, sometimes only two, bylined comment pieces. They contained few surprises: the deputy director of the National Farmers Union demanded the government "be fair to farmers" while Michael Meacher, then Labour social services spokesman, defended the welfare state. The Daily Telegraph had one bylined comment a day, with only TE Utley and John O'Sullivan appearing regularly.
Some days, the Daily Mail offered no opinions on anything except through leaders and, by implication, headlines. On Thursdays, its op-ed carried reviews of six, sometimes eight, hardback books. Even the Sun, edited by a swaggering Kelvin MacKenzie, had only one serious weekly columnist: John Vincent, a Bristol history professor. Richard Littlejohn he was not: "Neil Kinnock's recent promise to renationalise everything that Mrs Thatcher has denationalised was, perhaps, a shade impetuous," began a typical column.
Although 24-hour radio news stations had been established, TV equivalents were some years away. Newspapers believed that their prime duty was to report what had happened the previous day. The pages may have been fewer – the Sun (owned by Rupert Murdoch) was typically 32 tabloid pages, the Telegraph had 36 broadsheet pages in one section – but the number of news stories was, if anything, slightly higher than in today's papers.
Nearly all stories had "yesterday" in the first sentence. The future tense – "the minister is expected to say today", "Club X will this week sign Player Y" – was rare. Foreign news had a higher priority: the Daily Mail put it on page four, while the Telegraph published front-page bulletins about the declining health of the general secretary of the Italian Communist party.
The broadsheets offered daily coverage of parliamentary debate – but no commentator or analyst gave any context; readers were left to make up their own minds.
Celebrity culture was in its infancy. The comedian Dick Emery was exposed by his ex-wife as "a flop in bed" ("Even my pink undies didn't turn him on") while a "playgirl", in the News of the World's first tabloid issue, revealed "my frolics" with Prince Andrew. Ron Atkinson, then Manchester Utd manager, had an extramarital affair that provoked Jean Rook, the Daily Express columnist billed as "the first lady of Fleet Street", into a paroxysm of rage.
Rook, and her Daily Mail counterpart Lynda Lee-Potter, were just about the only columnists offering advice to erring celebs who, even in the tabloids, made the splash only if they were royal. It now seems a strangely innocent time. The scandal was mostly in the missionary position, the only sex aids were frilly undies and nobody apparently snorted or tried bondage. As for the broadsheets, they remained aloof from popular culture. When the Sunday Times reported a musician's secret love affair, it was the long-dead classical composer Edward Elgar. Neil introduced a spread called "People" which included the head of a civil service union and the former head of a thinktank. Guardian readers got a diet of trade unions, green belts and polytechnics; on a lucky day, they might get a story about a cat up a tree.
Features were sparse, and confessional journalism almost unknown – the Telegraph's features, for example, included: "Taking a close look at stitching through the ages" and "Showing the best of British baskets". Similarly, the Sunday Express, still a broadsheet, followed a formula which required exactly the same type of story on the same page each week.
Were newspapers then better or worse? By today's standards, they certainly seem calmer. The big story of 1984 was the miners' strike and Margaret Thatcher's battle to crush it. Readers could have been in little doubt where most papers stood. Headlines and stories, particularly in the Sun and the Mail, portrayed the miners as "thugs" and the pickets as "a mob". In a leader, the Express announced itself "SICK to death of this violent, meaningless and unnecessary … strike".
But the effect was less overwhelming. This was not just because newspapers had fewer intemperate columnists. It was also because even the miners' strike did not dominate page after page, creating a kind of emotional tsunami, as a similar issue might now. On the broadsheets particularly, width of coverage counted for more than depth of coverage. Over the past 25 years, we have come to learn more and more – and to be given more definite opinions – about less and less.
Ever since Rupert Murdoch announced plans to put his digital titles behind a paywall, claiming the "free" web was dead, the rest of the media have either pooh-poohed his proposals, or nervously wondered if they should do likewise.
A great deal of online content is profitably charged for – notably music and porn – but news struggles. With the exception of some high-value material from publications like the Wall Street Journal, news doesn't seem able to turn a buck. Experiments in charging have largely failed – and the advertising-subsidised model has reigned supreme.
However, with recession, advertising revenues, always marginal at best, have dried up. Publishers are in a nightmarish situation; they know the print side of their business is struggling, they know punters want their news online, but they can't see how to make it pay. In desperation others may follow Murdoch's retreat behind the paywall. Not good news for news addicts. It isn't so much the money, it's the usernames, passwords, subscriptions ... Actually, it is the money. But publishers need a profit. Information might want to be free – but food and housing isn't. So is there another way? Some model that brings in more than advertising, but doesn't exclude casual visitors, either by cost or inconvenience? Well yes – an idea that won't go away: micropayments.
The basic concept of micropayments is that you charge at a price that doesn't deter consumers at all, but will aggregate enough profit, via mass sales, to sustain a business. Classical micropayment theory (yes, there is a classical and neo theory – probably a superstring version too) states that payments should be of the order of 1/1000 of a US cent. A cent would be the minimum now. Fans claim this is beneath the mental threshold at which resistance to a purchase sets in. Critics divide into two camps – those who feel it's a dumb idea, and those who feel it's evil. Dumb because similar schemes have failed in the past. Evil because it swipes your money under the radar, and an effective scheme could easily expand to diminish the entire web by fencing off vast quantities of content. The dumb argument can be countered – we can implement a scheme today that beats previous implementations hands down – I'll explain how in a moment. I pretty much accept the evil argument, but it's the lesser of several evils – the main one being that journalism goes down the pan unless we find a way to fund mainstream media online.
So, how could it work? Step forward Google. Many of you will be familiar with Google Ads – perhaps not with how the system works. Basically, you sign up, create a bundle of code using their site tools, wrap it into your own pages and presto, ads appear, and when your visitors click on those ads, you get paid. Not immediately. Payments – tiny payments – are tracked and added up. To reduce payment transaction costs, you're paid one sum, once a month. The code has unique identifiers, the code is smart enough to tell Google to look at your pages, providing content-targeted ads. The database in the background keeps track. You just watch the money roll in. The transfer potential of this technology to a micropayments scenario is clear: individuals would sign up with Google, deposit funds. They'd have a unique ID attached to them at that point – an encrypted cookie stored on whichever PC they happen to log in with. When they visit a site with GoogleDosh embedded they're allowed in, a fraction of a penny is switched to the content provider's account for every item they read – if visitors aren't GoogleDosh members, they're re-routed, perhaps, to a précis, or a sign-up form, or even to a limited trial. The key difference from other micropayment schemes is scale – and that's what beats individual site subscriptions too – sign up with one scheme, and you get access to thousands of sites. That's my theory, at least. It's technically simple – an easy step if publishers accept a single standard, and the success of Google Ads suggests they will. Publishers win, consumers win long-term by supporting content providers, and in the short term, if good sense among sellers prevails, they get a bargain: spending pennies a day for all the content they need. Not just news of course – anything could be paid for in the same way.
Googlephobics will no doubt hold their hands up in horror. Tough. This needs a big player – there are two: Google and Microsoft. Of the two, Google already has the infrastructure and the reputation for managing situations like this. Not only that, but they're touted as news content's No 1 enemy, via GoogleNews. They "owe" the press one. Yes, there are issues. Privacy. Exclusion, perhaps. And further entrenching a near-monopoly position. But these can be countered, technically and economically – and nothing stops parallel schemes running, once the concept is established. The fact is that in the boom years micropayments looked like a lot of fuss, and a leap into the unknown. I get the impression publishers' pride got in the way of being asked to sell for pennies. But now the boom is over, micropayments aren't an option – they may be the only way forward.
THE Sun is cutting its cover price by a third in the London area to just 20p from Monday, making it the joint cheapest national newspaper in the capital alongside the Daily Star.
From Monday the daily redtop, published by News International, will drop its cover price by 10p from 30p in the London area. The Saturday edition of the Sun will remain 60p in London and elsewhere.
While the current 30p price will remain elsewhere, the London reduction could trigger a tabloid price war as the Sun will join the Daily Star as the cheapest tabloid in the city. The Daily Mirror, published by Trinity Mirror, raised its cover price by 5p to 45p across the country in January.
Mid-market title the Daily Express, stablemate of the Daily Star at Express Newspapers, has a current cover price of 40p while the Daily Mail retails at the newsstand for 50p.
The move comes just nine months after the Sun reduced its national cover price to 30p.
According to the latest audited ABC figures, The Sun had an average daily circulation of 2,957,690 in April, a year-on-year sales fall of almost 6%. Insiders expect the change to boost sales in and around London by around 50,000 copies.
The Daily Star has benefited from a rise in circulations since it cut its cover price by 15p in November, from 35p to 20p.
Last month the Daily Star's circulation was up 13% year on year, to an average of 822,646 daily in April.
Kate Marymont, Gannett’s vice president for news, told the newspaper’s staff on Friday that The Citizen would continue with a Web edition providing commentary and opinion, but no news or sports coverage. She said the paper’s 60 employees would know by the end of Friday if they would be laid off, kept on short term or be hired long term.
The 138-year-old paper had a circulation about 17,000 today. The Citizen has a joint operating agreement with Lee Enterprises, which publishes the competing Arizona Daily Star.
Because of the agreement, the Arizona attorney general’s office filed a complaint Friday in federal court seeking to halt the closing. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Terry Goddard said the complaint was filed in Tucson shortly before court closed, and a motion for a temporary restraining order also was filed.
Robert J. Dickey, president of Gannett’s community publishing division, said that a Tucson Citizen editorial weekly would run in The Star.
Of the 19% of adults in Toronto who said that they spent more time with an online daily newspaper than in the previous year, 63% are male and 48% are between the ages of 18 to 34.
These adults who spend more time with online newspapers are also more likely to read a printed version of a daily newspaper, according to the study.
The Toronto findings are taken from the Newspaper Audience Databank's study of product, retail shopping and lifestyle data. The study includes readership data from 80 Canadian daily newspapers in 54 markets plus the two Detroit dailies . It also includes readership data from 58 community papers in 33 Canadian markets.
As part of the study more than 28,300 Canadian adults 18 years and older were surveyed in 22 urban markets.
The study includes data on 27 different product categories ranging from alcoholic beverage consumption to pleasure and business travel.
The Toronto results, released publicly Thursday, document the popularity of online social networks. Some 41% of online users -- or more than 1.4 million adults in Toronto -- accessed a social network site in the past month. Among those between 18 and 24 years old, the percentage spikes to 75%.
As such we thought it would be a good time to check in with a newspaper that has been charging for online content since 2002 - The Financial Times.
Like its rival The Wall Street Journal, FT.com requires a subscription in order to access premium content. And like WSJ.com, the FT.com sets some content free in order to attract more people to the site.
However, over the past six months, FT.com has been tweaking its sampling strategy, a strategy, which was confusing at best. In the past, people could access up to 30 articles for free during a period of a month but would bump up against a pay wall once that trial expired.
Now the FT.com is trying different sampling strategies and in the words of Managing Director Rob Grimshaw, "bringing those barriers down a bit."
Users can access up to three stories for free per month. If a reader wants more but isn't willing to pay, they can register. That gets them 10 articles per month. Someone willing to shell out money can do so under one of two packages: $179 a year for the standard subscription or $299 for the premium subscription, which allows access to the FT's popular Lex column.
"The great thing about the model we now have is that we have our cake and we can eat it a bit," Grimshaw said. "On the one hand we have valuable content -- we should be making money from it. On the other hand, in order to bring in the audience we need to expose the content and show a little bit of that to the world."
Of course, the FT.com offers bundled subscriptions that include print and online depending. But Grimshaw points out that access to the FT.com is not free just because someone is a print subscriber. The FT charges an additional fee to access the site.
In 2008, FT.com reported 109,609 paid subscribers, up 8% year-over-year. It's a mix of pure online readers, corporate accounts, and print subscribers but Grimshaw said online-only subs are the largest chunk. He declined to specify the percentage.
Overall FT.com attracts 11.4 million unique users -- up 60% from 2007 and currently has 1.3 million register users.
The registration information is valuable, explained Grimshaw, letting advertisers know more about readers and their demographics. FT.com has the ability to target geographically and contextually and is able to charge a premium for doing so.
Grimshaw's ideal ratio of adverting to subscription revenue is 60:40. "We are not quite there yet," he said. "We're not far off though."
FT.com is trying to emphasize the quality of audience over the size: "The most important number is not this big headline number of unique users. The really important number are the users who are engaged in the proposition, who love it so much, they can't live without it."
Nielsen reports that NYTimes.com, consistently the highest-ranking newspaper site and still far ahead of #2 WSJ.com, dropped year-over-year to 16.5 million monthly uniques in April 2009. But NYT spokeswoman Diane McNulty told E&P the numbers don’t track with three independent sources or with internal numbers: “We believe their data is in error.” She added that the paper is checking the methodology.
Meanwhile, WSJ.com isn’t likely to complain too loud: buoyed by a redesign and a major boost in multimedia, the Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS) site posted a 160 percent gain to 12.4 million. The news prompted an internal memo (via Beet.TV) by editors Alan Murray and Almar Latour, talking about the “significant milestone” but mentioning the Nielsen issues. They’re take: “The Nielsen numbers have their problems. Our internal metrics suggest an much larger audience. Yet the base is consistent, so the trends are real.” Either way, boy, are they going to hate next year’s comps.
—Web-only results: SeattlePI.com was back in the top 30 after a stay at #32 but Nielsen claimed a drop in uniques for the second month since the Hearst news outlet went web-only. Nielsen said the site dropped 23 percent in March to 1.4 million; the print edition ceased March 17. In April, according to the service, the site dropped 17 percent year-over-year to 1.4 million. The site disputes both reports, saying its internal numbers showed 4.3 million uniques in April for a slight 1 percent gain year-over-year and 4.5 million in March, up nearly 10 percent. Sequentially, Hearst’s own numbers show a decrease from month to month.
— Mileage may vary: It’s not unusual for internal metrics and independent metrics to vary but often the difference is one of sheer numbers, not an up or down trajectory. It’s also not unusual for media outlets—or other sites that rely on traffic for advertising rates—to find fault with the indies. Late last week, executives at video joint venture Hulu raised issues about the Nielsen VideoCensus report that it lost unique visitors in April, dropping from 9.5 million in February to 8.9 million in March and 7.4 million in April.
Monday, May 18, 2009
In an opening paragraph which does not bode well for advocates of traditional media, the Economist ponders if "the surest sign that newspapers are doomed is that politicians, so often their targets, are beginning to feel sorry for them," in reference to Barack Obama's pledge to newspapers last weekend at an industry dinner in Washington, as well as Massachusetts senator, John Kerry's commitment to help the "endangered species" and, in particular, his region's beloved Boston Globe.
Survey statistics from the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) and information from consultants OC&C are used to build a picture of a fading industry: last month, the former said that newsroom unemployment in the States had reached a 30-year low, while the latter calculated that 70 British local newspapers have disappeared since the beginning of 2008. Of course, the trend is not limited to Anglo-speaking countries, with the press in France and Spain, for example, also suffering: "French newspapers have avoided the same fate only by securing an increase in their already hefty government subsidies," notes the Economist, with regards to a 600 million euro government bail-out.
News consumption is changing, says the Economist, talking about a study carried out by the Pew Research Centre, in which for the first time in 2008, internet overtook print as the primary news source. Robert Thomson, editor-in-chief of the Wall Street Journal, is cited as saying that online news has come to be viewed as "an all-you-can-eat buffet for which you pay a cable company the only charge."
Traditional news outlets, including print and broadcast, as well the original "internet pioneers" such as AOL.com and MSN.com, are depicted as "old-fashioned department stores." A business model that once worked on account of its ability to offer consumers a wide-range of quality goods all under one roof no longer holds. Instead, customers are enticed by the giveaway discount culture of the Internet; Google has taken over as the new one-stop shop.
The Economist argues that news aggregators - seen by many within the news industry as "parasites" who feed off the work of others - do more good than they do harm and is right to point out that "interest in a story about Iraq in, say, the Los Angeles Times extends far beyond that city. Before the aggregators appeared, a reader in Seville or even San Francisco probably would not have known it existed."
The Huffington Post is singled out as a model aggregator for what the Economist describes as its ability to enlist "an unpaid army of some 3,000 mostly left-wing bloggers" to cater for the 4.2m unique readers that visit the site monthly. "The inherent benefit of spreading stories around helps explain why some established news outfits are coming to resemble aggregators," says the Economist.
British and American news publication, the Week, is an example of a print news aggregator. We would also add here France's Courrier International, an excellent editorial product with sadly circulation figures that do not reflect this (despite a steady increase over recent years). Established in 1987, the weekly title today offers a look at the leading articles from around the world, with more than 900 international publications within its scope. Recurring themes are chosen from several newspapers from different parts of the globe and are translated into French for the home audience. For instance, in the latest edition (printed Thursday), the cover story concentrates on India's "awakening" with 10 articles translated from 8 of India's leading papers. Additionally, every week, stories outlining outside perception of France and the French also appear and Thursday's edition coincidentally kicks off the "France" section with the cover story which appeared on last week's edition of the Economist: "Europe's new pecking order" (France was considered to come out top, although the Economist does not expect it to hold onto this position for long).
With regards to pay walls, while the Economist believes that newspapers and magazines are more likely to be saved thanks to "a careful combination of free and paid-for content," it believes general news will largely remain free on the web, although it seems to contradict this view in another article - also part of the same series, with the role of the Internet in "killing the newspaper" at its core - claiming this approach is unsustainable in the long term.
On the one hand, the Economist is clearly optimistic about the prospect of news, going forward: "As large branches of the industry wither, new shoots are rising. The result is a business that is smaller and less profitable, but also more efficient and innovative." Yet, its stance on the future of print media is vague. Does it believe that newspapers (along with the established press) are heading for extinction? Or does it think there is still hope?
The Economist seems to think there may no longer be a place for traditional media in today's increasingly digital society and hints at a world where such media eventually dies out, in what it sees as the "end of a certain kind of civic sensibility." What's odd is that such a tone should come from a publication which has always referred to itself as a "newspaper." Interestingly, it avoids doing so in these specific articles.
We must not overlook emerging markets such as India and China, where despite some stagnation, the newspaper industry (not just news) is flourishing, as recent investments show. Some may argue that rising literacy levels will eventually lead to news consumption moving online even in these parts of the world, and once internet penetration becomes more substantial, this is a possibility. Although, coming back to the West, Canada is proof that a solid internet network does not necessarily mean that print must suffer.
The argument that Obama has every "intention to bypass the news filter" is unconvincing and it seems more likely that he and his multimedia-savvy team are simply engaging with all branches of the media community, in what some have called a "new spirit of inclusion," which includes the social networking community.
While newspapers may be in decline, it is premature to write newspapers off entirely, although there is no doubt that some aspects of the original business model need to be revised and adapted to the needs of today's readers and advertisers. Newspapers have generally been battered and bruised and bounced about from one would-be proprietor to the next, obliged to cut back staff and, in many cases, forced to shutdown altogether. This is not the result of dwindling circulation, for despite drops, there is still a large contingent of people for whom reading the newspaper is an essential part of keeping themselves informed.
Saturday 9 May, president Barack Obama said that "a government without newspapers, a government without a tough and vibrant media is not an option for the United States of America."
In what was mostly a speech packed with jokes and humorous anecdotes, Obama ended his discourse on a serious note about the state of journalism in the country, acknowledging that there were many good journalists who had recently found themselves out of a job.
Appearing before a mixed crowd of journalists, media chiefs, politicians and celebrities including actor Ashton Kutcher, who is one of social media tool Twitter's most high-profile users, Obama outlined the plight of journalism, with newspapers clearly at the heart of his speech. He insisted that the ultimate success of the industry is essential in ensuring the preservation of America's democracy, before referring to a quote from the nation's third president, Thomas Jefferson: "If he had the choice between government with newspapers or newspapers without government, he'd choose the latter."
"When you are at your best, you help me be at my best. You help all of us who serve at the pleasure of the American people do our jobs better by holding us accountable, by demanding honesty, by preventing us from taking shortcuts and following in the easy political games that people are so desperately weary of and that kind of reporting is worth preserving not just for your sake, but for the public's," Obama said. "This is the season of renewal and reinvention. That is what government must learn to do. That's what businesses must learn to do and that's what journalism is in the process of doing."
Before stepping down from the stage, Obama offered journalists his thanks and pledged to support the industry. His comments are timely, given that last week the US Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet convened at a hearing organised by Massachusetts senator John Kerry. The hearing entitled the Future of Journalism examined the plight of the newspaper industry, the knock-on effects of new media and what steps government - if any - should take to ensure its survival.
By the end of the hearing, whilst guest speakers helped to paint an accurate image of what newspapers were going through, what the role of government should be during this time remained elusive. There was no consensus on whether a government-lead bail-out would actually be enough to guarantee the long-term survival of the newspaper. Notably, those who were against the idea of government intervention, including the likes of Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, were confident that those newspapers which choose to embrace digital media and new advertising models, would not just endure, but indeed flourish.
President Obama's talk has, on the one hand, given the industry renewed hope of a possible government bail-out, as some news sites have been quick to suggest, yet this is in stark contrast to what press secretary Robert Gibbs told journalists at the start of May, when he categorically said there would be no such assistance on offer. Still, Obama's commitment to the journalism industry, in particular newspapers, will not come as a surprise to most people. Even before Obama became President and long before he was catapulted to the media spotlight, Obama often championed the notion that journalists were an essential component of the democratic process, and his thoughts on this and the power of media can be found in his book The Audacity of Hope.
Obama's presidential campaign also signalled in a new era of digital politics and since his inauguration in January, his administration has continued to embrace new media, exploiting the Internet and the various social networking tools to communicate and engage with a new breed of electorates. Whether Obama and his team decide to step in is by no means certain and there is no reason to believe that the government has suddenly changed its position from the previous week. With that said, it is unlikely that America's newspaper-loving President will stand by and do nothing. In any case, despite Obama's personal preference for print - and some say his administration's preference for unconventional media - Obama and his media-savvy team offer newspapers a well-placed and much-need ally.
One panel covered the blogging phenomenon - where former blogger Stowe Boyd deemed blogging outdated - and another was from Newsweek writer Dan Lyons, who shared some controversial opinions on newspapers, "I don't see the point. They are dead. They are in denial."
Lyons was singing the praises of blogging during his panel, as he met with success whilst blogging as 'Fake Steve Jobs'. However Boyd, during the panel on blogging, stated that the "heat and dyanmism of blogging is gone", and pointed towards the rise of social networks - citing Twitter as a prime example. Conversely, although there were pro-Twitter panelists during the Twitter session, Lyons was cynical about its "pre-revenue" status and labeled it as one of the first companies to be hurt by the economic downturn.
There seemed to be a circle of opinions going around during these three panels. Perhaps the best conclusion to come to is that it is too early to write off newspapers, blogs or Twitter? Or maybe it is time to question the idea that they are mutually exclusive? Could the way forward for newspapers be further along the road many have begun to take, combining the new technologies with their traditional journalism and moving forward after the troubles of the economic crisis are gone?
THE Twitter phenomenon has been swiftly spreading amongst journalists, as a tool to both find information and publicise stories. Recently several US newspaper have expressed concern about exactly how their reporters use the social network.
The New York Observer has reported on discussions at the New York Times about staff use of Twitter. During a staff strategy meeting on Monday, reporters Jennifer 8. Lee, Michael Luo and Brian Stelter sent 'tweets' on what executives were saying about the how the paper might charge for online content, amongst other things: information which executives did not necessarily want to be made public.
Times executive editor Bill Keller took a firm stance against revealing the content of staff meetings on Twitter during a speech to employees on Wednesday, reported the Observer. He said that it was important that employees are as open as possible with one another about what is going on at the Times, and "the level of candor is likely to be diminished if people are Twittering fragments of the conversation to the outside world." He called for a "zone of trust, where people can say what's on their minds without fear of having an unscripted remark or a partially baked idea zapped into cyberspace." He also told employees that they must consider whatever they say as representative of the entire institution. Keller did agree that Twitter was a valuable tool for reporting.
The Wall Street Journal is also addressing how employees use social networks, with a memo sent to staff earlier this week outlining "ground rules" on employees' actions online. Its advice on Twitter is that "business and pleasure should not be mixed" and although "common sense should prevail," staff meetings should not be discussed on social networks.
Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli told Editor & Publisher that a senior editor must give approval before a Post employee can use Twitter, and added that "I would assume people exercise good judgement." A new Post policy states that "anything controversial should be checked with an editor before transmission." The Los Angeles Times made similar updates to its rules in March.
In a world where it is easier than ever before to spread information using tools just as Twitter, it is consequently harder to keep news under wraps. Clearly, confidential information should be treated as such and not broadcast on the web just because it is easy to do so, but it seems necessary that guidelines on what is public information and what is not must be clearly defined.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
It's not the end. It's not even the beginning of the end. But to paraphrase Winston Churchill, it may be the end of the beginning of the brutal advertising recession that has battered UK media over the past six to nine months.
Media companies including ITV, Trinity Mirror and Johnston Press are starting to see some positive signs of a bottoming out of the vertiginous year-on-year advertising revenue declines the industry has endured since mid-2008.
In the wider economy, voices are also being tentatively raised to say that the worst of the recession may be over.
Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, today painted a mixed picture of the timeline for an economic recovery in the UK. On the one hand, King put back the forecast for a return to economic growth from the end of this year to mid-2010. On the other, he said that it was true that there were reasons for optimism as the pace of economic decline had now moderated.
However, analysts warn that the real litmus test of the road to recovery for the media industry will be how advertisers react in the months leading up to Christmas 2009.
Trinity Mirror today pointed out some glimmers of light in its May performance for its national newspaper operation – if not the ailing regional division.
The Daily Mirror publisher also said that it expects a better performance, at least on a relative basis, in the second half of 2009.
This is to be expected – when you're comparing quarterly advertising revenue with year on year declines of 30% and more for the same period in 2008, the new figures are likely to look rosier.
But it also alleviates at least some of pressure on publicly listed media companies that have had only horror stories to tell the City in their recent results announcements.
Johnston Press also today indicated that there had been "some stability" in ad revenue in recent weeks. John Fry, the company's chief executive, said:
"We have go to the part where it starts to get easier. Ads have stabilised, albeit at a much lower level, but stable week to week.
"It would be dangerous for me to start talking about economic recovery, but we are not seeing it [ad revenue] drop like last year. We are not in the green shoots area yet, we are still bumping along the bottom."
Daily Mail & General Trust in March reported signs of stabilisation in classified revenues outside of the recruitment sector.
"The industry buzz word is stabilisation," said Alex de Groote, a media analyst at Panmure Gordon, today. De Groote added:
"Things are not really getting better at this point but a bottoming out means they are not getting worse. The feeling is that in the fourth quarter last year and the first in 2009 things hit a nadir.
"The second quarter has not been that much better, fractionally maybe, but the hope is that the secong half will see the situation get a little better."
ITV, which is set to put out an interim management statement early tomorrow ahead of its annual general meeting, has also started to see some signs of stabilisation.
Brokers Numis expect ITV1's approximate 20% year-on-year fall in ad revenue in the first half of this year to narrow to a 10% fall in the second half.
However, one senior ITV executive warned that there is likely to be a W-shaped bounce for the struggling broadcaster. The predictions is for ITV to show signs of improvement, on a relative basis, in the final three months of 2009, followed by a challenging first quarter in 2010.
ITV is then is expected to see an advertising boost from the second quarter of 2010, fuelled by the football World Cup in South Africa and spending across the board in the run-up to a general election.
"Current trading is bumping along the bottom. There will be good months and bad months but things seem to be stabilising," said Paul Richards, an analyst at Numis. He added:
"The question is when are they going to get better. The fourth quarter is the key quarter. If we can see mid-single digit declines [at ITV] then we can safely say that things are stabilising, that the worst may be over and that we can then look forward to recovery."
The changing mood of the City about the prospects for media companies has also been reflected in an improved share price performance for some in the sector in recent weeks.
"The stock market priced some of these [media] names at almost zero worth, mega-distressed, when in fact in the last six weeks to two months there has been a clear, strong and concerted rally in these businesses in equity prices," says De Groote.
De Groote points out that, relative to the performance of the FTSE 100, Trinity Mirror's share price has risen 46% over the past three months; while Johnston Press - a worse than expected set of figures today notwithstanding - is up 286%, and DMGT up 20% over the same period.
However, de Groote less optimistic on when the UK ad market will return to real growth. "In terms of ad growth at some stage next year we may see positive growth in traditional media," he said. "Perhaps close to the end of the year."
The BBC director of future media and technology, Erik Huggers, has said that newspapers need to tailor their online content to make it more like existing print media formats if they are to profit in the digital marketplace.
Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch today, Huggers said that the newspaper industry "should think about ways to get that content into a format that it is much more newspaper-like" for digital media and said that the Kindle ebook reader offered one way of achieving that.
He added that he thought that technology was "coming to a point" where newspapers could be in a position to make more profits from charging for online content. But he said that it was "not the job of a BBC executive to comment on the business models" of newspaper companies.
Huggers was commenting in the wake of the recent announcement by News Corporation's chairman, Rupert Murdoch, that the newspaper industry needed to start charging for online content.
He also outlined what he saw as the dangers of the BBC Trust rejecting Project Canvas, the venture between the BBC, ITV and BT to "bring catchup from the PC to the TV".
Project Canvas's backers aim to provide an open technology offering so that viewers with digital TV via Freeview or Freesat and a broadband connection can access catchup and on-demand programming via their television set from online services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Player.
Huggers said that there is a "consumer demand" for a platform like Project Canvas and that its emergence in the marketplace was "like water, it can't be stopped". But he added that it would not serve consumers if the marketplace was flooded with a number of similar and competing services.
"The danger is that we may get 15, maybe 20 ways of achieving the same thing," he said. Project Canvas would "bring the best of linear television and the best of the internet made into an easy to use experience", according to Huggers.
He said that the Project Canvas also offered a "fantastic opportunity" to rival broadcasters including BSkyB. But he declined to comment on why Sky had formally opposed the Project Canvas proposals in its own submission to the BBC Trust.
Huggers also stressed the differences between Project Canvas and Project Kangaroo, the broadband pay-TV venture backed by BBC Worldwide, ITV and Channel 4, which was scrapped after falling foul of competition regulators.
"There is confusion between a platform called Project Canvas and a content aggregator called Project Kangaroo," he said. "They do completely different things and to lump them together is totally wrong."
He added that the BBC was prepared to involve rival broadcasters in the Project Canvas initiative, just as the BBC was prepared to "share" the benefits of the iPlayer with other public service broadcasters.
Huggers said that the new venture will be open to any broadcaster or content company to utilise to deliver interactive services and programming to households.
The BBC Trust's consultation into the proposals will be completed by 24 July this year, with the partners hopeful of launching Project Canvas on Freeview, the free-to-air digital terrestrial TV service, and Freesat, its digital satellite equivalent, in early 2010.
The survey conducted by the Associated Press Managing Editors illuminated the doubts and concerns hovering over newspapers as the industry reels from a slump that has been worsening since last fall.
The 20-question survey got responses from 351 editors and publishers. Although a few newspapers provided answers from more than one editor, the survey still offered an unusually large sampling.
APME surveys typically elicit a smattering of responses to very specific questions about a topic in the news. But this one clearly touched a nerve as it sought to find out how newspaper management is coping with a downturn that has wiped out $11.6 billion, or nearly one-fourth, of the industry's annual advertising revenue since 2005.
"These are the people out there on the front lines of this battle and they really don't know how it is going to turn out," said Bobbie Jo Buel, the APME's president and executive editor of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson.
Seventy-one percent of the survey participants said cutbacks have "somewhat affected" or "greatly affected" the quality of their newspapers' coverage. Just 20 percent said their newspapers' staff reductions had little or no effect.
The comments accompanying the responses were filled with resignation, frustration, anger, despair, confusion and even some gallows humor that reflected the depressed state of the U.S. economy as more people lose their homes because they can't afford their mortgages.
"Our newspaper's biggest revenue source today is foreclosure notices," wrote Clifford Buchan, editor of the Forest Lake Times, a free weekly newspaper in Minnesota. "We have uncertainty once that run ends, as it most surely will."
To cope with the hard times, 65 percent of the survey respondents said they have laid off workers since January 2008. Nearly 30 percent said they have lowered wages.
Total employment in the newspaper industry averaged 407,000 people during 2008, a 20 percent decline from 508,000 in 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Newspapers have eliminated thousands more jobs so far this year.
Now editors are worried they won't have the adequate resources and skills to keep newspapers relevant as more readers turn to the Internet for information.
Nearly 68 percent of the respondents cited staffing shortages as the chief impediment to change; more than 57 percent said they didn't have enough money to innovate. Thirty-one percent said their personnel didn't have the skills to change with the times.
"It's not worth complaining about having too few people because the staffing status quo of two years ago isn't coming back," wrote Jeff Gauger, executive editor of The Repository, a daily newspaper in Canton, Ohio, with a circulation of about 65,000.
Newspapers have been shrinking, largely because their audiences and advertisers have been defecting to the Web. The U.S. recession that began in December 2007 has accelerated the slide in ad revenue and may also be contributing to a circulation drop as more households try to save money.
Many editors seem to be having second thoughts about the industry's practice of giving away stories and photos on their Web sites. Twenty-eight percent of the respondents said they plan to charge for online content. About 20 percent said they will offer some coverage exclusively in their print editions to reward their paying customers.
With so much information readily available online for free, more newspapers are concentrating coverage on community issues unlikely to attract the attention of other media outlets. Nearly 40 percent of the respondents said they are devoting more space to "hyper-local" news while decreasing the pages devoted to national and international stories.
Despite the challenges facing newspapers, 72 percent of the survey's participants said they are staying in the industry because they believe in "the mission of journalism." Just 6 percent said they were sticking it out because the pay was too good to give up.
Fifty-nine percent of the respondents predicted their publications will find ways to be profitable. But nearly 17 percent said they're worried their newspapers will die.
While most newspapers seem to be trying different ways to engage readers and drum up revenue, 25 percent of the respondents said their publications are mostly "hunkering down" until the economy recovers.
"We're all in this together," wrote Steve Bagwell, managing editor of the News-Register, a newspaper in McMinnville, Ore. "All oars are pulling in the same direction."
To bolster staff morale, many survey respondents said they are going out of their way to praise outstanding work and occasionally serving free lunches or snacks.
Other editors are reminding their reporters and photographers that they are fortunate to still have their jobs after so many of their colleagues have been ushered out the door.
"Aren't we lucky to continue doing what we love while others are forced to leave the industry?" wrote Eric Petermann, managing editor of The Journal-Standard, a newspaper in Freeport, Ill., with a circulation of about 11,500. "This is gut-check time. Our `new reality' is a time of separation. Love what you are doing, and be the best, or find a job as a PR flack."
Sounds promising, right? Yes and no. While e-editions bring in new subscribers, they don't necessarily bring in revenue. At least one paper, however, has found that its e-edition is attracting new audiences, especially younger readers and schools, and serving as an experimental investment in the future of newspapers.
Case in point is The Commercial Appeal's e-edition, called "e-appeal," which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the paper's overall circulation. Recent Audit Bureau of Circulation figures that cover a six-month period ending in March show that the paper's circulation climbed 31 percent as circulation industry-wide dropped 7 percent.
The increase, said Karl Wurzbach, vice president of sales and marketing at The Commercial Appeal, is directly related to its e-edition subscriptions, all but 2,000 of which are electronically delivered to classrooms.
"We made a decision to bite the bullet and tell the schools that effective the beginning of the 2008-09 school year, the only way they could get NIE [Newspapers in Education] copies was digitally, but that the price was going to be reduced significantly," said Wurzbach. "We created a new rate structure, and basically the acceptance was such that we've registered 70,000 and 80,000 [users] across local middle schools and high schools."
Wurzbach would not share the specifics of the new rate structure, but said it was a good enough deal to increase the number of digital edition copies by 60,000 to 70,000. The e-edition is a PDF version of the printed paper that lets users print and e-mail articles. In this sense, it trains younger readers to grow accustomed to reading a digital replica of the newspaper as opposed to just reading the paper's stories online.
The Commercial Appeal's NIE e-edition includes several interactive features, such as the ability to translate stories into 12 different languages and an audio option that reads to you and lets you archive content. It's one step, Wurzbach and the paper's publisher say, toward attracting younger newspaper readers and promoting literacy.
"The schools love the program," said Joe Pepe, publisher of The Commercial Appeal. "They use white boards to instruct classrooms and make the e-editions available on individual PCs in addition to applauding us for being 'green.'"
So far, the increased e-subscriptions have not led to increased revenue. The paper has, however, profited from no longer having to pay for the 10,000 print editions it delivered to schools before requiring them to order the NIE e-edition.
The Commercial Appeal is still considering how to best gain ad revenue from its e-edition. "Right now," Wurzbach said, "we have not sought advertisers to sponsor the NIE edition, and we haven't done anything on the home delivery side. Our intent is to find a big advertiser sponsor for the NIE edition."
To attract more home delivery subscribers, the paper is planning to launch a "Go-Green" section, which will be teased in the print edition but will be available only to e-subscribers.
Wurzbach, who talks regularly with other circulation directors at Scripps-owned newspapers, said he isn't aware of any other Scripps papers that are using the NIE e-edition the way The Commercial Appeal is. But, he said, "I think they're all aware of what we've done, and I think they're all looking to do something else or they're already working toward it."
While The Commercial Appeal has benefited mostly from its NIE e-subscriptions, papers such as the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News have had noticeable success with their home delivery e-editions.
Both papers, which earlier this year cut home delivery to just Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, are generating about three million page views a week and attracting an estimated 30,000 people a day -- a significant increase from the 5,000 to 6,000 readers who subscribed to it before the papers' home delivery changes, Poynter's Bill Mitchell reported.
Recent Audit Bureau Circulation figures show that e-subscriptions account for 18.4 percent of The Wall Street Journal's circulation, 6.9 percent of The Dallas Morning News', 4.2 percent of The New York Times' and 4.1 percent of The Washington Post's. The St. Paul Pioneer Press' e-edition accounts for about 21 percent of its overall circulation.
"We continue to do a limited amount of print third-party, but growth of the e-edition makes it easier to be selective about print distribution of non-individually paid categories such as hotels and third-party," said Guy Gilmore, publisher of the Pioneer Press, noting that "selective" is the operative word. "We have tried to move into digital where it makes sense. But that is not to say that we could not reverse course and add back print copies."
NIE, he said, is an obvious example of where the print/digital hybrid makes sense. "A category such as newspapers in education is especially well suited to appear in an electronic version, and we have consciously moved school copies out of print and into digital," Gilmore said. "We now have over 6,000 digital-only [home delivery] paid subscriptions, which I consider to be a promising development given the newness of the program."
At The Commercial Appeal, getting people accustomed to the e-edition is as much about shaping reader behavior as it is about building revenue. "The purpose is to get people to go to the e-edition -- to use it, touch it, feel it," Wurzbach said. "Our intent is not to cut distribution but to move content from print over to digital as people become tolerant of that."
Overall, the circulations of metropolitan, national and regional papers fell just 0.9 per cent in the three months to March 31 compared with the corresponding period last year, according to the figures, by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Weekday sales of The Sydney Morning Herald rose a fraction, to 212,700 copies, in a NSW newspaper market in which the circulations of most mastheads fell. The weekend issue held steady at 359,000 copies.
The Herald's nearest competitor, News Limited's The Daily Telegraph, lost nearly 6000 sales during the week, a fall of 1.5 per cent, to settle at 360,563.
Sales of its Saturday issue fell by a half a per cent, to 331,272.
Both NSW Sunday papers suffered significant declines. Sales of Fairfax's The Sun-Herald fell 4 per cent, to 480,000 - after the decision to drop two editions from its printing cycle because they were uneconomic. The Sunday Telegraph fell 2.7 per cent, to 651,872.
Fairfax's The Australian Financial Review posted a large drop. It sold 5700 fewer copies during the week, 82,764 - a fall of 6.5 per cent. At weekends sales fell 3946 copies, to 98,168 - down 3.9 per cent.
The chief executive of Fairfax Business Media, Michael Gill, said: "Corporate cost-cutting, reduced investor activity and redundancies in key sectors have reduced our circulations. The trend is broadly in line with previous periods of weak … activity."
Sales of News Limited's The Australian rose more than 3.6 per cent on weekdays, to 138,765, and 3.7 per cent at the weekend, to 316,174.
The figures gave the industry marketing body cause for optimism. The Newspaper Works, which comprises the three main newspaper publishers, Fairfax, News and APN, said the figures proved newspapers were bucking the trend of steep declines in circulation globally. Sales of US and British newspapers fell 7 per cent and 4 per cent respectively over the same period. The top three Australian broadsheets - The Australian, the Herald and The Age - rose by 0.2 per cent on weekdays and by half a per cent at the weekend during the audited period.
The chief executive ot the Newspaper Works, Tony Hale, said: "This proves once again that newspapers play a vital role … and are not considered a discretionary purchase that can be given up in tough economic times."
Thursday, May 14, 2009
The headline and first paragraph of the stories and blog posts are presented in reverse chronological order on a Web page with the latest appearing at the top of the page along with a link to the particular item on NYTimes.com.
Readers of nytimes.com/timeswire can choose to view all of the content published online by the Times in real-time or select specific topics such as business or sports.
Times Wire also features a photo gallery with the latest pictures.
Denise Warren, the general manager of NYTimes.com, said the free service was an attempt to "meet our audiences' desire for quality news and information on demand" and to give users "a more personalized news experience."
NYTimes.com is the leading US newspaper website with 20.1 million unique visitors in the United States in March 2009, according to Nielsen Online.
The launch of Times Wire came one day after the newspaper unveiled Times Reader 2.0, the latest version of an application that downloads the day's newspaper and presents it in a more attractive fashion than on NYTimes.com.
After downloading the content, a user can still the browse and read the newspaper even without an Internet connection.
Times Reader 2.0 also allows users to interact with the newspaper in ways they cannot with the website, filling in the daily crossword on the screen, for example.
Google also showed off a new feature, available immediately, that lets users view only the most timely search results, narrowing the results for a topic to the past 24 hours or the past week.
Google said it will search blogs and news sites, as well as the general information available online, to provide a fresher picture of certain subjects.
This feature comes amid the rising popularity of so-called real time search products, like the search feature on microblogging site Twitter, which allow users to search up-to-the-minute developments about certain topics online.
Google said users will be able to display results by type of information, such as videos.
A new feature under development will allow a search performed on a desktop PC to automatically show up when the same user logs on to Google from a Web-enabled cell phone.
A tool called Google Squared, available next month, will automatically troll for information on the Internet to create spreadsheets about the topics a person searches.
In the demonstration, a search for small dogs generated a table that listed different breeds of dogs, with key information such as weight and height.
Google executives said they did not expect the product to increase friction with online content publishers who are concerned Google is profiting from their work.
In response to a question about this, Google Vice President of Search Products and User Experience Marissa Mayer said Google Squared is very strong in citing where the content in the tables it creates comes from, ultimately driving traffic back to the content creator site.
"The tools we're launching today offer whole new ways of searching that haven't previously been available," said Mayer.
Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PWC), along with the World Association of Newspapers, released a new report on the global outlook of the newspaper industry. After surveying 4,900 consumers, 30 newspaper publishers and 10 advertisers and media agencies across the world, the research found that access to capital and a willingness to try many experiments is key to survival.
"I was pleasantly surprised with how well the senior executives we interviewed understood the problems and how well they could articulate them," said David Moss, director of entertainment and media at PWC. "There is a universal understanding you have to have a successful digital play and still realize that print is where they are still making money."
Moss noticed a change noting that in past surveys publishers were not as focused on digital treating it as secondary initiative. The dramatic decline in circulation and the brutal recession forced publishers to push digital to the front of their priorities, he said.
Those newspaper companies with the best long-term viability are those companies that can invest in several digital strategies at once. "What became apparent to me is those with money are trying to be agile in digital and mobile while those without money are making bets in one area -- which is risky," Moss said.
Surprisingly, Moss said that PWC did not find many executives who wanted to move toward a paid online content model. Moss, who spoke mainly to U.S newspaper publishers in the survey, conducted his interviews a few months ago. "I think where we found more interest was in moving toward niche content where there are higher CPMs (cost per thousand) paid for advertising," he said. "Putting things behind the pay wall was not a trend in many publishers' mind in their outlook."
The report also took the pulse of consumers and their news habits. PWC found people have a willingness to pay for 62% for general online news content compared to 100% for general print news content. However PWC warns that does not mean that consumers would actually buy online content: When given the choice, consumers would choose free content when the quality was comparable or sufficient for their purpose.
New devices didn't make the cut for pay either. "On average, respondents expressed no willingness to pay for general news and background information on e-paper or mobile devices, and they do not see them as alternatives for full newspapers," according to research findings.
People are more likely to shell out for financial content -- a maximum of 97% as much on average for high quality online newspapers with a focus on finance compared to general news on traditional paper. Likewise, consumers would be prepared to pay as much as 77% of what they would pay for a high quality traditional paper with general news for an online newspaper with a focus on sports, the study said.
With regards to advertisers, PWC said they still turn to major newspaper brands with loyal customer bases to reach mass markets. But the shift to digital will continue and advertisers are looking for innovative packages combining both print and online.
That said, according to some advertisers, "newspaper publishers have neither adapted to nor invested enough in new technologies," the report said.
PWC forecasts that the global newspaper market will decline by 10.2% this year and average a 2% compound annual decrease to 2013. Publishers surveyed said they do not anticipate the recovery to begin before 2011.
Bauer, Orange, BSkyB, The Sun, The Guardian, Yahoo and Microsoft are seven of the 21 companies that participated in the survey, representing hundreds of websites.
Mobile display ads, which include banners, text links, tenancies pre and post-roll and in-game, accounted for £14.2m in 2008 - just under half of all mobile ad spend.
Banners accounted for 82% of display ad expenditure, helped by the growth of social networking sites such as Facebook, which achieved mobile growth of 180% year on year. Pre and post-rolls and in-game ads only accounted for 2% of the display market.
Paid-for search advertising on mobile was estimated to account for £14.4m, 50.2% of all mobile spend.
A spike in mobile internet usage was a key driver of growth, from 8.6 million people in December 2007 to more than 11 million in December 2008.
Better handsets also contributed, with iPhone users seven times more likely than average to browse daily for news and information. More UK media agencies have also appointed dedicated heads of mobile.
Jon Mew, head of mobile at the Internet Advertising Bureau, said: "This is a landmark moment for mobile media. The study is a UK first and makes mobile a credible media channel. The advertising industry is taking mobile more seriously because advertising opportunities are starting to mature. Content on mobile has got better and more publishers are driving individuals to look at content via their mobiles."
The figure explains how the Telegraph is now the most popular UK newspaper site.
75,000 visitors a day
The Telegraph had about 28 million unique visitors in March, which means social sites are sending it almost 75,000 unique visitors a day.
Search engines are responsible for about a third of the Telegraph’s traffic Julian also revealed - or about 300,000 unique visitors a day.
This means the Telegraph gets 1 social visitor for every 4 search ones - an astonishingly high ratio.
You can read more of what Julian said about the Telegraph’s social media strategy here. The statistics were originally given for an article on social sites on FUMSI.
"The inchoate days of the internet will soon be over," Murdoch pronounced, citing an "epochal" debate in the industry. Having flirted with the idea of turning the Wall Street Journal website free before realising he had bought one of the world's few newspaper sites that makes money, Murdoch has come down in favour of online charging.
For a long time many journalists have been bemused and frustrated that their work merits a price in one medium but is given away free in another. Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of Guardian Media Group which publishes MediaGuardian, believes publishers need to think about where they might be able to charge in the future. "There's no review of the charging model, there's no formal kind of agreement that we should be charging at all, but it would be wrong not to think about what we would do in the future," she says.
Charging for business-to-business content, however, is a "no-brainer", says McCall, who led GMG's acquisition of Emap's B2B operation on the strength of its capacity to generate digital revenues. The model supporting so-called business-to-professional sites, such as MediaGuardian.co.uk, is "something we need to keep revisiting". But, in general news, the presence of the BBC makes charging impossible: "You basically have a fully funded and publicly funded news organisation on your doorstep. How can you compete with that?"
The BBC is what makes all newspaper executives think twice when it comes to making the internet pay. It has played its part in creating the notion that news should be free, which stands as a barrier to introducing any element of pay to newspaper websites.
Until now, the most important aim for newspapers has been to grow online readership: the higher a site's unique user numbers, the more advertising it could hope to sell. And the numbers have been impressive – titles used to falling paper sales now have millions of new readers. There is no doubt that online readership has massively extended the reach of British newspapers.
Indeed, the combined online audience for the seven audited UK national newspaper networks – the websites of the Guardian, Times, Telegraph, Independent, Mail, Sun and Mirror – peaked in January at around 140 million unique users, when Guardian.co.uk hit a record of 29.8 million. It has tailed off very slightly since then, the first sign that online readership may have reached a plateau now that broadband access has become so widespread and online habits more settled.
To some extent, revenues have followed the trend for readership growth – but not fast enough to make up for the fall in print advertising. Trinity Mirror, for instance, reported that total digital revenues in 2008 grew by 27.1% to £43.6m. But they also represented just 5% of the group total, albeit an increase from 3.7% in 2007, at a time when overall revenues dropped by more than £60m.
Advertisers have always seen a difference between consumers of print products who might be expected to spend considerable time reading them and looking at many of the adverts in the process, and a web user who may have merely strayed on to a web page by chance or as the result of making a speculative search.
And even if online readership has yet to reach saturation point, some industry executives think that growing overall numbers may no longer make much difference to their ability to generate new revenues – although they will not find it easy, initially at least, to allow competitors to overtake their traffic figures. Not only is there a finite amount of money available for online advertising, but there are also many, many sites competing for the cash. Newspapers are wondering whether they backed the wrong horse by going for volume rather than subscription.
The focus is now moving to the handful of pay models that have already been developed in publishing. The only British paper that has successfully introduced charging is the Financial Times which, seven years after doing so, has around 110,000 subscribers. A basic subscription to FT.com costs £2.99 a week – £155.48 a year – while a premium deal that includes mobile news and the Lex column costs £3.99 a week, or £207.48 a year.
At less than a third of the £650 cost of buying the print FT every day, and less than half the £468 required to take out a print subscription, the online deal looks like bad business for the company. But Rob Grimshaw, the managing director of FT.com, says the cost of online distribution is far less than printing and distributing a paper. "Online, the marginal cost of adding a new subscription to FT.com from anywhere in the world is pretty much zero. Once you look at it from that aspect, the online business model is extremely favourable. You don't tend to make nearly as much revenue as print but you make the same profit or even more profit."
But without the FT's business niche to target, can other papers charge for content? The fear is that their product is too disposable and substitutable – with multiple versions of the same story online. "Consumers aren't stupid," says Grimshaw. "If they can find something for free they won't pay for it."
Then there is the problem of how to charge. Rather than relying on a subscription model, a solution could involve micropayments – although there is no consensus on how much they would be. Newspapers will have to ensure that whichever system they use is efficient and easy, like Amazon or iTunes. Indeed, newspapers look hopefully towards these other areas of the media where a pay model has already been introduced. The music industry, after its crippling battle against piracy, has finally found a way to sell digital content, albeit at a discount compared with CD sales.
The broadcasting industry offers a less clear picture. The principle of paying for TV, mainly on the back of premium content, has become enshrined after 20 years of Sky, and on-demand viewing through subscriptions has become popular. But there is little evidence that people are willing to go online and pay for individual programmes. The success of the licence-fee funded BBC iPlayer has encouraged ITV to follow suit with a free, ad-funded model, while Channel 4's 4OD service has shifted away from pay-per-view since launching in 2006. Project Kangaroo, the three free-to-air broadcasters' attempt to develop an online home where they might have sold their programmes, was thwarted by competition concerns. (Equally, if newspapers were to make a collective decision to charge for content, which would avoid losing market share to other titles that remained free, there might be similar concerns.)
Perhaps the best hope for newspapers is technological. In the same way that the iPod helped sales of digital music, newspapers hope that there is a device on its way to make the online paper seem more valuable than it does on a computer screen. Some newspaper groups are believed to have had discussions with Amazon about getting their product on to the Kindle reader, a new version of which was launched in the US last week by Jeff Bezos (pictured left). But few believe these first-generation digital readers represent an iPod moment.
Murdoch last week hinted at some of the work News Corp has been doing. "We are looking at lots of things, models for charging, mobile readers," he said. "I don't believe in the Kindle model but I do think it is very interesting that people are going to that and to their BlackBerrys to view content."
In two years' time he hopes that charges for online content will produce digital revenues that make up for newspapers' print losses. That may be optimistic, but there is no doubt the recession has concentrated minds on moving out of the free era.
"There are not many companies out there that make a successful living by giving away their product for free," says Grimshaw. "In the future, quite a lot will be written about how an entire industry managed to persuade itself that it would be smart to give away its product to everybody."
The Financial Times's circulation dipped by 2.51% last month after the paper raised the price of its daily and weekend editions.
Pearson's financial title, which increased its cover price to £2 on weekdays and £2.50 at weekends at the beginning of April, was down to 421,059 daily sales on average last month.
This was a 6.06% decline on the FT's April 2008 sales figure, according to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations published today.
The FT, which also increased its price twice last year, had an average daily circulation of 122,286 in the UK and Eire, 61.97% of which were sold at full rate. Circulation of its Europe edition was 118,250, its Asia edition 37,030 and the US edition 143,473.
In a downbeat month for quality newspapers, the Guardian was the only daily to post a month-on-month rise in circulation in April, albeit slender.
The Guardian, which raised the price of its Saturday edition by 10p to £1.70 on 18 April, had a circulation of 343,259 on average each day, up 0.68% compared with the previous month.
However, the paper, part of the same group as MediaGuardian.co.uk, was down 2.21% compared with April 2008.
The Guardian distributed 37,714 overseas copies. Full price sales were 77% of total circulation - the highest in the daily quality market.
The Independent's circulation of 204,429 in April was 0.43% down compared with March and 16.1% year on year. It circulated 44,804 overseas copies last month. Full price sales represented 55.92% of papers circulated each day.
Last month the Daily Telegraph was down 0.87% compared with March and 6.18% year on year to 817,692. It circulated 36,244 copies overseas and 99,250 bulk copies in the UK. Full rate sales were 43.82% of the total.
The Times fell 1.57% month on month and 4.43% year on year to 590,765. It distributed 24,333 copies overseas. Full price sales were 66.2% of the total.
This 'footprint' could be used to verify the agenda and background of the contributors of user-generated content (UGC), said Jones.
"We have some fairly well-established instincts now," Jones said in the opening panel for the Voices Online event.
"[We're] looking at their blog, their Twitter. This is one overlooked benefit of social media."
In a panel discussing state of the art technology, Jones and fellow panellists discussed questions arising from using UGC.
Turi Munthe, founder and CEO of Demotix, the citizen media website, described how the doctoring of Reuters' photographs from Lebanon in 2006 was brought to light because 'bloggers started getting involved in the process'.
Jones said Reuters treats all citizen contributions as freelance content and, if it is suitable for syndication, the organisation agrees deals with photographers before releasing material.
"We [Reuters] pre-moderate everything - we are very conservative in that respect," he said. The 'experienced' picture editor looks at everything, he added.
Munthe, however, said Demotix is far less conservative and is focused on making a 'concerted effort' to push the onus of responsibility back onto the users.
It is the responsibility of fellow users to highlight issues and help with verification of material, he said.
Shaw Suburban Media, for example, expects its 21-month-old ShawVideoWorks production unit to generate more than $140,000 in revenues this year — double its 2008 contribution — according to J. Tom Shaw, vice president of advertising.
Shaw owns about 45 publications in Illinois and Iowa.
Shaw said the types of local businesses using SVW runs the gamut from auto dealers and fitness facilities to commercial builders and restaurants.
In addition to commercials, Shaw provides music and computer graphics services.
And the price is right, Shaw said. SVW charges about $2,000 for its package of video business profiles, about a third of what competitors charge.
"We know how to edit, frame the commercials and we know how to make someone feel comfortable in front of the camera," he said. "We make it affordable so if mom and pop want to put a video on their Web site they can do it.
The production unit produces HD-quality long-form videos that range from commercials to video business profiles.
Other services include music and advanced computer graphics. Shaw will even make DVD copies of the video for distribution.
SVW is housed at Shaw's Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Ill. Shaw equipped the studio with a high-end HD camera, green screen and associated video editing equipment and software.
The ShawVideoVorks studio houses equipment for editorial and commercial production.
Standard turnaround time from start to finish is four to six weeks, from contract signing to delivery of the finished product.
"We've been able to get in and explain to our advertisers how video would be helpful for their marketing strategies," Shaw said about SVW. "If you're a local business and have a Web site you can use a video because it enhances your online effectiveness."
Shaw said that, overall, traffic has been growing exponentially for the newspaper group's sites.
"Local newspaper sites have the highest Web traffic in their markets so we have both news and ad space on our sites," he said. "And video ads are an effective way of using that ad space."
Branching out employment videos
Businesses using SVW include auto dealers and gyms.
The paper (daily, 99,971; Sunday, 121,754) is working with online video service company Reel Centric to create and showcase recruitment videos on its CareerBuilder page.
"We wanted to build a continuing connection between our print ads, CareerBuilder job packs and online video," Grover said. "And since the time we launched it we've seen a 43 percent increase in year-over-year sales."
She said the newspaper collects the ad material, sends it to Reel Centric and in about 48 hours the video is ready to be posted.
The video ads contain stock photographs, graphic elements and scripts designed to differentiate among companies searching for the same type of employee — say administrative assistants.
Grover said the videos attract a lot of interest, with each one averaging around 30,000 views in the first quarter this year.
The newspaper is also looking at putting together a strategy to offer video services for the real estate section sometime in the near future.
"We started in the recruitment vertical and can look to build out in different areas, whether it's specific to a special section or for real estate," she said.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Mr Murdoch said the company is now concentrating on hunting down ways to make more money from the web.
During News Corp's third quarter earnings call in New York today, Mr Murdoch announced a flat third quarter in which income drew level with the same quarter last year.
But he said the economic crisis was turning a corner and talked up plans for user-pays access to internet news content.
"It is increasingly clear that the worst is over," Mr Murdoch said.
"I have been uncharacteristically pessimistic in recent calls though I would argue it was a well-founded concern," he said.
"There are emerging sings in some of our businesses that the days of precipitous decline are done and that revenues are beginning to look healthier."
News Corp, which owns the Herald Sun, posted a third quarter profit of $US2.7 billion on the back of a boost from the partial sale of its stake in NDS Group.
The company expects operating profit in fiscal 2009 to be 30 per cent below the previous year's $US5.13 billion after a 47 percent drop in profits to $US755 million in the three months to March 31.
A strong performance from the News Corp cable network and film studios was offset by declines at its recession-plagued broadcast and publishing operations.
Australian newspaper income was down 42 percent while across the group. Dramatic losses in newspaper advertising revenue had been "exaggerated" by the recession, with sharp declines in job and real estate advertising revenue.
However, there were signs that advertisers were trickling back.
"At the very least, we've hit a floor, and we seem to be getting a bounce," Mr Murdoch said.
Mr Murdoch, who has never shied away from calling the conditions when they were tough, struck a more optimistic tone yesterday.
"We are beginning to see a number of bright spots that give us encouragement," Mr Murdoch said.
News Corp was looking at charging a fee for access to its online news content from mastheads around the world.
"We certainly planning that way. We'll test it first on some of our stronger ones," he said.
"I would think you will see some within the next 12 months."
The Wall Street Journal, the only US newspaper to increase circulation in the most recent audit, was attracting twice as many website visits as last April.
The Journal charges for some content.
News Corp had made its operations leaner worldwide.
"To that end we have reduced staff levels by 3000 people affecting very few journalists or creative personnel," he said.
"We have streamlined a merged operations everywhere but especially at our stations and newspapers,
"These strategies will allow us to emerge even stronger when the recovery begins."
The Wolverine movie franchise was "important" and the growth of 3D cinema would continue to help the company build its film and entertainment divisions, he said.
Filmed entertainment grew operating income by eight per cent to $US282 million and the cable networks grew operating income by 30 per cent to $US429 million.
The company was not interested in acquiring other newspaper mastheads, such as the LA Times or the New York Times, as long as the existing model for newspapers was "malfunctioning", Mr Murdoch said.
News Corp was leading the way in finding a more profitable model, he said.
"You can confidently presume that we are leading the way in finding a model that maximises revenues and returns for our shareholders."
It's widely reported – and has become generally accepted – that the newspaper model is either dying or already dead, when, in fact, thousands of newspapers across the country are doing quite well. Thousands of newspapers deliver for their readers and advertisers every day. Thousands of newspapers are positioned to embrace – not be destroyed by – emerging technology.
But we don't get to read much about those newspapers. Sure it's news when giant corporations crash and burn and lives are disrupted. Stories that report on incompetent leaders who, ironically, receive outlandish compensation are widely read. Documenting the downfall of powerful entities, whether they are governments or businesses, is a legitimate pursuit. But, as any respectable journalist knows, when you tell only half the story, the story is incomplete – or just plain wrong.
In this instance, the half that receives little to no attention from big media involves the men and women in the newspaper industry who write the stories, sell the ads, print and deliver the papers and update the websites every day, without fail, for media companies that are far from dead.
The National Newspaper Association (NNA) last month reported on a study that showed community newspapers were far less affected by the challenging economy than the industry in general (or the economy in general, for that matter). The Suburban Newspapers of America and NNA's reporting group showed 2008 fourth-quarter advertising revenue of $428.7 million, only a 6.6 percent decline from the same quarter in 2007. The Glennco Consulting Group estimate was much worse, however, for the overall newspaper industry. There it showed decline in fourth-quarter advertising expenditures of 21 percent, according to the NNA.
So while advertisers cut their spending by 21 percent across the industry, the impact to community newspapers was less than 7 percent.
In addition, 26 percent of the SNA/NNA reporting group launched new products in 2008. Indeed, many community newspaper companies are growing.
The fact is that gains among progressive community newspaper companies are offsetting a large part of the massive losses being suffered by the staid, big newspaper companies.
"Community newspapers certainly are not immune to the economic downturn that is affecting all businesses, but, as the primary and sometimes sole provider of local news in a community, they remain strong and viable," NNA president John Stevenson said in the article.
These "strong and viable" companies recognized and adapted to the changing economy in a way that larger newspapers – for the most part – are not. They adapted to evolving reader habits and emerging business models. They abandoned the traditional, head-in-the-sand mentality of denial and exploited the opportunities presented by their often larger, but undeniably obsolete, brethren.
At Elauwit Media, we learned long ago that people don't want to "pay" for their news anymore.
We know that, for advertising to be effective, people have to actually see the ads. Our business model and philosophy of making sure "Everybody Gets It. Everybody Reads It." pushes us to bring local news not found elsewhere to everybody who has an address in town. It fills a very specific need for our readers and it works so well that, for the past two years, we have been listed among South Jersey's 10 fastest-growing privately held companies. We've gone from a start-up in 2004 with $100,000 in revenue to a thriving company with revenues in excess of $2.4 million in 2008.
That's certainly not the story we're hearing about newspaper companies today. But that's the story of so many of us smaller newspaper companies that have adapted to the changes in the market.
This success is no great mystery – it's the American way. Ingenuity, creativity, and the entrepreneurial spirit always have been rewarded. The newspaper companies that have altered circulation methods and policies, have focused their content and developed news delivery methods to fit today's audience and advertisers are thriving. They found new streams of revenue and ways to reduce costs that didn't eviscerate their core products.
In other words, they ran their businesses the way businesses ought to be run. For instance, huge regional daily newspapers would do better to stop requiring people to subscribe and instead deliver the paper to everybody in their target demographic (the market that key advertisers want to reach). If big newspapers would charge the advertisers, not the readers, they could still turn things around. That would be a bold way to evolve. It is highly doubtful they'll do that. We did.
So as the giant media conglomerates continue to watch their kingdoms crumble, and the self-styled scribes of truth chronicle their every misstep and blunder, the rest of us will continue to vacuum up their former readers and advertisers. We'll continue to grow. We'll continue to adapt. We'll continue to profit. And we'll do it all while upholding the standards of journalism that make newspapers so important. And therein lies the future of newspapers – one that's not so gloomy for everyone.