Sunday, November 21, 2010
News Corp. has been tight-lipped about the project but the Australian-born media mogul acknowledged its existence for the first time in an interview last week with his Fox Business Network.
Asked what "exciting projects" his sprawling media and entertainment company was working on, the 79-year-old Murdoch cited The Daily but offered no further information about the tabloid for Apple's touchscreen tablet computer.
Details about the project have been dribbling out in the US media for weeks, however, and The New York Times, citing two employees who requested anonymity, said News Corp. intends to launch The Daily before the end of the year.
The Times said Sasha Frere-Jones, music critic at The New Yorker magazine, would become its culture editor. Others reported to be involved include Jesse Angelo, executive editor of Murdoch's New York Post, Richard Johnson, former editor of the Post's gossip page, and Greg Clayman, the former head of Viacom's digital division, who has been tapped to head business operations at The Daily.
Forbes magazine put the total staff on the project at around 150 and said News Corp. has budgeted 30 million dollars for the first year of the launch.
The Daily brings together three of Murdoch's passions -- newspapers, the iPad and finding a way to charge readers for content online in an era of shrinking newspaper circulation and eroding print advertising revenue.
Murdoch began his career with a single newspaper in his native Australia and while he has expanded into television, movies and book publishing, the News Corp. chairman has always been clear that newspapers are his obsession.
At the same time, Murdoch has a serious crush on the iPad, calling it a "game-changer" and potential saviour of the struggling newspaper industry.
In an interview in April with The Kalb Report, Murdoch called the iPad a "glimpse of the future."
"There's going to be tens of millions of these things sold all over the world," he said. "It may be the saving of newspapers because you don't have the costs of paper, ink, printing, trucks.
"I'm old, I like the tactile experience of the newspaper," Murdoch admitted, but "if you have less newspapers and more of these that's OK."
"It doesn't destroy the traditional newspaper, it just comes in a different form," he said.
Whether Murdoch plans to charge readers a subscription fee for The Daily is not yet known but the News Corp. chief has made making consumers pay for news online his personal crusade.
The Wall Street Journal requires a subscription for full access to WSJ.com and Britain's The Times and The Sunday Times, two other News Corp. newspapers, recently erected pay walls around their websites.
Murdoch has vowed to begin charging for online access to all of his titles and said in August that he believed most US newspapers would eventually end up doing the same.
"You'll find, I think, most newspapers in this country are going to be putting up a pay wall," he said, dismissing arguments that readers used to getting news on the Internet for free would be reluctant to pay.
News Corp. chief digital officer Jon Miller told top technology and media executives at a gathering in Aspen, Colorado, in July that the iPad may allow the news industry to start charging for content online after years of giving it away for free.
"I think we're seeing a fundamental shift in where content is consumed and it's on to these kinds of devices," he said. "These tablets are heavy media consumption devices, much more than the Web by itself and even smartphones."
He said the iPad and other tablets being developed offer "very media rich experiences that I think do allow a re-set, perhaps a do-over for the media industry, a chance to get it right."
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Message for all doom-mongers: if printed newspapers are supposedly in a dying fly position, how come I'm thumbing through a 236-page weekly right now?
Yes, you heard that right, the 236-page edition of the Chester Chronicle, dated 21 October 2010.
So huge, in fact, that the presses have to print the paper in two lots, both stapled, the first 'main book' made up of 112-pages, the second 'Classified' section containing 128-pages.
The latter was mainly a local house-buyers' bible, the first 103 pages packed to the rafters with property ads from 33 estate agents across Cheshire, more traditional sales, services, agriculture and motoring classifieds appearing from page 105 to 128.
These had to be carried over to the main book, with two pages of Public Notices, a page worth of BMDs, an eight-page 'Recruitment' section, two pages of entertainments and a four-page pull-out of reader holidays.
On top of this healthy revenue from classifieds, there were 96 display ads squeezed in throughout that main book, proudly showing that that in and around Chester the printed newspaper is alive and kicking.
As far as content is concerned, personally I preferred the page three lead to the choice of splash, although I'm sure experienced editor Eric Langton knows what his readers want.
He decided on 'REVEALED: £7M MARKET OFF THE WALL' for page one, unveiling plans for a new market hall linked by a footbridge to the historic city walls.
Langton is probably right, as we all know shoppers and market traders are among the most fervent of local newspaper addicts.
But I did like the page three tale, temptingly headlined: 'I will kidnap your baby, shoot your family and burn your house down.'
This was a report from Chester Crown Court, telling how a teenager with a grudge used Facebook to land the brother of his girlfriend in police custody before his cruel fraud was discovered.
Other stories that caught my eye on a first perusal included:
In total, there were well over 450 individual reads in 74 pages of news, features and sport, including a six-page 'Celebrations' section, 10 pages of 'The Guide' covering entertainments, three pages of 'Community News' in six-point, four pages of business and eight pages of sport.
Not bad value for the Trinity Mirror-owned Chronicle with a cover price of 77p.
Like everywhere else, of course, recession-hit readers in Cheshire have been watching the pennies, and so there was a -7.5pc decrease in readers to 20,224 according to the Latest ABCs
But I still want to see Bob Satchwell waving a copy of this weighty title in the air when he introduces the session on the future of printed newspapers at the Society of Editors' Conference in Glasgow on Monday.
For within it lies proof that newspapers – if their custodians take a little more care of them – have a future that will extend far beyond the latest inane predictions.
The Daily Star lost 70,000 sales when it raised its cover price. The Sun kept its price low – and lost 70,000 copies
National newspapers' ABC audited sales figures for October arrive full of talking points and lip-chewing dilemmas. See, price matters: once the Daily Star stopped selling at 20p it lost 70,000 copies in a month. See, price doesn't always help: while the Sun hung on at 30p it lost 70,000 as well, but the 45p Mirror actually gained a couple of thousand. See, the Sunday Times, up to £2.20, has shed 3.07%: but see, too, that no Sunday rival (with the Observer 3.7% down) has made gains.
See, the Times is having a lousy run since its paywall went up in May. It sold 515,379 then, but 479,107 in October. Is that because the wall means out of sight, out of mind — or because Times readers don't like paying a pound for their fix, like everybody else?
See, the Independent, piling on 24,000 bulks in a year, (now up to 63,990 free giveaways against a mere 87,235 sold at £1) may be going free by stealth. But the rather muted launch of its little brother, i, doesn't seem to have blighted its modest sale, or that of any of its immediate competitors yet. They're all down just a bit. But see, too, that all the publicity in the world doesn't bring automatic reward: the News of the World, down 4.62% month on month and 8.24% year on year, is now the worst performing redtop around.
By Greenslade Blog
I wish I could sing a different song just once when the monthly ABC figures arrive. For years, the circulation story has been depressingly similar - down go sales at every title and, of course, down goes the national newsprint market.
I do try to seek out reasons to be cheerful. And I concede that we can afford to smile about compensatory increasing online users. But we are talking about print here, and the situation continues to be gloomy.
The dramatic year-on-year falls for the Daily Telegraph and The Guardian (14.7% and 11.3% respectively) have to be seen in the context of dropped bulk sales. But it is clear that both are losing real sales too.
The Times, having forsworn user volume with its online paywall, is also watching print readers desert (down 16.2% on the year and 1.6% on last month).
The Independent's sale requires close analysis because its 2.4% year-on-year decline is only part of the story. It would be in double-digit free-fall too if it has not boosted its bulk sales from 40,000 to 64,000.
Mind you, it has cut its foreign sales from 45,300 to 23,660, which sounds altogether more plausible than previously.
So, the Indy's real sale last month - the number bought at full cover price - totalled 87,235. Next month we will get to see whether its new sister publication, i, has any impact on its sale.
The Sunday market, which is falling at a faster rate than the dailies, was a blizzard of negative figures, some due in part to the end of bulks (Observer and Sunday Telegraph) and some simply due to a growing disenchantment with taking papers on Sunday after bumper Saturday editions remain unread.
Who would be a Sunday red-top editor? Even sensational and scandal isn't a guaranteed seller any longer. The News of the World continues to shed readers, as does The People (despite its editor's best efforts).
The Sunday Mirror enjoyed a good month, but its 6.1% year-on-year dip shows the reality of the downward trend.
But I am going to finish on one slightly upbeat note. In October, the Mail on Sunday climbed back over the 2m mark for the first time since January.
Of course, it will be said, rightly, that it benefited from promotion and marketing to achieve the rise. But that's part of the game, isn't it?
Friday, November 12, 2010
About a month ago a Facebook friend posted an interesting status update which directly led to four weeks of investigative reporting by the Media24 Investigation team and which culminated in front page leads carried in this past weekend's editions of Rapport and City Press about how ANC NEC member and convicted fraudster, Tony Yengeni, had broken the law.
It all started when my Facebook friend Herman Lategan (he gave me permission to use his name) posted an indignant observation. He had spotted Yengeni driving in his R1.7m Maserati and swanning about a luxury Greenpoint apartment complex.
The update got me thinking: How does Yengeni afford such a car? After all, he is a convicted fraudster after being sent to jail for getting a dodgy discount on a Merc, and can no longer serve as an MP.
As far as I knew his only salary was from the ANC as head of its soon-to-be-established political school.
And that's how a lot of investigative journalism starts.... with a simple question, a bit of curiousity and then some old-fashioned digging. But we would never have asked that first question had it not been for that Facebook update.
So, Media24 investigations reporter Julian Rademeyer started sniffing around and before long we had established that Yengeni had more than one luxury car and was a director of six companies in contravention of the Companies Act in terms of which it is a criminal offense to be a company director if you have a conviction for a crime of dishonesty. Using online social networks we were even able to source a picture of the Yengeni Maserati.
I think this is a good example of how online social networks can extend a journalist's contact base in ways that we could never imagine before. This is the potential power of crowdsourcing when you have tens of thousands of citizens out there, keeping the powerful on their toes.
In another story we are working on we have been able to develop a source providing useful information on a company which is up to no good using nothing but Twitter. One tweet and a couple of RTs later we had located someone which would otherwise have taken us many days, if not weeks, to locate.
This is another reason why I think it is not a good idea for media owners to deny journalists access to social networks on company networks - imagine the scoops which are passing you by?Source: journalism.co.za
Top five free/part-free iPad apps (newspapers and magazines)
1) The Times
Publisher: News International
Price: Free for the first 30 days, then £9.99 per month (if bought via Apple). The iPad app is also available as part of a digital-only subscription (£2 per week/£8.66 per month) and is complimentary (as are the websites) to readers with a seven-day subscription to the print paper.
2) Wired (UK edition)
Publisher: Conde Nast
Price: Free to download the library, then £2.39 for the issue.
What you get: The December issue with exclusive interactive content.
3) The Telegraph
Publisher: Telegraph Media Group
Price: Free for a limited time, due to sponsorship by Audi.
What you get: The "best of the Telegraph", including breaking news, sport, business and a daily cartoon.
4) Financial Times
Price: Free to download, but you must be an FT.com subscriber for full access.
What you get: The full FT every day, including exclusive video and interactive features.
Publisher: Dennis Publishing
What you get: The iPad version of the men’s e-magazine includes videos, games and music previews.
Top three fully paid-for apps (newspapers and magazines)
Publisher: News International
What you get: A special iPad edition of the Times’ monthly science magazine.
2) The Sun
Publisher: News International
Price: £4.99 for a 28-day subscription.
What you get: The entire paper, Monday to Saturday, with breaking news and interactive elements.
3) Esquire (US edition)
What you get: The app includes a "moving cover" featuring actor Javier Bardem, videos and other exclusive content.
Source: iTunes App Store, November 2010
Every time there’s some new hot, heavily hyped gadget from Apple, it takes only a few months for the copycats to crop up. IPod? Zune! IPhone? Android!
The iPad? Well, it came out in March, and the iPad alternatives are just landing in stores now.
Many of them run Google’s Android phone operating system. That’s a shrewd move. Android is mature, polished and free (to the pad makers), and it comes with an existing library of 100,000 apps. Furthermore, any gadget fan who’s used an Android phone will feel instantly at home on the tablet.
In other words, if you make an Android tablet, you can hit the ground running.
The most hotly awaited Android tablet is the Samsung Galaxy Tab, a sleek, sturdy slab, 7.5 by 4.7 by 0.5 inches. The glass front is a 7-inch multitouch screen; the back is off-white plastic.
Samsung sweated the details on this thing. The screen is gorgeous. The touch response is immediate and reliable. The whole thing is superfast and a pleasure to use.
When asked about the onslaught of Android tablets last month, Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, scoffed at their size (most are 7 inches diagonal instead of 10 inches, like the iPad). “This size is useless unless you include sandpaper so users can sand their fingers down to a quarter of their size,” he said.
Well, sure, if you’re used to a laptop or an iPad, seven inches isn’t much. You won’t see as much of the map, the e-book or the Web page without scrolling.
But the Galaxy doesn’t feel like a cramped iPad. It feels like an extra-spacious Android phone. And the payoff is huge. The Galaxy is much lighter than the iPad (13 ounces vs. 1.5 pounds), which makes a huge difference when you have to hold it to watch a movie on the plane. And it’s so small you can carry it in a blazer pocket.
You can even slip it into a jeans pocket, although you might walk around looking as if you have a pulled muscle or something. The Galaxy is almost exactly the size of the latest Amazon Kindle — and it makes a great e-book reader, thanks to the Kindle or the Barnes & Noble apps that let you read those companies’ e-books.
The feature list on this thing is eye-popping. This, of course, is the classic Apple-versus-Google “proprietary versus open” argument. Apple controls the hardware, the software and the app store, so everything is consistent, high quality and clean (meaning, among other things, no pornography apps). Google doesn’t monitor what goes into its app store, so the Android ecosystem is unlimited, chaotic and more confusing.
In any case, the Galaxy offers all of Android’s traditional high points, including many features the iPad doesn't have, or doesn't have out of the box. For example, you can customize its nine home screens by placing icons or mini info windows anywhere you like (they don’t have to sit in an organized grid). You can dictate text instead of typing it, or search Google or Google Maps by voice. (On the Galaxy, you can also type using Swype, which I reviewed in July.) You can use Android’s excellent turn-by-turn navigation app — it’s like a car GPS unit with an Imax screen.
There are front- and rear-facing cameras, too — take that, iPad! — with a flash, video, exposure controls and special effects. It’s a little weird to hold up this enormous slate in front of you when you want to take a picture. But it’s also awesome; when have you ever used a camera with a 7-inch screen? You’re practically seeing the enlargement as you frame the shot. It’s a digital photo frame that takes pictures. (The Galaxy stores 16 gigabytes, but also has an SD memory card slot for expansion.)
The Web browser offers the usual two-fingered spread-and-pinch techniques for zooming in and out. Because the Galaxy runs Android 2.2, it can also play Flash videos online (touché, iPad!). Or at least it’s supposed to. After some delay, I got Flash movie trailers and CNet videos to play, but at ESPN.com, the Play Video button just stared at me sullenly. (My Samsung rep says they play fine for him.)
E-mail works well on the 7-inch screen. As usual with Android, though, you process your Gmail in one app, and all other kinds of mail accounts in a separate one. It doesn’t make sense on an Android phone, and it doesn’t make sense here.
As smooth and slick and convenient as the Galaxy is, though, it’s not without its frustrations. When you visit sites like nytimes.com, CNBC.com and Amazon.com, the Galaxy’s browser shows the stripped-down, mobile versions of those sites. According to Samsung, there’s no way to turn that feature off and no way to visit the full-size sites. You can delete the little “m.” in the Web address until you’re blue in the browser, but the Galaxy always puts it right back.
It’s a little odd that you can’t recharge the Galaxy from your laptop’s U.S.B. port. It must be plugged into a power socket.
Another problem: most of the 100,000 apps on the Android store are designed for a phone-size screen, not a tablet. The Galaxy either blows them up, at the expense of clarity, or lets them float in the center of the larger screen with a Texas-size black border.
This problem, of course, was familiar to early iPad adopters: iPhone apps ran on the iPad, but couldn’t exploit the larger screen. But Apple encouraged programmers to come up with iPad-specific versions, and released a software-writing kit to help them along. Google hasn’t done that yet, so it may be awhile before 7-inch Android apps become the norm.
The biggest drawback of the Galaxy, though, may be its price: $600. You could buy two netbooks for that money, or four Kindles —or one 32-gigabyte iPad, with its much larger screen, aluminum body and much better battery life. (The iPad gets 10 hours on a charge; the Galaxy, about 6 hours.)
You can get the Galaxy for $400 if you’re willing to sign a two-year contract for cellular service. All four major American cellphone carriers — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint — will offer it. The Galaxy gets online in Wi-Fi hot spots. But if you want to go online using the cellular airwaves, you’ll pay $20 to $50 a month, depending on the carrier and how much data you expect to use. (Good luck figuring that out. Quick: how many megabytes do you need for 10 Flickr pages?)
You can’t make regular phone calls on this thing. But you can send and receive unlimited text and picture messages (to cellphones) and conduct flaky video calls using an app called Qik. (You can’t make Skype calls, though. Samsung says it’s working on a fix.)
T-Mobile, by the way, wishes to point out the superiority of its deal. If you pay full price ($600), for example, you can sign up for cell service on an à la carte basis — $10 a week or $30 a month, for example — without a two-year ball and chain. And T-Mobile doesn’t charge extra to use the Galaxy as a Wi-Fi hot spot for your other gear, either — a neat, if battery-guzzling trick that would cost you $30 a month extra from, for example, Sprint.
So yes, the dawn of the would-be iPad is upon us. But the Android tablet concept represents more than just a lame effort to grab a slice of tablet hype. As with Android phones, it represents an alternative that’s different enough to justify its existence. You’re buying into a different approach to size, built-in goodies like cameras and GPS, and the more freewheeling Android app store.
With the Samsung Galaxy Tab, you’re also buying delicious speed and highly refined hardware. It’s just a shame that you’re buying all that for $600.
A futurist's advice: Newspapers will need to apply existing capabilities in new ways
According to the predictions of futurist Ross Dawson, we can be guaranteed newspaper jobs in the UAE until at least 2030. He has created a map to serve as a timeline of the eventual demise of print media worldwide. The map indicates newspapers will be “insignificant” in 52 countries by 2040; in USA the date is near 2017, it’s 2019 for England, 2034 for Saudi Arabia and 2040 for India.
In a exclusive interview, Ross answered five questions:
In contrast with America, Middle East and Asia newspapers are still doing good business. What’s your opinion about the future for newspapers in these regions?
As suggested in my Newspaper Extinction Timeline, there is a wide divergence in the success of newspapers around the world. In many countries, newspaper circulation and revenue are increasing. In time, the same forces that are making newspapers struggle in countries such as the US and UK will apply, but these challenges could be many years away.
Do you think there a way to revitalise newspapers and save them from extinction?
The future of the global economy will be largely centred on media in the broadest sense. The media organisations of today, such as newspapers, are well positioned to take advantage of that, in creating and editing content, and tapping large audiences. The challenge will be to take existing capabilities and apply them in new ways. The path forward for every newspaper will be different.
Do you still read newspapers? If so which ones rate as favourites?
I never buy newspapers, and only read them if they are in an airport lounge, coffee shop, or hotel. However if they are around, I enjoy reading many papers, such as New York Times, Financial Times, or Le Monde.
What is your advice for newspapers in regions like the Middle East and Asia where print media are still strong?
Many newspapers are threatened today because they didn’t fundamentally change their business even when the writing was on the wall years ago. Those newspapers in parts of the world where the industry is doing better will in turn hit the wall and collapse in time if they don’t start changing today. The imperative is to build new channels, reposition, and shift for the reality of a changing world.
What comes next? After the internet and social networking, is there anything more to be discovered in the media world?
Some of the emerging trends in media are reputation measures for media organisations and individual journalists, the social curation of news to give insights that are uniquely relevant to us, building new transaction-based revenue models, and media becoming a real hub for communities in a way that we still rarely see today. Media will dominate the economy, and in many ways be barely recognisable from the industry we see today.
Watch out dumb phones, the smartphones are piling on.
The global sale of smartphones during the third quarter nearly doubled over the same period last year, to 80 million, said research firm Gartner Inc. in a report Wednesday.
Smartphones comprised about 19% of the 417 million mobile phones sold in the quarter, a jump of 6 percentage points since last year.
At the same time, the standings shifted among smartphone makers, with phones powered by Google Inc.'s Android operating system -- now the main smartphone competitor to Apple's iPhone -- jumping to 26% of all phones sold during the quarter, up from 3% last year. Android runs on nearly 100 phones from most major manufacturers, including Samsung, HTC and Sony.
Apple's iPhone came in second place, with 16.7% of the quarterly market share, down slightly from 17.1% last year. BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Inc. fell behind Apple Inc. in North America, with a 14.8% share, down from 20.7% last year.
The leading operating system is still Symbian, however -- that's the softare that runs on phones made by Finnish phone-maker Nokia, still the world's largest phone manufacturer. The company sold 117 million mobile phones (smart and dumb) in the quarter, nearly 46 million more than Samsung, the second-place mobile manufacturer. Still, Nokia's quarterly market share for sales of all mobile phones dropped to 27% from 38% last year, signalling an erosion of the company's longtime dominance.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
A week inside the future of journalism
I spent eight years at The Miami Herald, mainly writing features, and when the paper laid me off in 2009, I was humiliated and sad. But people told me getting laid off could be a good thing and I listened to them. “Invent” and “take charge” and “define” are some of the words I remember from those conversations, which left me, in hindsight, manically deluded about my prospects.
I moved to New York, where I’d always wanted to live. I thought I would polish off a few story ideas and a friend’s idea for a screenplay I’d been toying with (it featured, unwisely, a terminally blocked romance novelist); then, after a suitable period, reinvented and redefined and fully in charge, I would find another job as a reporter.
But the screenplay foundered. The story ideas turned out to be not very good and I could not think of new ones. The well was dry. So I started looking for a job, at first confining my search to New York and Washington. There were reporting jobs of a peculiar sort in these cities, and my cover letters included lines like, “My knowledge of the nuclear power industry is admittedly scant” and “Although I speak no Japanese, I know New York City intimately.”
For a long time I did not come close to any job, and then I found Demand Media, which ran help-wanted ads on JournalismJobs.com and Mediabistro.com. Demand’s own site featured a picture of a laptop on a table in front of a beachfront tiki bar. Sometimes instead there was a picture of a good-looking woman sitting with her laptop in a comfortable chair. She looked happy. She was beaming. I wanted to look like that.
Demand, which launched in 2006, doesn’t do news, which is expensive to produce and perishable. It does “commercial content.” If you’ve watched a how-to video on YouTube or read an instructional article on the web, you’ve probably consumed Demand content. More than 2 million pieces were online by mid-summer, with more than 5,000 new ones appearing every day. In September, Demand attracted nearly 59 million unique visitors, according to comScore, the Internet marketing research firm (Nytimes.com, by comparison, the nation’s top newspaper site, had 33 million), to its company-owned websites like eHow and Livestrong, and more to its 350 client sites, which incorporate some of Demand’s content. Among Demand’s clients are websites operated by USA Today, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Houston Chronicle.
Demand and its competitors—there are several, including AOL’s Seed and Yahoo’s Associated Content—rely on algorithms and search data to determine what content consumers are seeking, what content advertisers are willing to pay for, and what content can be profitably produced. There are no news meetings. There are no newsrooms. The editorial workforce is freelance, compensated by the piece, at a rate that varies but is never far from skimpy.
Demand and the specter it represents—what Clay Shirky calls the radical “commodification” of content, without regard to civic value or subjective judgments about quality or any of the other sentimental trappings of the Murrow century—have inspired loathing and awe, but mostly loathing, in the class of people that pays attention to such things. Which is to say, mainly journalists and those who love them. “We’ve got former members writing this stuff,” says Bernie Lunzer, of The Newspaper Guild. “Some are just glad to have work. They’re becoming just a raw commodity bought at the cheapest price and that, essentially, is what Demand stands for. It spells the end of what we consider journalism.”
Or take Ken Doctor, former newspaperman turned news futurist and author of the book Newsonomics: “This is the logical extension of a long-time strategy to eke out profits by squeezing labor and overhead costs.”
Most news organizations already use search-engine-optimization strategies to push their content on the web. Within five years, says Doctor, SEO and advanced metrics will play a prominent role in decisions about what to cover and how heavily to cover it, with reporters and stories graded by the number and value of the consumers they attract. “It’s a box that, once you look inside, you can’t not look,” Doctor says.
One possible consequence of looking in the box is that news organizations will increasingly turn to companies like Demand for their evergreen content. Quality may suffer, at least initially, but the money news organizations save could be redirected to actual newsgathering, benefiting not just readers but the commonweal. If, in the future, consumers demand higher-quality content from the evergreen material, wages may stabilize for the para-professional workforce producing it, as Demand and others compete for a limited number of skilled content producers.
Or not. Doctor envisions not so much a race to the bottom as a race to mediocrity, the “good-enough” that is all consumers may really want, which would mean the end of most quality journalism and the end of journalism as a middle-class profession.
In August, Demand filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public stock offering that could value the company at $1.5 billion. Forty-five percent of the company’s $198.5 million in revenue in 2009 came from a domain-registry service that is the world’s second-largest, with more than 10 million names. Besides the cash it throws off, the registry is a valuable source of information on people’s search habits, and a list of potential outlets for Demand content. The other part of that $198.5 million, the part everyone talks about, came mostly in pennies and fractions of pennies earned on video and search advertising.
For most of its brief existence, Demand has been a money-loser, and it finished 2009 with a $22 million loss. But its sec filing contains numbers that would make newspaper executives salivate: every dollar spent on written content in 2008’s third quarter, for instance, is projected to return $1.58.
The Sunday Times further claims that Miller is considering a sale or stock market listing of the lucrative Trader division. Its principal brand, the Auto Trader car magazine, could be worth more than £1.5bn with its associated websites.
This claim is a repetition of the story run by the Sunday Times on 17 October, Guardian mulls Trader sale [behind paywall].
It quoted a GMG spokesperson as saying: "Trader Media Group is a very strong business and well advanced in its digital transition, which makes it a valuable asset for GMG.
"No decisions have been made about either the timing or nature of our exit from this investment."
Cut-price paper's circulation has dropped off since launch and staff are feeling the strain of producing it, according to sources.
The Independent's cut-price spin-off i is thought to have attracted average daily sales of about 125,000 copies, with circulation thought to have halved since launch.
Staff on the paper have been working "extreme and unsustainable hours" since the launch, according to the National Union of Journalists, which is planning to lodge an official complaint that the launch was "recklessly" planned and executed.
Alexander Lebedev's 20p weekday daily launched on 26 October with a flurry of media coverage helping to drive paid-for sales of about 180,000, according to several sources. However it is understood that sales have steadily fallen away, with numbers thought to have dropped to under 100,000.
It is early days for the paper and daily sales are likely to be volatile until circulation settles.
Industry sources estimate average daily sales at between 125,000 and 150,000, with the majority picking the bottom end of the range.
"The sales have dropped off and they are trying to work out if the numbers at the beginning or its current figure reflect its appeal," said one source. "I'm sure they will be optimising their distribution model, analysing which areas and which newsagents are generating more sales, and moving copies away from areas where they are generating fewer sales."
"Wholesalers give competitors the percentage of copies that are returned but they don't tell them how many copies we distribute in the first place," said Andrew Mullins, the managing director of the Independent, Independent on Sunday and the London Evening Standard. "As a result, any numbers being talked about are purely conjecture as they do not know how many copies we have printed and distributed each day. Our numbers will remain confidential for the foreseeable future, but we can say that sales of the Independent at £1 are unaffected."
The stress of the launch, both for staff and for the Independent's balance sheet, has become starkly clear, with pay negotiations now linked to the performance of the i.
At a meeting of the Independent's National Union of Journalists chapel earlier this month members passed a motion complaining about their workload since the launch.
"The chapel is concerned about the extreme and unsustainable hours expected of some staff to produce i, and fears the problem is likely to persist due to management's reckless planning and execution of the project," the NUJ said. "Members are clear that everyone fully supports the success of i. However, members explained that they are not prepared to put up with extreme hours becoming the norm."
The chapel voted almost unanimously in favour of holding a ballot for industrial action – 105 for with one against and two abstentions – over the failure to conclude a pay deal for 2010.
The launch of i has been backed with 100,000 giveaways, about 55,000 of those thought to be targeting the London market. Before launch the longer-term target was for a combined circulation for both i and the Independent of 400,000.
The Independent has a total net circulation of 182,000, with about 89,000 sold at full rate, meaning the i needs to get to well over 200,000 copies to achieve this goal. In addition the aspiration is for i to be successful enough to have a completely paid-for customer base.Source: guardian.co.uk
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Right now there are a number of obstacles separating the needs of publishers and the expectations of consumers regarding iPad-based publications. Apple is right in the middle of the problem and the solution.
To start, until recently it was not possible to purchase a subscription to a magazine, such as Newsweek, through iTunes. Even now, consumers can't automatically renew subscriptions; they must manually re-purchase at the end of each term.
For publishers, allowing Apple to process their iPad subscriptions means giving up 30 percent of the revenue and losing access to customer data for those readers. That makes it difficult for publications to provide free access or discounts to their current print subscribers.
And with publishers experimenting with subscription approaches, consumers face a confusing array of options. Some publications are paid downloads, some are not. Some offer subscriptions, some don't. Some sell individual issues through Apple's iTunes store, and others circumvent iTunes partially or entirely.
And, for many of these apps, it is nearly impossible to decipher what you'll pay for -- and how -- until you download and install the app.
In the last six months -- accelerating recently -- I've seen the emergence of three general subscription options for the iPad:
- App downloads and subscriptions handled through iTunes. Newsweek has taken this approach.
- App downloads via iTunes, with single copy sales handled by iTunes and subscriptions handled by the publisher. People was one of the first to offer such hybrid print/tablet access. Each issue costs $3.99 in iTunes, but People enables print subscribers to log in to the app for free access.
- App downloads via ITunes, with subscriptions and single-issue sales handled by the publisher. The Oklahoman has taken this approach, which means Apple does not get a percentage of sales.
For instance, the New York Post app is a paid download that includes a 30-day subscription. Renewals are handled within iTunes.
The Columbus Dispatch can be downloaded for free, but users must register to get access to a 14-day trial. Past that, users need a subscription, which is handled by the publisher.
The Wall Street Journal is a free download but full access is restricted to print subscribers, also handled directly by the publisher.
And of course some publications, like USA Today, are entirely free.
What publishers and consumers need from Apple is a real digital newsstand, which would allow:
- One-stop shopping for multiple publications
- The ability to buy a single issue or subscribe
- Capability to connect print and tablet subscriptions, including any package discounts
- A central location to access purchased or downloaded publications
- Sales via iTunes or a publisher's own circulation system, with royalties adjusted appropriately
It is easy to forget that only a year ago tablets were still a distant vision for most publishers. But 4 million iPad sales later, it is time for Apple, and the publishing industry, to figure this thing out to everyone's benefit.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Newspaper content does have commercial potential in the digital world it just needs to meet consumers' needs.
Conventional wisdom has it that the internet is killing newspapers. Paid-for circulations are relentlessly down across most of the market while, according to last week's ABCes, free internet access is just as relentlessly up. If these two are related – as most people in the media industry believe they are – the road to business nowhere beckons as analogue (or in this case hard-copy paper) pounds are unavoidably swapped for digital pence.
But what of affairs over at the good ship Beacon of Hope (otherwise known as paywall city or News International)? Well, no one knows for certain since the company hasn't released much by way of useful data, but a report from the internet traffic analysts Nielsen last week did not make especially happy reading. In the three months the Times/Sunday Times paywall's been up, total monthly unique visitors have, according to Nielsen, dropped by more than 40% from over 3 million to nearer 1.7 million. And the estimate of those going beyond the front page (free) to the paid-for delights within is just 362,000 per month. As this flatters the paywall by including anyone given access free, discounted, or as part of a print subscription, if it's anywhere near accurate, Wapping will be a worried place.
There is some upside, of course. Many of these customers are bringing new revenues and they are almost certainly worth more to advertisers - since more is known about them, as subscribers, and advertising can be more targeted and effective – and therefore priced more highly. And the experience of their cousins at BSkyB (who know a thing or two about managing a subscriber base) suggests there are a multitude of opportunities for News International to monetise its relationship with them as customers.
Unfortunately, without a huge increase in the number of subscribers, these revenues – nice as they are to have and more resistant as they may be to economic ups and downs – don't come close to recovering the substantial advertising revenue foregone by not being free. And then there is the loss of salience so keenly felt by many of the Times titles' better-known and more accomplished writers. They naturally want their work to be as widely available as possible so as to maximise its impact on the national conversation. And in the emerging digital world where recommendation via Twitter and Facebook is becoming so important, being stuck behind a paywall that most ordinary internet searchers simply won't cross is a lonely place to be.
So is that it, then? Are we all doomed? Well, maybe not. And something else that happened last week perhaps gives a clue as to where the future may lie.
Very much against the run of play, Britain saw the launch of a new, national, paid-for daily paper – the first for a quarter of a century. The launch of the Independent's 20p spin-off i can easily be dismissed as the action of a madman with more money than sense. But look a little deeper and he could be on to something. If you can see through the blizzard of PR, i is aimed squarely at commuters. Intelligent and interested, available to read but with limited time.
Simon Kelner, the Independent's editor in chief, described it as a paper for people "daunted" by the sheer size and scale of other daily national newspaper offerings – including his own. But this doesn't quite get to the real point. His i is designed specifically to meet the needs of a particular group of consumers at a particular point in their day. It is in that sense perhaps better thought of as a "service" for people who do want news, information, analysis and even comment but delivered in a way that suits them when and where they want it. First reports, again unreliable and difficult to disentangle from corporate spin, do however appear to indicate that i has already found a following – not least among readers of its big sister, the Independent.
Elsewhere, there appears to be a roaring trade in newspaper apps for iPhone and iPad type devices. Reliable numbers are hard to come by here too, but the FT is reckoned to have dispensed some 400,000 and Guardian executives nearly fainted when over 200,000 people downloaded its iPhone app – and paid for it. This suggests newspaper content does appear to have commercial potential in the digital world if it can be delivered in ways that are tailored to consumers. I have the Guardian at home, but buy the Times whenever I travel into London on the train because it meets my needs there and then. What's more, that has nothing to do with whether it's available free on the web. When I'm searching for information online I'm doing one thing; when I'm sitting on a train or eating breakfast on a Sunday morning I'm doing another.
And maybe that's the point. No one ever really paid for content per se, they only ever paid for the whole package: the content and the manner of its delivery. In other words, what could be called "services". By charging for content on the web, News International may have gone up a blind alley; but there are other solutions based on paid-for services alongside paywall-free internet options that could make for a more durable commercial future.
Monday, October 25, 2010
iPad users are more willing to engage with advertising and pay for content than users of other devices, according to a study by Nielsen. More than two thirds of the 452 iPad owners surveyed have bought a chargeable app for their device, with games being the most popular purchase. Some 57% say they would engage with advertising if it led to free content and 49% claim they are more likely to look at an ad if it displays video content. More than a third are interested in what ads can do on their tablet, but only 8% have actually made a purchase through their device.
The cheapest iPad retails at USD499 but despite its hefty price tag Nielsen claims owners of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader are wealthier. The research firm says 28% of Kindle owners earn more than USD100,000 a year compared with just a 25% of iPad owners.
The results should prove useful for mobile app advertisers and developers as the availability of tablet devices rockets. A recent report predicts Apple will sell as many as 120m iPads globally by the end of 2012 while developers such as Samsung and LG are launching their own tablets in the coming months.
Hewlett-Packard Co. jumped into the nascent tablet computing market Friday when it released its Slate 500, an $800 competitor to Apple Inc.'s 6-month-old iPad.
The Slate 500, which runs Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system and is aimed at workplace users rather than consumers, goes beyond the iPad in some places, and stays behind it in others.
The iPad has no camera, where the Slate has built-in front- and rear-facing cameras, including a three-megapixel higher resolution camera on the back. And unlike the iPad, the Slate has a USB port that allows it to work with a variety of plug-in digital accessories.
But HP's tablet, which is now available through its retail store and will ship in mid-November, is priced higher than Apple's entry-level $499 iPad, has half the advertised battery life (five hours instead of 10) and does not come with the option of a cellular wireless plan, like Apple's more expensive iPads. Instead, the Slate is limited to Wi-Fi Internet connectivity.
A press release advertising the device says it is "designed specifically for business, enterprise and vertical customers looking for the mobility of a tablet, the familiarity of Microsoft Windows 7 and the ability to run custom or corporate applications."
HP, which acquired Palm earlier this year, is also at work on a consumer device that will use the webOS operating system that runs on some of Palm's smartphones.
The New York Times Company on Tuesday reported a $4.3 million net loss for the third quarter as advertising and circulation revenue declined, and charges at The Boston Globe weighed on the bottom line. That result, which translates into a loss of about 3 cents a share, was an improvement from the period a year ago, when losses were 25 cents a share.
The Times Company, which publishes its namesake newspaper in addition to The Globe, The International Herald Tribune and a number of regional newspapers and owns About.com, continued to accumulate cash. And costs, at $522.9 million, were essentially flat compared with the period a year ago.
On an operating basis, the company said it had earned $9 million, up from a loss of $23.7 million in the third quarter a year ago.
Total revenue decreased 2.7 percent, to $554.3 million, in the third quarter compared with the period a year ago. Advertising revenue dropped 1 percent while circulation revenue fell 4.8 percent. Digital advertising, which now makes up 27 percent of the company’s overall advertising revenue, rose 14.6 percent.
In the company’s News Media Group, which includes the newspaper businesses, advertising revenue fell 1.7 percent, as a 21.6 percent increase in online ad sales helped offset a 5.8 percent decrease in print ad revenue.
Looking to the fourth quarter, the Times Company said it expected the print advertising market to “improve modestly” and digital advertising to grow 10 percent. It cautioned, however, that circulation revenue was expected to continue falling 4 to 5 percent, and that newsprint prices would rise.
At the company’s New York Times Media Group, which includes The Herald Tribune, advertising rose 1.6 percent over all. That division’s reliance on national advertising, which has shown growth in recent months, helped buoy the results.
Advertising revenue at About.com grew 5.3 percent, to $30.9 million.
Other divisions did not fare as well. At the Regional Media Group, which includes newspapers like The Sarasota Herald-Tribune in Florida and The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., revenue fell 4.5 percent. Revenue at the New England Media Group, which includes The Globe, dropped 6.2 percent.
The two one-time costs at The Globe that contributed to the company’s quarterly loss included a $16.1 million write-down of assets in the sale of a printing facility in Billerica, Mass., and $6.3 million for pension obligations.
Despite the difficulties in some areas, executives stressed that the company had steadied other areas of its business.
“We have remained vigilant in managing our expenses, and we were able to keep our third-quarter operating costs virtually flat with the third quarter last year, despite higher compensation costs and newsprint prices, and investments in our digital offerings,” the chief executive, Janet L. Robinson, said in a statement.
The company reported that it had $129 million in cash on hand and debt of $774 million, compared with $102 million in cash and $773 million in debt at the end of the second quarter. Ms. Robinson said this month that the company planned to repay a high-interest $250 million loan from the Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú by Jan. 15, 2012, the earliest date possible.
Friday, October 22, 2010
The Belfast Telegraph is calling on its readers to help it expose where taxpayers' money is not being well spent.
It launched its 'War on Waste' campaign ahead of the government's spending review, which is due to be unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne in a Commons statement today.
The paper has started the campaign to ensure public organisations spend every pound of taxpayers' money well and will report on examples of waste highlighted by readers.
Editor Mike Gilson said: "The cutbacks are highly likely to affect everybody in some way. We need to keep pushing the case for adequate funding for Northern Ireland, while at the same time making sure that savings are made in the right places.
"That is why we have launched War on Waste. We all know of anecdotal evidence of wasteful and inefficient practices.
"We are not interested in lambasting public bodies. It is very much in the interests of employees themselves to stamp out waste."
The Telegraph is inviting public sector employees, as well as those in the private sector, to blow the whistle on wasteful practices with an online form, which can be anonymous.
Chancellor George Osborne is due to announce later today where the government will make major public sector cuts to tackle the deficit under the Comprehensive Spending Review.
And although he acknowledges that new media could be a possible source of income in the future, he stated: "As long as we do not make money out of online journalism, we have to concentrate on print." He challenged the prophets of a digital revolution and reminds the audience of the virtues of print journalism. "In times of crisis the readers demand for analysis and orientation". In his view, print caters for both. "Newspapers of the future are not the river but the shores" he says. They are providing guidance for the flow of information.
However, newspapers and weekly magazines have had to change, too. They have had to get to know their readers better and listen to what they were interested in, di Lorenzo said. Not only journalists but readers too can create great content. An example he gave was that print media can try to embrace a very digital idea of user generated content. For that reason Die ZEIT introduced a new section that gives readers the opportunity to write about what they are angry about, what quotes they liked - something they would normally do online. Di Lorenzo explained that on this page, readers nominated their "hero of the week", protested against political decisions and wrote letters to prominent personalities. The feedback was amazing, he said. And this content could be transferred on an iPad as well. However, the boundaries between professional journalists and readers should never be blurred, he stressed.
In times of change, print media must dare something instead of freezing in fear, di Lorenzo said. They should risk failing with a new section rather than not giving it a go in the first place. "I call that, in the style of the military, 'flexible response'", he said.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
The iPad’s high-res display, large screen, digital delivery and interactive capabilities were lauded as the next generation of tools that print publishers could use to woo their readers back into the fold.
Now, six months after the iPad’s launch, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at which newspapers have taken advantage of the digital platform, and the state of the market today.
We recently tested the apps ourselves and spoke with content creators and industry experts to get an overview of where newspaper iPad apps are — and where they might be headed in the future.
Adopting a New Way to Consume News
In order for the general public to consume their daily news on a tablet device, they have to own one. Although great things are promised for the consumer tablet, recent data from ABI Research suggests that at the current rate of sales, such devices won’t reach what’s considered “mass-market penetration” until 2013.
However, there are enough devices out there to make app building worthwhile. Apple sold 3 million iPads within 80 days of the product’s release in the U.S., with the most recent sales figures (dating back from July)coming in at 3.27 million sold.
Wall Street analysts Bernstein Research suggest that the iPad is enjoying the fastest adoption rate of a consumer electronics gadget ever — even overtaking the DVD player and Apple stable-mate the iPhone .
Forecasters at the Harrison Group found that 13% of all American consumers showed “interest” in buying a tablet device between now and next September, with potential sales of up to 15 million units. In fact, some reports suggest that the iPad’s popularity could affect PC and laptop sales figures as consumers opt for the touchscreen tablet over a new netbook or upgrading an old PC.
As far as the wider market goes, Apple is far from the only player. RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook, the Android -based Samsung Galaxy Tab, and HP’s PalmPad are just a few of the alternatives due soon on competing operating systems.
And the good news for content creators on the tablet platform is that consumers are hungry. The Harrison Group survey found that tablet users spend nearly 75% more time reading newspapers and newspaper articles, and 25% more time reading books.
Those surveyed were apparently so convinced by the digital delivery and form factor, that 81% of tablet owners believe that it is inevitable that all forms of publications will eventually be produced almost exclusively in a digital format.
Establishing Pricing and Attracting Readers
So what is the current state of the newspaper app market for the iPad? Six months after the iPad’s launch, more than 900 apps populate the “News ” category in the App Store in both the U.S. and the UK. News is a broad category, however, and it includes feed readers, other types of content aggregators, websites’ iPad apps, and even magazine apps.
The number of actual dedicated newspaper iPad apps is low — surprisingly low if you consider how the platform was heralded as the savior of the industry. In the U.S. the Wall Street Journal and USA Today are the main options, along with a recently released “complete” version of The New York Times’ app. As far as big names in the UK market goes, The Financial Times, The Times, The Daily Express and The Sun offer apps, while The Telegraph is currently dipping its toe into the water with an Audi-backed app.
Out of those options, only the USA Today, The New York Times and a trial version of The Telegraph apps are free. The others require payment to either download or access full content, making them a “personal choice luxury” rather than a must-have download, considering how many free options exist. (It should be noted that while The New York Times app is currently free, you will need an account to access all of the content once the paywall goes up in January 2011).
So why is this the case? Surely struggling publishing companies would do well to attract as many users to their apps as possible in order to increase brand loyalty and make money from mobile advertising.
Paul Gillin, a social marketing consultant and author of the Newspaper Death Watch blog suggests that, in time, apps could be a “significant revenue stream” as the platform grows. He says that newspaper companies are wary of falling into the same trap they did when free online versions of their papers debuted, making it hard for a pay structure to be introduced at a later date.
This assertion is backed up by data from the Association of Online Publishers “Content & Trends Census 2010.” The census revealed that apps are seen as “the most significant route for mobile Internet revenue opportunities,” according to the UK publishing companies (not limited to newspapers) that took part. In fact, 61% expect to see significant revenue from subscription services, compared to 55% via sponsorship and 46% via in-app advertising.
The same AOP research also reveals that while 16% of online publishers currently have paid-for iPad apps, another 60% are planning to introduce one in the next 12 months.
“Publishers are establishing pricing from the start,” says Tim Cain, head of research and insight at the AOP.
“iPad apps are being seen differently [than] mobile apps. It’s thought that people value them differently and will be prepared to pay.”
Readers Respond to Subscriptions and Pay Up
So just how many people are prepared to pay, and how many are using the apps? Different companies have different policies on revealing their download figures and are generally even more secretive about subscription stats.
We can, however, note a few choice numbers. The WSJ for iPad has been downloaded more than 650,000 times since its launch and has “thousands” of paying subscribers. The FT’s iPad Edition option has seen 400,000 downloads and is credited for driving 10% of all FT digital subscriptions since its launch. Meanwhile, USA Today’s free app has had a slightly higher download figure of over a million.
If companies are guarded about download stats and subscription figures, they are even more guarded about how those relate to revenue. This is not the case for the Financial Times, however, as Ben Hughes, the paper’s deputy chief executive recently revealed to The Guardian that its iPad app’s 400,000 subscribers have helped the app reach £1 million (approximately $1.5 million) in advertising revenue since May.
And previous reports note that in-app iAds are fetching as much as five times the price of online advertising, with click-through rates reported to be significantly higher (15% versus 0.10% in a recent NYTM campaign from JPMorgan Chase & Co) on the tablet device than a website.
News Organizations Harness the iPad’s Possibilities
These stats show that consumers are obviously downloading and using these apps, but which consumers? Are the papers cannibalizing their own print and online audiences with shiny new apps? Or are the App Store offerings opening up a different market to the titles?
“The iPad definitely provides a valuable platform for newspapers to engage their readers in a new way and, in many cases, to appeal to a different set of readers,” says Dena Levitz, manager of digital strategies for the Newspaper Association of America. “Mobile is going to be a growth area going forward, and tablets are one exciting subset of that larger trend.”
The Dow Jones & Company’s senior director of corporate communications Ashley S.Huston says the Wall Street Journal’s plan is to offer content wherever readers are. “We know that readers consume news and information on multiple devices … The iPad app complements our existing print and digital offerings with an experience created specifically for the iPad.”
USA Today, meanwhile, notes the obvious portability the platform offers, making it a good choice for those away from home. Matt Jones, vice president of mobile strategy and operations for Gannett/USA Today tells us: “Our target is the early and middle stage tech adopter, frequent traveler and general news/sports/entertainment enthusiast.”
Despite the comprehensive content in the Financial Times iPad Edition, the publishers view the app as a “companion product,” and notes the value of easy global distribution in places where it’s more difficult to distribute a print copy, according to Steve Pinches, lead product development manager at FT.com.
So far we’ve only considered national titles. Regional newspapers, arguably the hardest-hit markets, could take advantage of the iPad’s potential too, like UK publishing company KOS Media did with its free Kent News for iPad, which was released in August.
The company is not releasing its download stats, so we have no way of knowing how popular the launch has been, or if, as KOS Media claimed at launch, it has offered “huge advantages” to iPad owners.
With national publications seeing an increase in click-through rates on its in-app advertisements, it would make sense then that location-based advertising might see similar success. And that success could be replicated by local papers. They should view the tablet platform as the potential savior it was initially billed as.
Newspapers Must Adapt Again to New Technology
After looking at a variety of newspaper iPad apps, our main complaint — and we’re generalizing across the entire market — is that they don’t take enough advantage of the iPad’s wowing capabilities.
This view is shared to a certain extent by Roger Fidler, the program director for digital publishing for the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri. He is organizing the RJI National iPad News Survey “to better understand how people are consuming news on the iPad and readers’ expectations for news apps.”
“I’ve long believed that utilitarian tablets like the iPad would evolve into the 21st century equivalent of the printing press; and, as such, would be vital to the digital transformation of newspapers and magazines,” says Fidler.
Fidler says that newspaper iPad apps need to offer a new visual format that blends the “relaxed reading modality of print with the dynamic interactive modality of online media.” It should be differentiated from print and online editions and offer tablet-specific content — all things he doesn’t think most apps are doing very well.
The solution could be found in a new “hybrid newspaper app” suggests Fidler, in which “automated sections with continuously updated news stories and more visually rich magazine-like sections created by editors and designers could coexist.” The Reynolds Journalism Institute is experimenting with exactly that kind of new publishing model.
The NAA also acknowledges the need for newspapers to “differentiate” content, and digital strategist Levitz says that consumers read longer-form content on the iPad, and they really enjoy the high quality of the visual images on the screen. She thinks newspapers can thrive in the tablet space if they take advantage of the device’s capabilities.
So is the future of print to be found in touch-screens? In the immediate future it certainly seems that publishing companies are going to be jumping on the app wagon, but how many of them will go the distance is questionable. You’ve got to think that targeted papers such as the WSJ, or the FT for business types, or geographically relevant titles have got the brightest future in the app market because they offer something that can’t be found via generic news feeds or readers.
“I would expect to see the iPad and the dozens of competing products planned for this year providing revenue for newspapers either through subscriptions or advertising sponsorships,” says Levitz. “Still, we expect tablet apps will be one part of a broad portfolio of products which will continue to include print products in some form, web-based products and other emerging products. Newspapers will continue to be the dominant local sales and content franchises reaching a range of audience segments through multiple media channels.”
The new sparkle of the iPad will keep the newspaper app market buoyant only for so long, and unless Fidler’s “hybrid newspaper app” advice is heeded, consumers will grow tired of the app-ified newspaper just as they have grown tired of previous formats before that. Newspaper Death Watch’s Paul Gillin has a grim take on the future.
“Will tablets save the mainstream publishing industries as we know them?” he asks. “No. There is still a lot of pain to come as publishers wind down their print operations over the next 10 to 15 years. However, tablets could present a source of some circulation revenue growth that helps ease the pain somewhat while that transition occurs.”
So, with more and more ways to consume free news content, is the traditional newspaper’s time up, regardless of platform? Or is the tablet the shot in the arm that the industry needs to really innovate and grab consumer’s interest once again? Have your say in the comments below.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
The woe, as usual, is more or less unconfined. September's daily newspaper circulation figures, as audited by ABC, are down 5.31% in a year: Sunday totals are 6.7% off the pace. And, of course, we all know what's to blame. It's the infernal internet, the digital revolution, the iPad, laptop and smartphone taking over from print. Online is the coming death of Gutenberg's world, inexorable, inevitable, the enemy of all we used to hold dear. Except that it isn't.
A fascinating new piece of research this week looks in detail at the success of newspaper websites and attempts to find statistical correlations with sliding print copy sales. As one goes up, the other must go down, surely? These are the underpinnings of transition.
But "in the UK at least, there is no such correlation", reports the number-crunching analyst Jim Chisholm. "This is true at both a micro-level in terms of UK newspaper titles and groups and at a macro-level comparing national internet adoption with circulation performance. Indeed, the opposite case could be argued: that newspapers that do well on the web also do better in print… Understandably worried traditional journalists should know that the internet is not a threat."
Chisholm's aim is to prod British publishers into renewed web action – citing the Guardian, Telegraph and Independent particularly for producing the highest ratios of monthly unique visitors to their sites when compared against print circulations. (The Guardian, with a 125 unique-visitor-to-print ratio, is far higher than any other European paper he can find, and also generates over three times the number of UK page impressions relative to its circulation). Moreover, UK national papers as a whole score well on such tests, clear top of the EU league and walloping German performance nine times over.
Could they, and British regionals, do better, though? Indeed they could. "The issue is not one of total audience, but of frequency and loyalty – and online, as in print, newspapers are great at attracting readers from time to time, but they don't attract them often enough, and they don't hang around."
At which point, perhaps, it's time to look at the flipside of Chisholm's findings. If the name of one game is frequency and loyalty – via investment, innovation, constant linkages and promotions – might that not also be an answer to drooping print sales as well? If you reject the net as an agent of newsprint doom, then reverse scenarios also apply.
Go back to ABC circulations before newspaper websites really began – say September 1995 – to make the point. One, the Daily Star, is doing better than 15 years ago with no net presence to speak of: 757,080 copies in 1995 against 864,315 last month. The Daily Mail, at 2,144,229 this September against 1,866,197, is well up, with a website growing by more than 60% a year. Some – say the Mirror, down from 2,559, 636 to 1,213,323 – have suffered direly. See: no correlations?
The Guardian, Times and Telegraph are all down by around a third, and the Sun has lost more than a million: but again there's no mechanical relationship here. Price matters. It always does. But investment and innovation matter as well. They always do. And you can't help by being struck how little of that goes on in print these days. A pull-out section vanishes, and comes back. Single-theme front pages come and go at the Indy. The Telegraph still looks for somewhere else to put its features. Nothing much changes. Another researcher (at Enders Analysis) calculates that papers have lopped 20% of the pages they put in a decade ago in order to bulwark sharply rising cover prices.
No correlations here, either? Nothing to prove that the more effort and talent you put in, the more you get out? More, more, more ... and more research, please.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
The changes include newspapers now being able to count one subscribers multiple times; for example, a subscriber may be counted once for his print subscription, once for his e-reader subscription, and so on. This also includes online, mobile and other subscriptions. Another major change is that newspapers may include "branded editions" (products published under a different name, such as a commuter daily) in their total average circulation. "The board's aim is to establish a foundation for the future as more newspapers move to bundled print/digital subscription offers and hybrid publishing plans," the ABC board announced in a press release.
Only 56% of Internet users ranked newspapers as an important source of information, with an even lower 29% viewing papers as a source of entertainment. 18% withdrew their newspaper subscriptions because "they now get the same or related content online."
When asked what they would do if the print edition of their newspaper stopped, a significant 59% said they would go with the online edition, 37% said they would move on to the print edition of another newspaper, and 22% admitted that they would not miss the print edition of their paper.
With the above statistics, it is somewhat surprising that 61% of these same users find "only half or less of online information is reliable," with 14% believing that "only a small portion or none of the information online is reliable." Only 46% have some degree trust in the Internet, with 9% having no trust whatsoever.
In a twist previously explored by Sfnblog, 49% of internet users admitted to using sites such as Twitter, with only 0% willing to pay for the service. "Online providers face major challenges to get customers to pay for services they now receive for free," said Jeffrey I. Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future.
"Where are people going to find news and information they trust, in a world with a dwindling number of print publications and an ever-expanding number of online publications?" Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times asked, before answering, in summary of the figures above, that "readers have not yet figured out the answer to that." Can newspapers persuade readers that their online versions are trustworthy?
Source: 2010 Digital Future Report, The New York Times
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
He described the four steps the Globe took, starting with creating a simple, web-based questionnaire, to identify Boston.com readers who were travelling to South Africa. The questionnaire asked for information including full name, hometown, email address, job, plans for the tournament and favourite team, and asked whether respondents would be willing to speak to a reporter. The form was posted on the home page and the soccer page just before the launch of the World Cup, and Greene saved the responses that he thought could be valuable: about a dozen, he specified.
He emailed these people to confirm details and seek photos, and then invited those who "showed potential" to contribute dispatches from South Africa. He explained what the Globe was looking for, "an interesting vignette or encounter during a game or with fans, something compelling about where they were staying or visiting."
The paper received several worthy submissions, and Greene concluded that "overall, this was a fun and colorful slice of the World Cup picture that gave our readers fresh local perspective and a diversion from the yellow cards and penalty kicks." Next time that the Globe makes this type of effort, Greene said, the paper would ask broader questions on the first submission form, to get a fuller impression of the potential contributors, and would make it possible for responders to upload photos via the form.
Many news organisations are looking at harnessing the power of the crowd to improve their reporting, now that so many members of the public are armed with cameras and are easily contactable by mobile phone. Greene writes that he was inspired by Amanda Michel's efforts at ProPublica to encourage reader participation in collaborative reporting projects. Other examples of crowdsourcing include Ushahidi, which offers a platform to allow news organisations and others to invite the public to contribute information which is then aggregated on a map, and which has been used in various crisis situations. A recent experiment at the Journal Register Co to produce its papers using crowdsourcing and free Internet tools was deemed successful.
Using readers as sources seems to be a valid reporting technique to complement, rather than replace, traditional reporting, as long as there is a way to establish that what they offer is accurate, and that their contributions are clearly identified.