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.