Posts Tagged ‘FT’

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Online media must not become a paid-for cartel

September 16, 2009

Rupert Murdoch once again gave a boost to media-by-subscription at yesterday’s Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York.  In a speech where he reported a rebound in the advertising market, he reiterated that News Corp media had plans to increase non-advertising revenue.

The media is now lining up behind the idea that there is money to be made through subscriptions, via either a ‘freemium’ model, offering additional benefits to subscribers, or through micro-payments.

Their long reluctance to go down the paid-for route online suggests that their former view – that ad revenue lost through reduced reader/viewer figures could not be recouped by subscriptions – has changed.

So what makes the subscription model seem so appealing now?  Here are three suggestions:

  1. Ad revenue per media channel is projected to fall so far in the near future that the subscription model is now viable. This is quite conceivable, given the proliferation of media channels.
  2. New technologies such as mobile devices and electronic readers offer a point of difference worth paying for. With Spotify and the Wall Street Journal just two channels offering mobile content for a fee, it suggests mobile devices could boost subscriptions in a previously unachievable way.  As Murdoch said at Communacopia : I do certainly see the day when more people will be buying their newspapers on portable reading panels than on crushed trees.
  3. The mainstream media now believes it can corner the market for paid-for news/analysis.  Recent moves to centralise electronic media behind specific techologies, such as mydigitalnewspaper.com , Google Fast Flip and Journalism Online (which is specifically a payments system) mean the mainstream media may increasingly be able to behave like a cartel. Early moves towards paid-for models by the Financial Times and New York Times may be followed by a mass shift to paid-for online news.

Paid-for online services should theoretically be more customer-focused and financially sustainable than those that are ad-funded – but if pricing were to be set in an uncompetitive way, that would be an unfortunate outcome.

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Lionel Barber: Paid For Content The Future

August 5, 2009

Lionel Barber, editor of the FT, yesterday made the clearest case yet for paid-for online newspaper content.

In an interview with Benjamin Cohen at Channel 4, he made it clear the FT believes its subscription model is the future, although he also cited micropayments as an end-game for newspapers.

He said: “We use a registration model.  It’s a frequency model whereby people taste FT content, and after a certain number of articles, then they register.  After registration comes subscription and we’ve got 117,000 subscribers.”

Content, he said, has value – something that has been forgotten by newspapers over the past decade: “I think there is an inexorable momentum behind charging for content, for the simple reason that, one, the advertising that we once relied upon isn’t going to come back in the same way.  And two, that everybody has simply realised that, in this new internet age, they need to actually charge for content, and establish content as something valuable.”

On micropayments, Barber does not rule out a single system for all newspapers, saying he is looking at “the micropayments issue”.  There will be organisations, he said, that can help newspapers charge per article.  Indeed there are a number of different organisations that offer a wide variety of different electronic, mobile and micropayment platforms, and one of these could be adopted by newspapers en masse.

There is a good round-up of commentary on Barber’s interview at the Fee or Free blog.

If the alternative is content being paid for by the back door, either using an ad-funded model, or even worse, by special interest groups as the Washington Post was found to be doing, then Barber has to be nudging the newspaper industry in the right direction.  What do you think?

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Apple Tablet and Higher Music Margins

July 27, 2009

Very interesting story in today’s FT about Apple working with the four major record labels and launching a tablet computer.  It’s interesting because it suggests Apple’s famously tight-lipped new product development process may have sprung a leak.  But it’s far more interesting because it is another reminder that Apple is operating on a level above most others when it comes to making money from information – in this case, music.

Newspapers are struggling with the concept of charging for content, with a few good exceptions, such as the FT and New York Times.  By contrast, Apple – having already cracked the making money part – is struggling with the far more noble challenge of driving up margins for online content.

The music industry appears to have struck a good working relationship with Apple, whereby they collectively work to improve their money-making potential.  Even if Apple were to take a larger slice of the fee for delivering higher-value interactive music packages (including album art and sleeve notes), everyone wins because the pie itself is getting bigger.

And to turn that on its head – since Apple is investing in new hardware, surely it has earned the right to a greater slice of the income for its efforts.  This sort of relationship between a technology developer and the music industry highlights what could be achieved in newspapers – if only the papers themselves would start collaborating over paid-for (or even ad-funded) delivery of portable e-news.

Watch out Kindle, or Apple may use its experience in the music trade to beat you to the punch with its new 10-inch tablet, which would be perfect for catching up with the latest news.

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Protesters got sophisticated, the FT got pwned

March 28, 2009

You have to give it to the people who have put this together – they have achieved an April Fool’s trick to rival the best of them.

Entitled “not the Financial Times”, and dated 1 April, it looks at first glance to be the real pink paper. It seems to be on the right newsprint, and the typeface has been aped brilliantly – though not perfectly. But the editorial is irreverent, and in places downright offensive. And there is no doubting the target of the derision – big business and Government. Welcome to anti-G20 week.

It’s hard to agree with some of the sentiment contained in the 12-page paper, though it does attempt to maintain a sense of humour about what it’s doing. On balance, it’s a winning formula. It may just be because I’m a PR guy, but this had me in awe for fifteen minutes while I examined it in detail. (Bear in mind I’m slightly obsessed with media – for example I’m still pretty sure I can tell every UK national newspaper just from it’s newsprint and typeface. Not proud.)

Look out for similar devices in the week to come.