Posts Tagged ‘newspapers’

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A study of media paywalls

February 18, 2010

This is a great piece of work by Alastair Bruce, content manager for MSN UK, showing how 30 online providers are charging (or not) for their content.

In short, freemium is the most popular model, full subscription the least popular.  Micropayments are being used, but not much.

Prediction?  Watch the increased use of micropayments as part of a freemium service.  And also, watch as some providers stubbornly refuse to charge for content, seeking alternative ways to remain financially sustainable (for example, The Guardian, which is experimenting with all sorts of approaches at present, such as providing its content via an API).

Charging for content

View more presentations from Alastair Bruce.

(hat tip Journalism.co.uk)

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People WILL pay for online content, research finds

February 15, 2010

Dropping circulations

A new report from Nielsen (FT article – subscription required) suggests a third of people around the world (in 52 countries) would be happy to pay for online content.

While this will please many in the newspaper business (notably Rupert Murdoch, who is introducing paywalls for some of News Corporation’s papers this year), the research findings are not quite the equivalent of a reprieve for struggling newspapers.

The bottom line for newspapers is how much they can earn against their operating costs.  The margins once enjoyed by papers have been eaten up by plummeting circulations, reducing the revenues they generate from both sales and advertising.  This has been exacerbated by people moving online to read their news (and the associated loss of loyalty it is presumed this entails).

Online advertising just doesn’t generate revenues in the way it traditionally did offline, and even online advertising sales have been dropping (these Newspaper Association of America figures make depressing reading if you are in the newspaper industry, and highlight how newspapers online are competing with specialist sites like Craigslist or Gumtree for classified advertising).

So making people pay for newspaper content online is seen by many as the solution (notably not by Alan Rusbridger at The Guardian).  As readers of this blog know, I believe this is the solution.  Either way, the question that has yet to be answered is this: even if a third of people say they are happy to pay for online content, will the revenue this could potentially generate cover the costs of running a newspaper? 

It comes down to a balance between the price newspapers can charge, and the number of subscribers (or people paying micropayments for articles) they keep.

And we will find out whether a profitable balance can be struck later this year, first when News Corp erects its paywalls, and second, when the rest of the newspaper industry decides whether to follow suit.

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Blogging could disappear as quickly as it has risen

November 18, 2009

 

Poll from PR Week: the PR industry should not trample all over social media

When something comes along and breathes life into a staid industry, but has not had time to establish deep roots, we should be careful to preserve it.

Blogging has challenged the media. Every week, bloggers rail against sloppy journalism. For perhaps the first time, there is a democratic and immediate response to any weak-minded argument that makes it onto the pages of a newspaper. It’s David and Goliath stuff, and its refreshing.

Nobody knows how the relationship between blogs and media will develop.  So far, it seems bloggers are becoming more skilled and better resourced, potentially challenging journalists. Meanwhile, most journalists I know are being asked to blog as well as write (or, from their perspective, being forced to write more for the same money!).

But the critical difference is that bloggers have not been confined by commercial interests from calling things the way they see them. This is liberating, and is something the mainstream media, with its vested interests, can never hope to compete with entirely.

Which is why its disappointing that it appears blogging is becoming tarnished by a lack of transparency.

In a nice post last weekend, Laurence Borel asked the question – should bloggers be paid to write blog posts? It’s a multi-layered question. Firstly – why not? Good bloggers should be paid, just like good online media should be paid-for.

But the big question is about transparency and the flow of money. The money should flow from the consumers of the blog, rather than from brand owners or companies. Otherwise it reduces blogging to advertising – undisclosed advertising.  This would be no more acceptable than if an ‘expert’ sold you a mortgage without telling you they were paid to sell you that particular one. Transparency is the big issue.

We should value the independence of bloggers. Sadly, the credibility of all bloggers will be damaged if there is a perception that they are taking money from the brand owners and companies they blog about. This is why it’s so important that we don’t allow this practice to take hold.

And why it’s so depressing to see that the majority of PR people in the UK have got this one wrong in a PR Week poll. The emergence of social media presents an enormous opportunity for the communications industry.  There has never been such demand for watertight strategy and precise implementation of complex and increasingly targeted communications campaigns.

The PR industry should be nurturing social media, not trampling all over it. Under pressure from the media on the one hand and encroaching regulatory scrutiny on the other, blogging is fragile enough.  Let the PR industry take a lead in setting out best practice.

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Cash needs to flow for journalism to work

October 12, 2009

The Guardian is taking its digital strategy hyper-local, by launching a number of local news trials, starting in Leeds, Cardiff and Edinburgh.  Written by bloggers – preferably with journalistic training (so, soon-to-be-out-of-work journalists then) – it intends to deliver local news via its blogging platform.

Hyper-local news in Edinburgh might be of more interest to the world beyond the city

Hyper-local news in Edinburgh might be of more interest to the world beyond the city

While this is a sound idea, and is worth testing to see if it can be run sustainably, it does look like the Graun has missed an opportunity to put its money where it’s mouth is.  The job description fails to mention pay at all, and leans towards people with traditional journalistic skills, rather than a new generation of video bloggers who could really disrupt local news gathering and delivery.

The main purpose of the new news service is to scrutinise local politics and report on community news that will be of interest to the local community itself.  The advantage of the digital platform is that stories can filter up to regional or national levels when merited.  But it all rests on the newspaper taking a confident approach to resourcing the service.

Subscription or advertising-funded, the success of the service rests in the confidence of those paying for it.  Go on, The Guardian, pay a proper wage, find exciting young bloggers, and convince people that local news can be interesting.

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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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Murdoch gives the order to charge

August 7, 2009

Rupert Murdoch has done it.  As suggested at News International’s last quarterly earnings call, he says his online newspaper portfolio will begin migrating towards a paid-for model within the next financial year.

The response has been electric, with no media title able to ignore the story.  As previously acknowledged here, at No Free Lunch, Murdoch is one of the few media moguls large enough to foment industry-wide change towards charging for online newspaper content, though in this instance, he is clearly being ably supported by the Financial Times’ Lionel Barber.

Commentary has varied in tone, from outright skepticism such as Larry Dignan’s analysis at ZDNet to praise from Andrew Keen at the Daily Telegraph.

But could this work?

Murdoch is in a unique position in the media – where he goes, he stands a very real chance that others will follow.  What this means is, while the skeptics are right that charging people for content will drive his audience to rival online sources, they are also missing a key dynamic: if the others start charging too, there will be nowhere to go.

The problem for online newspapers since they began giving away their content free has been the fragmented system online – news just leaks.  But if all – or even just a proportion – of the online newspaper community moves as one, this could work to everyone’s advantage.  As Andrew Keen says:

The holy grail of the digital economy is discovering how to get consumers to spend money on content. Nobody has figured this out yet.

So from now on, watch this space for other newspaper groups to announce ‘trials’, and in the longer term, a raft of lawsuits issued in response to plagiarism.

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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?