Friday, September 30, 2005
France: Le Figaro slims down in new design
The French daily Le Figaro will appear completely redesigned as of Monday. "It's not a revolution, it's an evolution", said Francis Morel, general director at Le Figaro, reports Le Monde. The goal is to increase readership, especially among women and younger readers (average age of reader is said to be 55-57 years) and to encourage occasional readers to become regular ones. After research with readers and several dummies, the new design will start on Monday, October 3.
The changes include: The paper will be 3,4 cm narrower. The new logo is "European blue". The paper will consist of 3 sections. The first sections will cover international news, Europe and France. The second section, which will be printed on salmon paper will be dedicated to the economy and the third part will cover subjects as culture, fashion, free time, lifestyle and wellness. Much space will be dedicated to photographs and infographics. And also the website will be redesigned. The relaunch is said to have cost 5 million Euro. The papers cover price of 1 Euro will stay the same. Imédias has a photo of the a front page in the new design. See here.
Le Figaro, the oldest newspaper of the country, was founded as a weekly in 1826 and has appeared as a daily since 1866. It has a circulation of about 326,700, currently more than competitor Le Monde, reports Der Standard.
New York Times' paid online experiment criticized
Considered by some to be the ultimate test of whether or not newspaper websites will be able to charge for content in the future, the New York Times' pay model TimesSelect is receiving harsh criticism from loyal Times readers and of course, the blogosphere. Poynter's Steve Outing has received a number of emails slamming the Times' decision and concluded, "What I picked up from this pile of e-mail is that many people view the Times' columnists as fulfilling an important global public-service role, and that by publishing them freely on the Web for so many years, they spread ideas around the world that need to be read widely. The times is being judged on its mission of serving the public good, not shareholders... Something the times may have damaged here is its global impact." One of Outings' emails came from a devoted Times subscriber who said, "Yes, I can afford to subscribe to TimesSelect, but I will not. I have canceled my delivery of the paper, as well."
MediaBistro has an array of reader opinions, mostly negative, and a summary of the blogosphere's reaction - negative across the board. One blog says that the Times' is doing the rest of the online media world a favor by diminishing their dominant news presence on the Web with a paywall. Readers in general seem to agree that they'll be able to read opinions just as valued of those of the Times' columnists on other blogs and many are sure they'll be able to find the columnists somewhere on the Net anyways - which has happened, just look at Technorati's homepage. One reader even summed up the problem in a somewhat old fashioned, yet logical manner: "I can go to the library and read the NYT for free if I'm desperate."
Will readers eventually warm up to TimesSelect, or will this criticism force the Times to scrap the project?
Reporter jailed for not disclosing anonymous source freed
Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter that chose to go to give up her freedom instead of giving up the name of an anonymous source, was released on Thursday, September 29 after agreeing to testify in a grand jury investigation. Miller, who had been incarcerated for almost 3 months, received direct clearance from her source, US Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis Libby, that repealed all obligations of confidentiality. She will now be allowed to talk freely in front of a grand jury investigating the outing of a CIA agent that could have grave consequences for the Bush administration. After being released, Miller said, "I went to jail to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promis not to reveal the identity of a confidential source. I chose to take the consequences, 85 days in prison, rather than violate that promise. The principle was more important to uphold than my personal freedom."
US: Print advertising is not dying
Print as an advertising medium "cannot yet be put out to pasture", concluded a majority of five panelists at the Print Forecast panel in Manhattan on Monday, reports MediaDailyNews. Jason Klein, president and CEO of the Newspaper National Network (NNN) said, "The trends are not exactly what we would like, but I think the reports of print's death are greatly exaggerated." He also pointed to the NNN's recent study that showed newspapers are "the engagement media" and therefore attractive to advertisers (see former posting).
However, Charlie Rutman, CEO of Media Planning Group (MPG) North America, countered, "Dying may be a little extreme, but the medium is definitely on a resuscitator." Pointing to recent scandals regarding cirulation controversies and weak numbers he said, "once burned, twice shy. It's happened too often - clients are nervous, we're nervous."
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Two opposing views on newspapers' bottom line
Grade the News has recently published two educated opinions about the state of the newspaper, the primary focus being on the problem of the bottom line. Lou Alexander, former director of the San Jose Mercury News' advertising department, highlights "three prominent misconceptions about newspapers" of which the first discusses newspaper profits:
Myth - Newspapers should cut profit demand: Alexander argues that the reality of the market does not allow newspapers to cut their above-average profit margins. Using the example of Knight Ridder, he argues that by cutting profits and piping that money back into their journalism, newspaper company stocks would be greatly devalued resulting in two scenarios:
1. the more positive scenario is that "one of the other cash-rich public companies would start buying KRI stock with the intent of taking over the company. To another media company some of the KRI newspapers are worth having in their own right. They are profitable and could be clustered with existing parts of the company executing the takeover. There would be considerable savings to be had by eliminating most of the KRI corporate staff. Some of the newspapers could be sold or traded to other companies to create new clusters."
2. or even worse; "Knight Ridder could be taken over by an investment consortium, which has profit as its only goal. It would generate extraordinary profit by breaking up the company, selling off the various newspaper and electronic media companies one by one."
Stephen R. Lacy, a respected media economics professor, counters Alexander's argument by saying that "Perhaps the real myth is that public companies will continue to make 20% to 25% profit margins 25 years from now." He describes two possible bottom line situations contrary to Alexander's:
1. "A commitment to profit margins in the 15% to 20% range and a willingness to invest in journalism to maintain readership. (This means readership of print and electronic news.) If newspapers maintain newsroom investment, they should dominate the local Internet market. This will require that investors adjust their expectations for public newspaper companies, but the fragmentation of advertising market will push that adjustment on investors eventually, whether they like it or not. I call this the long-term scenario."
2. The second scenario involves the continued cutting of newsroom resources (as well as other newspaper resources) to preserve high margins with the corresponding loss of circulation. The current managers will maintain their control, but the movement of readers away will open up opportunity for weekly newspapers, Internet news sites and even local cable channels to serve their former readers and compete for advertising.
Despite this bottom line argument, both seem to agree that content matters when it comes to circulation and conversely, profit.
Alexander closes with two suggestions:
1. The newsrooms of America need to make sure they are purer than pure. The world is full of smart, well-educated, well-read media consumers these days. These folks are aware of the scandals of the last few years.
2. Forget about gimmicks and focus on compelling content.
Lacy says, "Circulation is related to content. Circulation is not exclusively related to content, but most research supports some relationship.
Does these conclusions mean that by continuing to produce quality journalism, falling newspaper circulations will eventually turn around? If keeping high margins means cutting newsroom staff, can newspapers continue to produce the quality needed to sell their papers?
Weblogs have reinvigorated "overdue" debate about journalistic methods and ethics
On September 12, the European Parliament hosted a debate on the use of weblogs. The debate was one of three debates on the implications of the information society. Pointing to the differences between blogs and traditional media, Karlin Lillington, technology journalist at the Irish Times, said that "journalists face libel laws, whereas some bloggers behave as if they're in the Wild West. Bloggers will state things without saying where they got them from. And increasingly, blogs are used to promote products without making this clear".
However, Thomas Burg, of BlogTalk.net, counted that "weblogs are not about content but about sharing, learning and connecting with other people" and that blogs should be seen as free converstations between people. Disagreeing with this, Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, claimed that a democratic society sets certain norms and standards and pointed to the lack of global legal framework to fight child pornography and hateful or libelous weblogs. He also said, "People have little time and want to be reasonably confident that the sites they visit are reliable, whereas a lot of weblogs are tripe" and that therefore people will continue to visit websites of traditional news media. But, as the press release about the meeting states, he also said that "the exciting thing about weblogs, however, is that they have reinvigorated the debate about journalistic methods and ethics, a debate long overdue."
Richard Corbett, who was the first member of the European Parliament to start a personal weblog also said he is not optimistic that the accountability and reliability of weblogs could be strengthened. Regarding the issue that blogs somehow damage privacy, Karlin Lillington said that "these are not new crimes, there are just new tools to commit them."
Kremlin ducks out of press freedom meeting – As journalists talk of 'resistance'
Leaders of the Russian press and foreign publishers and editors, meeting in Moscow to discuss press freedom problems, were stood up by a senior Kremlin official who pulled out of the programme at the last minute. "Another brilliant public relations coup to improve the Kremlin's image on press freedom and independence", said – ironically - Timothy Balding, Director General of the World Association of Newspapers, which organised the meeting together with the World Editors Forum and the Russian Guild of Press Publishers (GIPP), during Publishing Expo 2005, which ends in Moscow today, Thursday.
Natalia Tymakova, Head of President Putin's Press and Information Office, was to have defended the Kremlin's position on press freedom and independence. She gave no excuse for her withdrawal from the meeting, where publishers and editors from Europe, Asia, Latin America, the USA and North Africa discussed a wide range of issues with the representatives of several leading Russian newspapers and magazines. "The Russian media does not face classic censorship, as the word would normally be understood", said George Brock, President of the World Editors Forum (WEF), in his opening remarks. "As far as the government's approach goes, I would christen this technique of smart, informal censorship as 'predatory manipulation,' said Mr Brock, who is Saturday Editor of The Times in London.
"If the authorities, federal or local, believe that press freedom in Russia is 'neither better nor worse' than elsewhere in the democratic world" (as President Putin has claimed ) "they are deceiving themselves," he remarked. "Taking normal press freedoms overall, Russia is currently moving away from - not towards - the basic understandings which underpin the relationship between the media, society and the state in Europe and America."
The Russian speakers and panellists at the meeting pinpointed Kremlin interference, misused subsidies and official advertising budgets, low public trust in the press, poor distribution, the failure to adopt professional journalistic and business practices, and the domination of 'quasi-government' electronic media among the many reasons why newspapers in Russia today remain weak (only 27 out of 1,000 adult Russians buy a newspaper every day). But they were also highly self-critical:
"The lack of trust in the media has more to do with the media than the government", said Vladimir Pozner, a prominent TV presenter. "Many
journalists have sold out, many journalists are on the take". Pyotr Godlevsky, CEO of the Izvestia daily newspaper, said that the "misfortune" of the press was the "lack of solidarity" among publishers and journalists, who were also responsible for the drop in quality of newspapers that had led to such a high level of public disaffection ? only 9 % of Russians trust the media, compared with more than 50 % who trust President Putin.
Andrei Richter, Director of the Moscow Media Law and Policy Institute told the meeting that "only when the people are interested in the destiny of newspapers will they stand up for the freedom of the press", adding: "It is possible to fight the authorities, but it's difficult because the power of the media is incomparable to that of the authorities. We must start by raising the authority of the media".
A glimmer of hope that the "resistance" of journalists has begun was given by Yury Purgin, the CEO of provincial press group Altapress and President of the Independent Regional Publishers Association, ANRI. Mr Purgin said that the authorities were beginning to learn "that they are not dealing with uniquely obedient media". Citing a recent petition signed by several hundred journalists against an abuse of government authority, he said: "We are starting to confront the powers and stand up for ourselves".
"Towards a Free and Independent Press in Russia" was organized by WAN, WEF and the Russian Guild of Press Publishers in the lead up to the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum, the global meetings of the world's press, which will they will organize in Moscow from 4 to 7 June 2006.
Catalan newspaper: Editorial turn towards more explication and services
The Catalan newspaper Avui will change its editorial strategy towards more explication and services, reports Mediacafé (in French). The goal is to incorporate elements that help readers to interpret the news and form an opinion about it. The main goal is no longer to cover breaking news as fast as possible. The paper also plans to offer more service information. In addition it will launch a new supplement called 20-30 that targets young readers.
Source: Mediacafé (in French)
US: Regaining trust in mass media
According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans have somewhat regained trust in the mass media. According to the survey, conducted September 12-15, 13% of respondents have a 'great deal' and 37% a 'fair amount' of 'trust and confidence in the mass media'. On the other side, 37% have 'not very much' and 12% 'none at all'. Those figures show a slight increase in trust and confidence that respondents have in mass media. (The question was: "In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media - such as newspapers, T.V. and radio - when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly - a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?)
However, when looking at figures from the last years, the level of trust is still relatively low. In 1972, when the question was asked for the first time, 68% had a 'great deal' or a 'fair amount' of trust in the media, compared to 49% this year. Also in recent years, from 1997 to 2003, this figure was always higher than 50%. This year's result is therefore only an improvement compared to last year's low result of 44%. However, it could be a sign of hope.
Newspapers' transformation in the new media landscape
"Fusion is only now coming to the newsroom, but the fusion has already taken place in the minds of the readers." Commenting on one of his most recent travails, the conversion of the Wall Street Journal's Asian and European editions to compact format, renowned newspaper designer Mario Garcia insists that newspapers need to integrate their online and print editions to suit the already changed habits of readers in a multimedia world. In this ever evolving world, "Some stories will lend themselves to a photo gallery, others will be told better through audio or video, and reporters will have to be clued into that...They will tell the stories in nine paragraphs for the newspaper and then in a multimedia format online," said Garcia.
Garcia's arguments are supported by The Middletown Media Studies II report as reported in Revolution Magazine. The study conducted by Ball State University Center for Media Design found that people spend nine hours a day with various media and a third of it using more two or more media at the same time. Television was by far the most popular medium but computer use continued to grow making it the second most used medium.
And with traditional media companies such as Viacom, TimeWarner and NewsCorps buying up Internet properties left and right, as noted by the Wall Street Journal, the percentage of computer use is certain to keep soaring over the next few years. The main drive for these companies' acquisitions has been the rocketing online advertising market whose sales grew 33% last year.
But alas, the Internet giants that survived the dotcom bubble burst are leagues ahead of conventional players when it comes to the world's fastest growing medium. Banc of America Securities is quoted in Forbes as declaring that Yahoo! and Google are "poised to be the biggest beneficiaries" of the booming online advertising which, according to The Guardian, is being fueled by search-based advertising which makes up about 40% of total online revenues. This market is also certain to continue blossoming as more advertisers realize the advantages of being able to track the effectiveness of their advertising through 'click' tallies.
This Internet advertising news does not bode well for the printed word. Although Banc of America predicts that "the shift to the Internet will be slow," much of the advertising dollars moving to the Internet are being taken from newspapers, not to mention classified ads. On the other hand, the investment services company sees newspaper online advertising revenue making up 10% of total newspaper advertising within the next two years, a significant increase from its current 3-4%. With this forecast, Mr. Garcia's newspaper 'fusion' model will have the necessary financial backing.
But perhaps the biggest threat to newspapers and other traditional media companies, although it will take some years to determine, is the quest for original content by Internet companies. Yahoo!, which to date has been merely an aggregator of other sources' news, is aggressively developing its own media wing, sending a journalist to create multimedia presentations in war zones and hiring up to 30 writers to produce original financial content. Many in the news industry scoff at this venture under the impression that a non-news player will never be able to compete with the quality journalism they produce.
The fact of the matter, however, is that Yahoo! has hired prominent journalists, those who have worked in print and television for years. As Internet advertising grows, Yahoo! and other Internet players will have even more money to spend on hiring star journalists. If print advertising begins to slump seriously, newspapers will have even less money to spend on their own reporting, already a problem highlighted by several major newspapers' newsroom job cuts last week.
Staff cuts, along with growing newspaper online advertising and threats from purely Internet companies further support Garcia's 'fusion' model. For years people have complained that newspaper websites are simply reproductions of their print editions and that newspapers should have innovated their coverage by taking advantage of the multimedia opportunities the Internet provides. Newspaper online sites were frequented because there was no other option, as noted by media expert Bob Cauthorn.
Now there are options, and more are certain to keep popping up. Although major papers are cutting staff which has been declared by some to be the beginning of the end, they are waking up to (although well past the dawn of) the Internet era in that they have not been cutting online journalists. Furthermore, many papers have begun joining their print and online staffs. This trend needs time to develop so that the two staffs learn how to work together and more newspaper journalists learn how to produce multimedia content for the Internet as Yahoo! has just begun to do.
Another key to the future success of newspapers, according to Garcia, is Internet linking. Instead of stubbornly protecting their brand, newspapers should link to other sources to allow the reader to dig deeper or to get another view. Newspaper readers are not just readers anymore. They want to experience a story on every level of media. Readers will always appreciate a well investigated and comprehensive article but in the new media world, they do not want to stop there. Garcia summed up his vision of this new media world by saying, "There will be survival of every medium, but survival will come by fusing the different mediums and by sending readers from one medium to another."
Newspapers will be with us long into the future, but the manner in which they function and in which they are consumed are bound to transform to fit the new media landscape.