Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Yahoo! pairs MSM articles with blog postings
Yahoo Inc. announced on October 10 that it would begin joining blog postings with articles from professional journalists and conventional media outlets on its news aggregator, Yahoo News, the most popular Internet media portal, reports Reuters. The site will adopt a three-tiered system: the top ten stories and relevant photos from mainstream media outlets will be listed first, followed by links to related articles and blog postings from 6,500 MSM sources and hundreds of thousands of blogs, and for those who want to go even deeper, a third level of search through 10 million blogs.
Although the product director for Yahoo Search, Joff Redfern says that his company will clearly distinguish between professional and amateur content, the move has the potential to re-ignite the 'Journalists vs. Bloggers debate' in that professionals may not appreciate their material being paired with rants from 'the guys in pajamas.' Well written topic-relevant blogs are sure to gain more exposure and considering their numbers, they may have the potential to drown out mainstream media sources.
Furthermore, with the popularity of Yahoo News and the depth that its aggregator now provides the curious reader through easy search and linking, more direct competition between MSM and blogs could result in a news atmosphere more based on trust. For example, who do you trust more; any random blogger sitting in his basement commenting on Iran's nuclear situation, the journalist designated by a large brand-name media company to report on it, or an expert in Middle Eastern nuclear proliferation who happens to have his own blog?
Friday, September 23, 2005
US: the present state and possible future of the newspaper industry put in perspective
Already being branded "Black Tuesday," September 20, 2005 may be looked back on as the day that the newspaper industry realized that all of the pessimistic predictions of their imminent demise were not merely hype. On that day, four major East Coast metro papers (New York Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News) announced that they would need to layoff or buyout a combined total of 180 newsroom staff members (see former posting). The previous week, a West Coast metro (San Francisco Chronicle) began buying out and laying off 120 employees. And over the next few weeks, the forecast doesn't get any better.
Bob Cauthorn at Rebuilding Media predicts that in October, with the publication of the "Publishers Circulation Statement," "metro newspapers across the country will post astonishing year-over-year declines." In an excellent article, Cauthorn first expects circulation of major metro papers to be between 9% and 15% and the average American newspaper circulation dive to be between 3% and 5%. But the core of the piece is two things newspapers are doing wrong that is bringing about their present difficulties: 1. talking about platform shift and 2. focusing on their brand.
1. Cauthorn says platform shift, switching from print to web, is a phrase that newspaper execs use to make themselves feel like they're changing their product. In reality they may be moving their content online but they don't change it. They don't realize that the different platform provides different opportunities that their readers want them to take advantage of. So printing the same content in the paper and online is ultimately self-defeating.
2. In a similar way, companies focusing on their brand are just making up an excuse for not creating anything new. The quality of their product may be suffering, but they're sure that people will continue to buy their product because it has a trusted brand name. But "When it comes to a war between products and brands, products almost always win in the end." Thus, newspapers need to become innovative, molding their product to fit the web and more importantly, the desires of their readers.
Media expert Steve Yelvington echoes Cauthorn's call. Referring to the massive job cuts, he writes, "Every newspaper journalist in America should consider this a wake-up call. You can't continue to put out yesterday's newspaper in today's world. You can't continue to go through the motions of journalism without the heart. You can't pretend that the Internet is somebody else's problem. Change, or die... Create a product that demands to be read."
Staci Kramer at PaidContent rides Viacom CEO Tom Frestonslightly for constantly reverting back to the "multi-platform" excuse; television, film, and digital interaction. In an interview, Freston described his company's new strategy as exactly what has been rejected by the above pundits; "...We have what we call the multi-platform strategy where the brand is at the center. There's not a lot of audience overlap between a lot of these brands. You come into each brand separately and under each brand there will be different types of functionality."
Jeff Jarvis at Buzzmachine contributes to the argument, refuting Freston's comments and agreeing with Cauthorn, but adding another dimension. Elaborating on a very well received posting he wrote in August about the problem newspapers are causing themselves by trying to control content instead of "enabling (the) sharing" of content among readers, Jarvis says "You don't want to be multiplatform. You want to be unplatform." He asks,
"So what if you help people create and distribute? What if you provide content to remix and some of the tools and know-now to do it? What if you share promotion and, yes, ad revenue? What if you don?t try to own 100 pieces of content but recognize your value in contributing to the success of 10,000 pieces? What?s your real value then? Owning? Or enabling? Restrictions? Or reputation?"
An example that may be the start of the media future these pundits envision is Korea's OhmyNews. Combining, 37,000 citizen journalists to date with a professional staff, the site considers that "Every citizen is a reporter" and that most everything is news. Dr. Oh's project turned a small profit last year and is predicted to fare even better this year, nothing even close to what Wall Street demands, but it's a start. iTalkNews (see previous posting) is a similar American site that combines Associated Press articles with reader contributions. In its short existence, it already claims over a thousand contributors.
In further observations, Cyberjournalist has posted a Nielsen/Net Ratings report that found that in 9 of 10 major local markets, Internet readers stick to their local paper's site with the Washington Post leading the pack being read by 30.1% of the Beltway Internet user population. This shows that locally, "brand" still pulls some weight. But with local CJ sites popping up all over the place, some regional newspapers adopting CJ practices such as the famous Greensboro News & Record example, and the fact that Internet users can access any publication, in fact any Internet page from anywhere in the world, from the comfort of their home, "brands" will probably lose their influence.
Ps. With all of the job cuts at metro newspapers, it is likely that news agencies will become even more important and may someday be the only sources relied on for international news. One of the repercussions of layoffs at the Philadelphia Inquirer according to the American Journalism Review is that it had to close its Rome bureau which leaves the number of its international bureaus at 1, 3 less than in the 90s. James J. Cramer at the financial website The Street speculates "...with cost cuts already in place to the point where you might just as well run Associated Press copy throughout if you make more job eliminations... a bleaker situation looks, alas, even more bleak than I thought."
Posted by john burke on September 23, 2005 at 11:52 AM in a. Citizen journalism, c. Multimedia convergence, k. Circulation and newspaper launches, n. Online strategies | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
US: more newspapers embracing podcasting
An American television station's website reveals that more and more newspapers are using podcasting as a means of attracting younger readers, or in this case, listeners. Since it has been found that most 18 to 34 year olds don't buy the paper, publishers throughout the country have been looking for ways to reel them in. Considering the ubiquity of MP3 players among this age group, podcasting seemed like a logical step. As the podcasting trend proliferates, newspapers who jump on the bandwagon may find that they catch some future loyal readers.
Note: At the bottom of the the television station's article are links to background information on podcasting. Newspapers may want to consider adding such links to their online articles as explained in a posting here.
International Herald Tribune adapts its webpage to mobile
Publicitas reports that the International Herald Tribune has launched a version of its website for mobile phones. Subscribers will be able to download the full texts of top news, features and analysis and the service will be updated every 15 minutes. IHT.com's editor and director, Meredith Artley said "It is essential to allow our users to access the IHT's broader perspective whenever and wherever they are." Formats of the mobile news will vary according to the portable phone of the reader.
Associated Press to launch youth service
The New York Times reports that the Associated Press will begin selling a multimedia package designed for youth to newspapers starting September 19. More than 100 papers have already signed up for the service which is called asap, a play on the English expression, 'as soon as possible'which reflects the wire service's reputation for diffusing breaking news. A staff of 20 journalists will work on projects that will include text, video, audio and blogs. The project breaks new ground for the news cooperative as it tries to adapt to the habits of younger readers. A.P. President Tom Curley said, "As the audience turns to new platforms and adopts new habits, the news must follow."
Source: The New York Times
Friday, September 09, 2005
Craigslist is just the beginning of newspapers' technological torment
"I think the publishers are making efforts to shift their business models, and they recognize that the Internet is more and more important. The challenge is to get paid for it." This quote from media analyst Jim Goss in an article on SmartMoney about the effects of the free-classifieds website Craigslist, sums up the the newspaper industry's woes in adjusting to the Web. Newspapers, used to high profit margins and local monopolies, are being attacked on all fronts by technology. Craigslist's free advertising has already ravaged newspaper classified revenues to the tune of 75% by some estimates (see previous posting). Worse still, it doesn't appear that newspapers will ever be able to regain that income which makes up 35-40% of American paper advertising revenue. Some publishers have begun to adopt strategies that echo the Craigslist model such as Knight Ridder which now offers readers free classified ads on the majority of its papers' websites and the San Diego Union Tribune which affords individuals selling items for less than USD 5,000 three lines in the printed paper free of charge. Other papers have signed on to a program called Click-n-Buy Classifieds that enables newspapers to establish online ads with photos and sound on their websites (see previous posting). But Rick Summers, technology analyst, warns newspapers that it is still "too early to say that Craigslist is the model to be emulated or that it's really the clear winner." However, in almost the same breath he says "When things are free, it's hard to provide someone with an incentive to switch," thus Craig may have hit the bulls eye after all and newspapers, if they are to remain in the classified business, will have to follow suit.
Free classified advertising may just be the tip of the technology iceberg that newspapers have run into head-first.
Although print advertising revenues are still considerably high, new types of promotions that previously would have been scoffed at such as selling a front page to an advertiser (see previous posting), printing "shadow ads" (see previous posting) or reserving ads of an entire edition for one company (as the New Yorker recently did), are becoming more common. Sure, the online advertising market is booming, and is predicted to grow at over 10% during the next few years. But a study done by the consulting firm McKinsey showed that ads on the Web bring in up to 75% less revenue than print promotions, not exactly compensating newspapers for their loss of print readership.
Apart from the gap in advertising revenue, newspapers have had trouble charging for content on the Internet. Unless a paper provides specialized news such as the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times, consumers don't seem to be willing to subscribe even to their preferred paper to get the news that they can just as easily get from a plethora off other sources on the Web. But newspapers are still willing to test pay models, as the New York Times is poised to do in the next couple of weeks, charging for its columnists and certain features and providing different pay packages for its archives through a service called TimesSelect (see previous posting). Furthermore, a recently published study found through Cyberjournalist by Matthew Gentzkow, an economist at the University of Chicago, apart from concluding that newspaper online editions are complements of the print version as opposed to substitutes, hypothesizes that papers could feasibly charge 20 cents a day for their online versions in order to maximize profits. The benefits of charging a small subscription fee would outweigh the losses of the online readership which refuses to pay. This conclusion, however, seems a bit farfetched as Internet news surfers are accustomed to reading news from a number of sources, a freedom which would be severely impeded if even the slightest of paywalls was erected by any one newspaper.
Other technologies are also providing different platforms through which newspapers can distribute their content, but through which the results remain to be determined. The most prominent is the mobile phone. Several news organizations now shoot feeds over wireless networks that paid subscribers can consult throughout the day wherever they may be. These services provide a definite stream of income for newspapers but the financial results of mobile news feeds are not yet known and it is not clear how high the consumer demand for such services is. However, one idea that would most likely sell is mobile stock quotes, a service that internet giants such as Google have already started. A few papers have even stopped printing stock quotes in their newspapers to save money because watching stocks online is much more effective seeing as they are in real time. If newspapers could break into such a service, they are sure to profit.
Another idea recently launched in Norway is to provide editions downloadable to portable video game players (see previous posting). This strategy may not only bring in additional revenue, but could also ensure the loyalty of young readers for a newspaper brand in the future. The only problem is, young people are already used to receiving their news for free and would more than likely hesitate to pay to read static news in lieu of the entertaining video games and movies they are used to watching on their portable screens. Thus, the demand for such a product also remains to be determined.
Another seemingly futuristic yet nonetheless actual view of newspaper business models is offered by Jeff Mignon, CEO of the New York based media consulting firm 5-W Mignon Media. In a short essay of what his ideal newspaper would look like, Mignon starts by clarifying that it's not a 'paper' but an A4-sized flexible plastic screen. He skips nicely through the criteria that the screen should feature including color, video and sound capabilities, Internet connection as well as Wi-Fi and mobile phone compatibility, infrared keyboard and electric pen, etc. Essentially, he describes a PC you can role up and throw in your pocket. But here's the real kicker: this screen is provided to the consumer free of charge by a major newspaper! Mignon uses the example of the New York Times. He says that the Times would ultimately profit from such a move because it would eliminate fees for paper, ink and physical distribution. Of course, since the New York Times would hand out the screen, its news would be prioritized. But the Times must allow RSS feeds from thousands of other papers and blogs, giving readers easy access to other channels just like the Internet does. And certainly, banner ads would be prevalent, but they would be personalized, allowing readers to choose the topics of advertisements they would like to see. Payment for this service? A mere monthly fee tacked on to your mobile phone bill allowing for unlimited access to content.
When reflecting upon the above visions and present problems, it is clear that newspaper business models will have to change. But in changing, newspapers (and their stockholders) are going to have to be patient, experimenting with various ideas through multiple channels as the digital revolution, which is causing a newspaper renaissance, unfolds.
Keep your eyes open for our upcoming posting which will argue that the key to newspapers' success in the digital dilemma is content.
Friday, August 19, 2005
Germany: diversity of opinions at stake?
After German publisher Axel Springer announced plans to buy ProSiebenSat1 Media, a big German broadcaster (see previous posting), reactions of newspapers, politicians and media experts have been mixed. Many non-Springer papers fear for the diversity of opinions.
MedienCity reports that many remember what chancellor Gerhard Schröder once said: that to run Germany you need Bild, Bild am Sonntag and TV. With the planned acquisition of Pro7Sat1 Media, Springer would have those three elements. It bodes badly for Schröder that Springer traditionally has sympathies for the centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU). The Sueddeutsche Zeitung writes that with Springer and Pro7Sat1 there are two things merging that do not belong together if diversity of opinions should persist. Sueddeutsche Zeitung points to the power of Bild, the tabloid that sells an amazing 3,7 million copies each Monday to Saturday and reaches almost 12m readers. Politicians are already afraid of the tabloid, but when combined with Pro7Sat1, the biggest private broadcaster in Germany, it would only get much worse. No German top politician has yet openly criticized the deal, reports the Economist. It cites Siegfried Weischenberg, journalism professor at the University of Hamburg: "They are all too scared to pick up a fight with Bild." By contrast, Edmund Stoiber, leader of CSU, the CDU's sister party, welcomed the move and said that it will strengthen Germany as media location and will secure and create jobs.
Besides Bild, Springer owns Die Welt (circulation 230.000), Hamburger Abendblatt (270.000), Berliner Morgenpost (149.000) etc. Moreover, Springer owns many magazines. According to Die Zeit, Springer reaches 35m readers with its publications. More than every fifth paper sold in Germany is a Springer paper. Bild is the most cited newspaper which means that other papers pick up what Bild is writing. ProSiebenSat1 Media, the biggest private TV company in Germany includes, besides the two TV channels ProSieben and Sat1, further TV channels: Kabel eins, the information channel N24 and Neun Live. Last year its channels reached on average about 22% of viewers (all numbers according to Die Zeit).
The Deutsche Journalisten-Verband (DJV), the German Journalist Union, warned that the evolving media giant would have an enormous influence on public opinion: "Germany does not need Springer TV, but diversity of opinions". The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes in a comment piece that the merger affects policy, society and economy and is also a new challenge for democracy.
According to Der Spiegel publisher Holtzbrinck is going to protest the merger in front of antitrust authorities. Also public broadcaster ARD thinks that the merger is problematic in terms of diversity of opinions and also for the advertising market as Springer will be the only one to offer advertising packages including print and TV in Germany.
Der Tagesspiegel doubts that market power will lead to opinion power automatically. Of course, the company will have possibilities to offer attractive advertising packages and to reuse content in the different media. But, the Tagesspiegel concludes, Springer will first have to prove that it knows how to make television.
However the deal is currently being inspected by Antitrust authorities. This will take some months as cross-media effects will have to be checked, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
Meanwhile Springer's revenues are rising. Today, the publisher revealed that first half net earnings jumped almost 50%, reports Reuters. Mathias D?pfner, chief executive of Axel Springer, said that the company is 'optimally prepared' for the takeover.
Sources: Die Zeit, MedienCity (in German), Sueddeutsche Zeitung (in German), DJV (in German), Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German), The Economist, Reuters (in German), Der Tagesspiegel (in German), Der Spiegel (in German)
Thursday, August 11, 2005
Murdoch's magic online number is 1 billion
Although he missed the boat on the first wave of Internet investment in the late 90's, Rupert Murdoch seems to be making up for it in spades. The Guardian reports that media mogul's News Corp is to invest USD 1 billion in Internet holdings with plans to further spread its digital reach. Since his spring speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors declaring the future of media to be online, Murdoch has been aggressively putting his money where his mouth is, meeting with News Corp executives to discuss online strategies, forming Fox Interactive Media as a roof for its Internet holdings and purchasing Intermix Media which came with the added benefit of a popular networking site for the younger crowd. Now, Murdoch says he has additional plans to buy an Internet search engine. With Internet advertising skyrocketing and more and more people moving online, it's highly doubtful that such investments will significantly cut into News Corps' lofty profits. Even with Lachlan out of the picture, the move to digital means the Murdoch's are not going away any time soon.
Friday, August 05, 2005
Germany: Marrying content and advertising power of newspaper with television
Axel Springer, the biggest German newspaper publisher with papers like Welt and Bild, buys German broadcaster ProSiebenSat. 1 Media for 2.5 billion Euro. Springer is taking full control of the broadcaster and will become the second biggest media group in Germany, as Reuters reports. Bertelsmann, the biggest group, already owns publisher Gruner+Jahr and broadcaster RTL Group reports Sueddeutsche.de (in German). According to Netzeitung (in German) the new group will be the first listed German media group.
As stated by CNN Money "Springer - which already owns 12 percent of ProSieben - said it will buy all vote-carrying common shares and all preferred shares from Saban's group, known as P7S1 Holding. It will own all common and 25 percent of the preferred shares." Haim Saban, media billionaire, and a group of private equity investor in his consortium sell the stake that they bought two years ago.
Reuters states that "with the deal, Springer Chief Executive Mathias Doepfner fulfils a long-held dream of the company's late founder Axel Springer to marry the content and advertising power of its conservative daily newspaper Bild with television." Doepfner is cited: "ProSiebenSat.1 is an investment that will pay off". However a banker said: "I'm not a big fan. The sad truth is that there is a proven track record of zero synergies between print and television."
Meanwhile the German journalist union DJV is worried and warns that the deal would threatens diversity of opinions in the media. In their view the new media group would exert too much power on the German media market. However, the deal still needs to be approved by cartel and media regulators. This will take some time as it is the first cross-media merger for the authorities as Netzeitung states. But there are only few rules on cross-ownership which could stop the deal.
US: Major newspapers still thinking in terms of newspaper-deadlines in online age?
Do major US paper still think in terms of newspaper-deadlines in an online age? This question was raised by Helge Ogrim, managing editor of Dagbladet.no, the website of a Norwegian daily, on Poynter. He was monitoring the news story about Maribel Cuevas, a 11-year-old girl who was arrested for throwing a rock at a boy (see article for details of the story), from Norway. After the court appearance of the girl he checked the website of the Los Angeles Times to see how it turned out and found no update. That's why he finally turned to SFGate.com, the site of the San Francisco Chronicle, for an update. LATimes.com had the updated story the next day.
Ogrim comments on Poynter: "While all reports indicate that a rapidly rising audience first turn to the web for its news, major U.S. newspapers still ignore this trend. ... The Los Angeles Times must have lost some readers to news websites that provided updates of the Cuevas story much faster." This might be another sign that newspapers and their journalist have to change when facing an online world (see previous posting on re-training journalists for online).