Monday, October 17, 2005
"In New Orleans a lot of bad information came from bloggers"
Les Hinton, chairman of News International, accused citizen journalists and bloggers of "amateurism, misrepresentation and failing to emulate the standards of traditional news organisations", reports The Guardian. Hinton, "Murdoch's chief lieutenant in London", spoke at the Society of Editors conference in Windermere, UK.
Referring to citizen journalist's role in covering Hurricane Katrina, he said, "In New Orleans a lot of bad information came from bloggers and amateur witnesses, all newly empowered with instant communication. We must be experts at getting it right and being reliable." He said that bloggers were responsible for reports of unrest and rape that were not approved later (see also previous posting). He said that people needed (traditional) journalists "more than ever to put things into context".
"Citizen blogs actually are stealing our audiences, at least our audiences' time. Their tanks are on our lawns. This brave new world requires new disciplines and skills. But we're still finding out what people want from new media operations, and so are they", he said.
He also said that newspapers will have to change their websites so that they are able to earn money from them. But to convince users from the "freeload generation" to pay for online content, papers will have to do more than just replicate what it is already in the paper. Hinton pointed out that many newspapers have been to slow to respond to the challenges of the digital age, because they feared that online operations would "eat into their profits". He said, "People have wrestled with the quandary of how you can grow aggressively your online presence without at the same time making your company less valuable. The fact is there are ways of doing both, and, simply put, it's a question of developing websites with your brands that add to what print does as opposed to simply replicating it."
Source: The Guardian
Japan: Yahoo launches mobile content portal
Yahoo Japan Corp. launched a mobile content distribution service allowing mobile phone users to buy "games, ring tones, news and other entertainment and information from 59 content providers", reports Reuters. The launch is another move towards services on the mobile market. PaidContent writes that "Yahoo Japan plans to get revenues from the new service from fees for settling transactions and collecting payments for content providers." The company also said that it plans to launch a similar service for PC users next year.
Although news is just a little part of this new mobile content portal, it could show the trend where the news business is going. And portals like this are competitors to newspapers, especially when attracting young people. To distribute news on mobile devices will also have an impact on the delivery of news in general. Storytelling, for example, will change. Like the Washington Post mentioned in its article about the future of newspapers, " Long articles..., with complete sentences and linguistic device, likely will dwindle in number and be restricted to the remaining newspapers and e-papers. News on small screens, such as that of your cell phone, will spit out in headlines and blurbs and sentences without articles: 'Mars rodent attacks NASA probe.' "
New technology brings moving images directly onto paper
At this week's Plastics Electronics trade fair in Frankfurt, developers from German electronic company Siemens presented extremely thin, miniature colour displays that can be printed onto paper or foil. The displays can be produced at a very low cost leading Siemens to state "Color displays may one day be used practically everywhere." The use of such displays could, for example, mean a revolution to packaging, displaying information about products or even operating instructions for devices. And they could be used in newspapers as well, especially because Siemens scientists are currently optimizing displays to allow showing moving pictures.
Siemens spokesman Norbert Aschenbrenner said in The Guardian, "The technology makes it possible to put moving images directly onto paper ... at a cost that would make it economical to use on everything from magazines to cigarette packets ... where the moving images would give more detailed instructions than any photo could ever do." The new technology is expected to cost about ?30 per square meter. It is planned to be available by 2007.
Referring to the possible use of the technology in newspapers, Aschenbrenner said, "We think that at the moment the screens will appear first in more expensive magazines in the form of high-impact adverts. But as the price sinks we expect them to appear in papers as well, possibly as a really attention-grabbing front page." That would be quite a revolution in newspaper design.
Aschenbrenner explained the displays' potential: "The images are in colour, and can broadcast anything that can be shown on a regular flat screen monitor or TV, although with a slightly lower quality. These could be short film clips or flash animations like those found on the internet." That would enable newspapers to compete with the Internet and television using the printed paper. The new technology is an interesting development and makes one curious of what the future will bring. Are we going to read newspapers that are full of ultra-thin displays showing short films? Or are we going to read our newspaper on an e-paper-device? Or are we just going to read everything online? What do you think?
Friday, October 14, 2005
The Grey Lady to shrink format?
The New York Times, currently with a width of 14 inches, is "considering going to a smaller width, but had not made a decision", the paper reported on Wednesday. On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal had announced to reduce the width of its U.S. edition (see previous posting). Both moves are connected to the rising newsprint price (see former posting).
The New York Post writes that in all, the Times' "shrinkage would save more than $22 million a year in raw materials". It looks like Pelle Anderson's prediction that the Gray Lady will be transformed into a compact might come true one day. Newspaper designer Anderson said in September, "I think the future will make a liar out of Sulzberger. The New York Times will certainly be transformed into a compact format ... The derogatory term 'tabloid journalism' has largely lost its meaning in the rest of the world, and it will do so in New York as well, when the time comes for the grey old lady to slim dow" (see former posting).
Monday, October 10, 2005
Germany: Publisher predicts that "Free papers will bring big financial losses"
German publisher Axel Springer recently announced that it would launch a free paper called Gratissimo in the case that Schibsted or any other publisher launches a free paper in Germany (see previous posting). We asked Christian Nienhaus, managing director of Axel Springer´s Bild publishing group, a few questions in an email-interview about this project.
1. Considering the popularity of free papers in other countries, why is Axel Springer against the publication of free papers in Germany?
Our maxim is: Every day without a free paper is a good day. Journalistic quality has a price and therefore we don’t think highly of free papers. Moreover, we are convinced that there would not be only one free paper in the German market. Because of the enormous competition all participating publishers will face big financial losses.
2. What will be the content of the 24-page Gratissimo? How does Springer plan to differentiate Gratissimo's content from other publishers' free papers?
We are easily able to launch an excellent paper thanks to our broad experience, our editorial resources and our extensive network of correspondents. We have developed a reader-friendly and news-accenting editorial concept for Gratissimo.
3. If Gratissimo is ready to be launched, why doesn?t Springer print it before other publishers enter the market? Does Gratissimo pose a potential threat to Springer paid papers?
Again, we do not want a free paper! But if a competitor starts a free paper, we will not leave the market to him. The danger for our paid-for newspapers would, however, be rather small. Firstly, free papers would not offer the same amount of content and background information and secondly, free papers would only appear in major cities, where only a small percentage of our papers are sold.
4. Apart from price, what will be the difference in content between Gratissimo and Welt Kompakt? Will the two papers be complements or substitutes?
Gratissimo has a completely new and different editorial concept than Welt Kompakt, hence title and target group would not overlap.
5. Do you think that a free paper could help to attract younger readers to newspapers? If launched, will Gratissimo be accompanied by a website and other new media such as podcasting, popular among younger generations?
Whether free papers bring young people to reading newspapers still needs to be proven. We rather trust in the quality and experience of our existing papers. One could call Bild that reaches about 2 million young readers aged 14 to 29 every day one of the biggest youth newspaper in Europe. To maintain our hold on the youth market, we continue to offer a mixture of subjects that are of interest to young readers. Our excellent sport section plays a major role in this, because it is relevant for every generation. Furthermore, other various products of ours, such as the magazines Computer Bild and Computer Bild Spiele, as well as our merchandising activities like the Bild Comic Bibliothek (a series of comic books that are sold under the Bild brand) attract even more new target groups.
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
US: "Newspaper business is at the dawn of a Renaissance"
Yesterday, the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) released the first Newspaper Audience Database (NADbase) report that includes expanded audience measures. NADbase reports detailed reader demographics, i.e. gender, age group, household income level, and readership for the top U.S. daily newspapers and their web sites. Readership data is provided for the average weekday, the average Sunday as well as cumulative readership of five weekdays or four Sundays. Web site readership, provided by Nielsen//NetRatings, is measured in terms of total unique visitors and page impressions within one month, in this report the month of July. The report will be released every spring and autumn and can be downloaded on www.naa.org/nadbase.
In addition, the NAA analyses market data collected by Scarborough Research. This analysis shows that, for the period from February 2004 to March 2005, 77% of all adults and 68% of 18-34 year olds in the top 50 markets are reading a newspaper during the course of one week. The web site data showed 43 million unique visitors to newspaper web sites for the month of July, i.e. 29% of all Internet users visited a newspaper website. Furthermore, 11 of the 25 top national news and information web sites are owned by newspapers. Newspaper sites are also dominant for local information.
The wide reach of newspapers is surprising after years of falling circulation. Janet Robinson, CEO of New York Times Co. said in USA Today, "We're not saying people shouldn't look at circulation. But we want to be sure we get the full credit for what newspapers have to offer."
John F. Sturm, NAA President
and CEO, said, "Readership is the most comparable measure of the value of newspapers to a
broad range of consumers and advertisers, and this data demonstrates the value
newspapers continue to provide in reaching younger readers ... NADbase
is the first step of a major industry initiative to engage with advertisers on
the issues critical to their media buying decisions. This first version of
NADbase provides extensive information on the audience of our core products and
Jay R. Smith, NAA chairman and president of Cox Newspapers Inc said that if someone were to ask, where news come from, the honest answer
would be newspapers. "For too long, however, newspapers only came in one form - ink on paper. Suddenly, all of that has changed. Newspapers still arrive the traditional way, but they also come in compact and tab sizes. They now offer free editions, targeted editions and editions in languages other than English. They've gone digital and now arrive 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via online sites.The newspaper business is at the dawn of a Renaissance."
However, Miles Groves, media economist of MG Strategic Research, said in USA Today, "Do I believe this is going to increase newspaper ad share? Probably not. You're competing with people (in TV and the Internet) who measure results every day. Twice a year won't be adequate." With regard to this problem, Sturm said that "there are going to be a lot of conversations" about publishing the report more frequently.
Source: Newspaper Association of America (NAA), USA Today
Monday, October 03, 2005
Can localizing news save newspapers?
Many newspapers are currently struggling as they are facing declines in readership and also advertising. One way to win back readers could be to focus on local news - something that lies at the heart of newspapers', at least regional and local newspapers', competence. The idea is currently often cited and newspapers start to experiment with it. The Birmingham Mail just started its new relaunched and localized edition. Gannett's editors agreed on the importance of local news in their papers at their meeting last week and online strategist Steve Yelvington praised the advantages of hyperlocal community sites at the Ifra Newsroom summit last week.
Steve Dyson says that "the way to fight the threat from national newspapers and the internet is to focus on what the regional press does best - focus on local news", reports The Guardian. Dyson, the new editor of the Birmingham Mail, an "oil tanker heading nowhere" because it is currently the worst performing metropolitan paper in Britain, plans to turn his paper into the best performing one by focusing on local news.
Starting today, the paper changed its name from Birmingham Evening Mail to its former name Birmingham Mail, which was last used in 1967. The redesigned paper focuses more on local news and lifestyle. Four new local editions were added. So the paper now publishes seven local editions instead of the previous three timed editions. But because the different editions will appear at different times in the city, the paper will be able to publish timed editions as well. Dyson said in The Guardian: "We're going back to the grassroots with a more detailed focus on local areas. People can get breaking news in most places - that's the real challenge for evening papers. We've got to remind them how essential we can be by concentrating on what we're good at - reflecting people's local lives." Local news, that was traditionally only covered on the inside pages, will begin to appear on the front page as well. Dyson also said that it was not easy to persuade publisher Trinity Mirror to invest in a "failing" paper.
Although regional papers of Trinity Mirror, like the Western Mail, the Newcastle Evening Chronicle and the Liverpool Daily Post, could increase sales recently, the overall trend for regional papers in the UK is downward. According to ABC figures, paid-for regional papers lost 8% between 1999 and 2004. Evening papers are performing especially bad.
"Newspapering ain't what it used to be, although in some ways it is, can and should be everything it used to be", was the message of the Gannett Editors Meeting last week, reports Tuscon Citizen (the paper is also owned by Gannett). David Daugherty, Gannett Vice President of Research said,"Local coverage is important. Local/local coverage is more important. Local/local/local coverage is even more important. Covering 'me' and 'my agenda' is most important."
And local newspapers should become "hyperlocal community sites" if they are willing to succeed in the digital age, was the advise of online strategist Steve Yelvington at the Ifra Newsroom summit in London last week. According to Journalism.co.uk, Yelvington "told delegates that the long decline in newspaper readership has been caused not just by the internet, but by a complex accumulation of social and technological influences including radio, TV, cable and satellite alternatives. In response, news sites need to focus the personal, social and local interest at the heart of their local communities. A successful web publication needs to reinforce rather than compete with its print partner, so publishers must construct a new vision for their online proposition."
Yelvington cited the example of US local newspaper BlufftonToday . Its site BlufftonToday publishes news alongside photo galleries, an events calendar and different blogs, all open to contributions from residents. Fittingly, the paper's slogan is "It's what people are talking about!" Four months after the launch of BlufftonToday , the site had 1000 blog posts, 5600 comments and 4000 photos uploaded. Most notably, also print readership has risen. While there are still problems, like educating staff for the site or monetizing the different site elements, the site is certainly a good example to take advantage of the internet. Yelvington's advice is: "Have clear goals for your site and tell users about those goals, invite them to participate and ask for their help and don't be afraid to lead the conversation or intervene when necessary."
US: Newspaper stops publishing compact edition
Although the current trend in the newspaper industry is towards smaller formats, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is swimming against the tide and has stopped its tabloid edition, according to NewsDesigner.com. The paper had started producing the compact version last spring.
However, the paper also learned from the compact experiment and will change its (broadsheet) paper according to what readers liked in the compact edition. John Kirkpatrick, editor and publisher, writes in the last edition of the compact The Patriot, "While many people did like the compact format, it didn't catch on the way we had hoped. We did, however gather some valuable information about our readers' preferences along the way. Many people told us they liked the added color in our compact edition, as well as other features, so we'll be adding those things to The Patriot-News in the coming weeks and months. For busy readers, we'll be bringing you more news than ever - with breaking local news 24 hours a day - on our sister web site, PennLive.com."
Friday, September 30, 2005
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?