Wednesday, October 12, 2005
A way for newspapers to improve content and increase circulation?
The BBC Magazine asks, "How can papers afford to give away DVDs?" The answer as attributed to media critic Roy Greenslade: "They can't, at least not if they want to make money." The article goes on to say that DVD giveaways and like promotions are mere ploys for "very short circulation spikes." Where "Editors hope people will buy the paper for the DVD and become loyal readers, leading to long-term stability," most people seem to be buying the paper solely for the giveaway. "It's getting to the stage in a few years where you'll get a free newspaper with your CD or DVD," continued Greenslade. So from this article, it seems that giveaways are not the answer to maintaining or attracting more of a readership.
But the format of the article itself gives insight into a way in which newspapers could attract readers.
It was printed on the BBC's website in a section called "Who, What, Why?" which allows reader feedback and questions, some of which are answered by the BBC for further investigation into a story. Feedback for this particular article, for instance, included a suggestion that the BBC do a piece on the DVD retail market. Some was quite telling of how consumers feel about newspaper promotions; people get annoyed at having to watch the advertising at the beginning of the DVD and real news readers hate finding their paper full of inserts and giveaways. One said straight out, "Perhaps they should stop giving away freebies and start concentrating on content."
That is what it comes down to: is a newspaper's function to publish outstanding content or is it to sell papers through any means necessary? Maybe by including their readers in such a way as the BBC has done, newspapers will improve content by learning what their readers or potential readers really want and will conversely be able to sell more papers through this attention to public desire instead of luring them briefly with giveaways.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Poland: Newspaper war expected
Things are getting hotter in the already crowded Polish newspaper market. According to the Warsaw Business Journal more than 5,400 press titles exist on this media market. And new launches have been announced. Agora, publisher of Poland's leading quality newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza plans to launch a new newspaper this autumn (see former postings here and here). This week, Berliner Zeitung reported that German publisher Springer, the biggest competitor of Agora in Poland, will also launch a new paper in Poland next spring.
Springer has launched the tabloid Fakt, that was modeled on the German Bild, two years ago. The paper was a great success and with over half a million copies sold each day it is now the biggest paper in Poland. Now Springer is planning to export it's German up-market newspaper Die Welt as well. The launch of a paper like Die Welt would be the frontal attack on Gazeta Wyborcza, states Die Presse.
Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's first independent newspaper that was founded after the communist system broke down, has lost some of its prestige, writes Berliner Zeitung. The paper was involved in a national corruption scandal two years ago. And last year, the paper revealed one of its sources after some sloppy investigated articles about corruption at the police. To break one of the highest journalistic principles and reveal its source was a big mistake, said media scientist Wieslaw Godzic in Berliner Zeitung. Furthermore, Fakt began to criticize the paper. Agora's new paper could help the Gazeta Wyborcza to rebuild its image and prestige. While the new paper could cover sensational stories, Gazeta Wyborcza could return to its core task: to be a serious source of information, concludes Berliner Zeitung.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Poland: New daily will be "newspaper of the center"
The new newspaper expected to be launched by publisher Agora SA in Poland this autumn will not be a "down-market tabloid" as announced earlier (see former posting). "Representatives of the company's board declared that the new daily will not be a tabloid but a 'newspaper of the center' ", reports the Warsaw Business Journal. Representatives also stated that the new daily is not going to compete with existing papers. The new paper, whose name is still unknown, is said to be an original project of Agora SA and not copied from any foreign or national newspaper. Jerzy Wójcik, former chief editor of the Polish free paper Metro, that is also published by Agora, will be the editor-in-chief of the new paper.
Source: Warsaw Business Journal
Monday, September 26, 2005
Middle East: Mixed reactions to new compacts
One week ago, two new newspapers in compact format launched in the United Arab Emirates (see previous posting). The two papers were finally called Emirates Today for the English edition and Al Emarat Al Youm for the Arab edition. It seems that the new papers prompted mixed reactions. As Campaign Middle East reports, Gavin Dickinson, commercial director at the Arab Media Group which publishes the two newspapers, said that the launch was an "unqualified success, but admitted there had been problems with the paper’s reproduction in the first issue."
According to Campaign Middle East especially the reproduction quality and the papers' mixture of international and local news were criticized, while other features were praised. Charif Wehbe, partner at Face to Face Public Relations, said, "The Arabic-language version is the real news here. Launching a tabloid-style image-led daily is revolutionary for the UAE. It was only a matter of time before someone figured out that the new generation of Arab readers also have less time to read cumbersome broadsheets stuffed with endless columns of print." David Sheridan, regional director at MindShare, a media agency, said, "The lack of navigational aids through this initial news melee needs sorting but the paper redeems itself with clear, colour-coded sections that may, in time, have appeal, particularly to women ... while I am not expecting challenging reporting in the early days, I do hope that it will develop a cutting edge in its editorial, otherwise I may question what more am I getting from Emirates Today for AED2 (US$0.5) than I get from 7Days for free?"
Comments to our previous posting point to the same direction. One comment stated that there was "Nothing earthshaking about the paper. One of my friends said he would still prefer to pay Dirham 1 for The Emirates Evening Post. The price of Emirates Today is Dirhams 2, but right now given away free ... One has to wait and see how the battles shape up." Another comment told, "I expected a lot more from these two publications ... After two days of the new kids on the block I am still waiting to read something better than is already out there."
Friday, September 23, 2005
American newspapers: fretting about how cuts will be executed
A very smart article from Jon Friedman, MarketWatch about the current and future layoffs in the US press: "Newspaper companies talk a lot about how they hope some doomed employees will accept, in the more dignified newspeak of the publishing business, "voluntary" exit compensation packages.
I hope that the paper won't use the layoffs as an opportunity to abandon the less sexy coverage areas, such as urban affairs and metropolitan news.
President Bush was rightfully blasted by the media for turning his back on the poor people of New Orleans when the administration utterly failed to exhibit any sort of an adequate evacuation procedure prior to the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.
It would be oh-so-easy for any metropolitan daily to reduce its concentration to the news that affects the less desirable readers - you know, the people who neither subscribe to the paper nor read it online. And if you don't even own a computer or have an Internet connection, you might as well move to the Australian Outback."
Posted by Bertrand Pecquerie on September 23, 2005 at 12:35 PM in k. Circulation and newspaper launches, m. Improving editorial quality, n. Online strategies, r. Revenues and business models | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
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 21, 2005
European free papers up 3.5 million (33%) in first nine months of 2005
Piet Bakker, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam and Free Daily Newspaper guru once again helps out the Editors Weblog with an informative posting on free papers:
Free newspapers in Europe boosted their distribution from 11 million at end 2004 to 14.5 million in September 2005 due to the launch of new titles and editions and increased distribution of existing papers. The increase in the first nine months of 2005 (+33%) was already more than the increase in the whole year 2004 (+20%). New titles were introduced in Spain (Ahora, Que!), Denmark (Xtra), Iceland (Bladid), the UK (MEN Lite, FTpm, City A.M.), Latvia (5Min) and Lithuania (15min) while more editions of existing titles were launched in Portugal (Destak, Metro), France (20 Minutes, Metro), Italy (Metro, Leggo & City), Spain (Metro, 20 Minutos), the Netherlands (Metro) and Switzerland (20 Minuten).
In almost every country existing editions also increased their distribution. The new launches and expansions resulted in distribution growth all over Europe. In Spain distribution of free papers almost doubled to 3.6 million (+98%) while in Iceland circulation grew by 77% to 180.000. But also in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland distributions' increased with 20% or more.
With dropping circulation of paid newspapers, the share of free papers increased dramatically over the last years. In Iceland 76% of newspaper circulation consists of free papers, in Spain almost half (46%) of the circulation is free. Other countries with a major market share of free papers are Italy (30%), Portugal (31%), Greece (27%), Denmark and Sweden (20%), the Netherlands (19%), France, Hungary and Switzerland (17%).
And there is more to come, when free papers are launched in Germany in 2005, distribution will rise with 2.5 million at first and 4 million later. But even without the German launches European distribution will rise to 16 million because there are plans for Ireland (Metro and Herald Metro), the UK (fourth London free paper), the Czech Republic (Swiss publisher Ringier & national Metro edition), Spain (more 20 Minutes editions), Switzerland (Le Blue Matin & 20 Minutes Lausanne/Geneva), Spain (Planeta Group) and Austria (Schibsted, Metro and local publishers). In short: doubling of total free European distribution within one year is very well possible.
Source: Piet Bakker, Free Daily Newspapers
Monday, September 19, 2005
Switzerland: Free paper is biggest newspaper
Last week readership data for Switzerland, published by WEMF REMP, showed big gains for the free paper 20 Minuten, reports KleinReport. 20 Minuten increased from 782,000 to 948,000 readers year on year, partly due to the launching of new editions, and is the biggest newspaper in the (German speaking part of the) country. The Zurich tabloid Blick lost 19,000 readers in the same time, reaching now 717,000. The well-respected Neue Zürcher Zeitung increased readership year on year from 316,000 to 331,000, but is far behind 20 Minuten. While most German language daily newspapers showed slightly decreased readership, Sunday papers (SonntagsBlick, SonntagsZeitung and NZZ am Sonntag) could increase their readership.
The biggest daily in the French speaking part, Le Matin, increased its readership from 331,000 to 353,000. Many other French languages dailies lost readers. Le Matin's publisher Edipresse plans to launch a free paper in the French speaking part before the end of the year (see former posting). The biggest Italian language daily newspaper Corriere de Ticino slightly increased readership from 113,000 to 119,000. Other Italian language dailies increased readership as well (La Regione Ticino: 111,000 from 94,000, Il Caffè della Domenica: 125,000 from 106,000, Il Mattino della Domenica: 88 000 from 82 000).
Two opposing arguments for declining circulations
Two articles from "the world's first blog media company," Corante (named after what is believed to be the first English-language newspaper), make some observations about declining newspaper circulations. The first quotes an interview with internet journalism pioneer Bob Cauthorn, who faults large newspaper corporations, not the "concept" of journalism or newspapers, as the reason for declining circulations: "(Newspaper companies) are incredibly removed from the life of the community around it. It is insular, it takes place over the phone. It does not pay attention to reader habits." Cauthorn absolves the Internet as the source of newspaper woes stating that circulations were already dropping fifteen years before the Internet became a consumer medium.
In the second article, journalist and academic Ben Compaine refutes these arguments, going back even further in time to claim that technologies have indeed played a major role in circulation declines. "In 1930, there were 1.3 newspapers sold per household...By 1940 - by the time radio was ubiquitous - it had fallen under 1.2 per household...by 1980 is wzs .77, in 1990, .67 and in 2003 under .50." Another reason why sliding circulations can't be completely blamed on high-profit-demanding bosses is that today's newspaper journalism is better than ever. Instead, Compaine says that circulation decline is "part of the organic life of the media. There is far more competition for everyone's money and attention. Publishers, journalists and the rest of us must learn to live with it. The trends may be slowed by tweaking with the newspaper's format or content, but the overall direction is not."
Thursday, September 15, 2005
UK: Guardian sales skyrocket with format change
According to unofficial figures, sales of the Guardian rose by 40% on Monday, the first day the paper appeared in the Berliner format (see former posting), reports The Guardian. Carolyn McCall, chief executive of Guardian Newspapers Ltd. said in the paper: "We invested a huge amount in encouraging readers to reappraise the paper. This has exceeded our highest expectations. We are delighted."
Readers' feedback is said to be broadly positive, with one exception: some readers were angered by the drop of the comic strip Doonesbury (see Journalism.co.uk). This decision was reversed in the meantime.