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‘Completely different ideas of size, scale, ambition': Rusbridger compares his paper with the Times

November 5th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Advertising, Business, Newspapers, Online Journalism

Mark Colvin of Australia’s PM radio programme has an interview up today with Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger. It focuses on the recent publication of figures from behind the Times and Sunday Times paywalls and finds Rusbridger as determined as ever to keep his paper free and champion open online journalism.

Comparing the Times’ new ‘slimmed-down’ online audience – which Rusbridger estimates to be about 30,000-50,000 users a month, against 37 million for the Guardian – he says the two newspapers’ digital operations now represent “two completely different ideas of size, scale and ambition”.

Perhaps the most interesting thing the Guardian editor has to say concerns the effect of the paywall on print sales, which he was expecting to rise when free digital access disappeared. The Times print circulation hasn’t plummeted since, but it certainly hasn’t shown significant gains: circulation fell by 14.81 per cent year-on-year in September, second only to the Telegraph and higher than the 12.3 per cent average for quality titles. August saw the Times’ average daily circulation slip below 500,000 for the first time since 1994.

As Rusbridger points out, the digital arm of the newspaper, rather than acting as a plain substitute which draws readers away from the print edition when free and drives them to it when paid, may serve to promote the whole brand. It may well act “like a sort of marketing device for the newspapers”, he says.

If you put a gigantic wall around your content and disappear from the general chatter and conversation about your content then people forget to buy the paper as well. So it’s a kind of double whammy.

Rusbridger continues to be one of the industry’s most vocal objectors to the paywall. As he says here, he believes that “the journalist organisations that are best placed to survive are the ones that are going to go with the technology rather than decrying it and fighting it”. To that end, his “overwhelming aim is just to keep on producing the Guardian in a form which will suit whatever technology people invent”.

Colvin asks Rusbridger about the Guardian’s increasing digital revenue – “we’re up well over 50 per cent year-on-year and last year we earned about £40 million”, Rusbridger claims – but not, disappointingly, about the paper’s tactics in any detail, its success at bringing in money in through affiliate projects for example. Tim Brooks, managing director of Guardian News and Media, landed a blow for the Guardian’s approach earlier in the week, putting the Times’ new paywall revenue in a particularly unflattering context: “We’re probably making more money from our online dating service”, he told the MediaPro conference.

No mention of the Guardian’s own losses from Colvin or Rusbridger though. Despite the paper’s continued growth of digital revenue and laudable approach to online journalism, they are still running pretty high.

Read the full interview at this link…

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Communicate.ae: Digital experiments at the Guardian – successes and failures

June 1st, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

From earlier last month this Q&A with Mark Finney, head of client sales at Guardian News & Media, in which Finney explains some of the digital ‘experiments’ that have worked for the group and some that haven’t:

Guardian 24 allowed you to download stories scraped from our sites automatically over a number of different areas, and print them as a PDF. It was our way of trying to enter the London free newspaper market but get our readers to pay for the paper and the ink and not have to pay for distribution. It was an interesting thing to do, but it didn’t really work. Not many people did it.

Finney says the Guardian’s iPhone app experiment is paying off: “£250,000 is not going to change the face of newspapers, but it’s 100,000 people who have chosen to pay for an optimised version of my content.”

And on paywalls and registration models for Guardian.co.uk:

[Y]ou could pay for an ad-free version. It was a long time ago that we binned it. It was about £25 to £30 per year. We got something in the order of 2,000 or 3,000 people who did it. Only 2,000 or 3,000 people a year were prepared to pay £25 or £30 for an ad-free version of the Guardian, proving how little resistance to advertising there is.

Full post at this link…

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Founder Rafat Ali quits paidContent and Content Next

May 24th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Jobs, Online Journalism

Founder of ContentNext, the publisher of digital media news site paidContent.org, Rafat Ali has announced he will leave the company in early July.

ContentNext, which also publishes paidContent:UK, mocoNews,net and contentSutra.com, was bought by Guardian News & Media in July 2008. The deal marked the next step in GNM’s US expansion plans, the group said at the time. But in a farewell post on paidContent.org, Ali hints at the difficulties of moving from start-up to big media ownership:

The last two years under Guardian have been illuminating, to say the least. Being part of a big company brings its own level of complexities; during a huge financial crisis, it makes for a roller-coaster ride. The high of the sale dissipated quickly, and pulling back and hunkering down isn’t fun, much less entrepreneurial. To Guardian’s credit, amidst the mothership’s own perfect storm, they stood by us, and we have survived, though much smaller.

I am leaving the company while the editorial is still at the peak of its reputation, even though we are half the team we used to be. It really is a miracle. And the edit leadership under our ME Ernie Sander and my longtime partner-in-crime and co-editor Staci D Kramer gets the full credit for it, as do our scrappy group of talented journalists. The business side is a rebuild-in-process that I hope Guardian continues to support in kind and spirit.

The sites will continue under managing editor Ernie Sander.

Full post at this link…

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UPDATE: Guardian to cut 100 jobs; GNM running at £100,000-a-day loss

November 12th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Job losses, Newspapers

Following news that the Observer is to cut sections and drop monthly supplements, there were reports yesterday of more than 100 job cuts at owners Guardian News & Media.

The cuts will be made to offset losses as GNM is currently running at a loss of £100,000 a day, according to Brand Republic, and were announced following a strategic review of the group’s papers.

A voluntary redundancy scheme has been introduced and cuts will affect staff across commerical and editorial departments.

The Guardian’s print technology supplement, published on a Thursday, will also be cut and moved online-only, as part of the changes.

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Staff to be briefed on Observer’s future tomorrow, says Sunday Times

November 9th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

Buried in a report on Trinity Mirror’s decision to close its final pension schemes is news that staff at the Observer will be told which sections of the paper are staying and which are for the chop.

As part of this staff will be briefed on potential job cuts, the Sunday Times reports.

After growing speculation about the title’s future, owners Guardian News & Media announced in September that the Observer would live on, but with a new look and closer integration with the Guardian.

In July, readers’ editor for the Observer, Stephen Pritchard, explained that the title was having to make ‘painful decisions about what it can afford to print’, after the title dropped its weekly, full television guide.

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David Cameron to give Hugo Young lecture

November 6th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Events, Newspapers

Conservative leader David Cameron is to give the sixth annual Hugo Young memorial lecture on Tuesday 10 November, the Scott Trust has announced.

The lecture remembers the late Hugo Young, the Guardian’s senior political commentator and former chairman of the Scott Trust, who died in 2003. Last year Young’s papers were published in a book, extracts of which appeared on the Guardian. ‘His columns were like icebergs. Readers saw a sunlit tip of crystal argument. They may have guessed, but they never truly knew or saw, what lay beneath,’ wrote the Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, in its foreword.

Last year’s lecture was given by Peter Mandelson and previous speakers include Gordon Brown and Jose Manuel Barroso.

“Hugo was one of the most brilliant and cherished journalists of his generation. We are delighted that the memorial lecture continues to be successful and to remind us of his enduring legacy,” said Liz Forgan, chair of the Scott Trust, in a release.

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paidContent.org: GNM laying off six US employees

November 6th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Job losses, Jobs

PaidContent (owned by Guardian News & Media) reports that Guardian America is laying off six ‘production/edit’ employees: “Most of them are in Guardian’s Washington DC office, and have been given three months notice. None of the U.S. correspondents are affected by this move.”

Last month paidContent reported GNM was to axe GuardianAmerica.com.

Full post at this link…

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paidContent:UK: GNM ‘sunsetting’ GuardianAmerica.com two years after launch

Guardian News & Media (GNM) is to abandon its GuardianAmerica.com strategy, paidContent:UK, which is owned by Guardian News & Media, reports. Seven executives are either leaving or being promoted to new roles:

“Almost two years to the day after launching GuardianAmerica.com, GNM’s recently appointed US consultant Jim Brady has now ‘sunset’ the page. GuardianAmerica.com was The Guardian’s first big attempt to target the large U.S. audience it has found itself with online. It hired Michael Tomasky to edit the site from Washington, DC.”

Full post at this link…

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Possibility of more redundancies at the Guardian; GNM losing £100,000 a day

September 16th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Job losses, Jobs, Newspapers

Fifty editorial jobs needed to be cut at Guardian News&Media as part of an attempt to reduce costs by £10 million, it was announced in May this year. Now it looks like there could be more jobs at risk, as the managing director of Guardian News & Media, Tim Brooks, told staff in a memo posted on the Guardian’s intranet.

“We are looking at everything – literally everything – that we do, to see how we can economise, and we will do whatever we can to keep the impact on staff to a minimum. However, because the biggest portion of our costs is people’s salaries, we have to review staffing levels,” he said.

GNM was losing £100,000 a day – a rate that cannot be afforded by its parent company, Guardian Media Group, Brooks said.

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Lone Star defies downward trend in revised ABC results

August 14th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) has today brought out its revised figures for national newspaper circulation in the UK, reducing the headline circulations of titles including the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times in the light of an investigation into ‘bulk copies’ distributed by Dawson Media Direct, for the London Evening Standard, Mail on Sunday and Sunday Telegraph.

The UK newspaper circulation body revised the figures because audit trails for ‘bulks’ did not comply with ABC rules.

Earlier this year, the Financial Times reduced its use of bulks, and this week Guardian News and Media announced that it was currently ditching its bulk distribution completely.

A brief summary of today’s ABC results:

  • The Sunday Times was the only ‘quality’ Sunday title to post a year-on-year rise in sales (2.74 per cent). On average the ‘quality’ Sunday titles posted a 2.77 per cent year-on-year fall.  The Independent on Sunday posted the biggest year-on-year drop – 19.98 per cent.
  • All the daily titles audited posted a year-on-year drop in sales, apart from The Star which increased its circulation by 20.12 per cent compared with July 2008.
  • The Sun recorded a tiny drop of 0.4 per cent year-on-year and although the Daily Mirror was down 7.16 per cent compared with last year’s figures, month-on-month the title’s sales rose by 0.73 per cent.

A more in-depth analysis of these results is available on Guardian.co.uk.

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