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How much is an article worth? ‘Dead tree’ thinking could hinder digital content economy

February 10th, 2010 | 7 Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

Could you spare 10p for a news report? Maybe 5p for the sports results? Many in the news industry would like us to pay to see news articles that we’ve previously enjoyed for free, whether it’s via websites or hand-held devices.

But one of the problems of this brave, new paid-content world is that the news publishing industry has yet to move on from long-held assumptions about the value of content, inspired by centuries of physical, print distribution.

For example, just look at the sheer size of national newspapers: they are huge products, especially on weekends. Big is better, goes the saying – and mass reach gives you more circulation and advertising revenue.

But in the global, decentralised, just-Google-it content economy, it doesn’t work like that: the publishers that will win through will have the most relevant, findable, highest quality content – not just lots of it.

To illustrate the mismatch between offline and online economics, I’ve gone through Wednesday’s edition of the Times to find out just how much is in it…

  • News: there are 42 separate substantial news items in today’s Times, not including some of the smaller NIBs, and at least seven separate analysis pieces;
  • Comment: including the three leaders, 13 comment pieces make their way into the main book;
  • Sport: 21 news stories and two features;
  • Then there’s the diary section: five lengthy and well-written obituaries, crosswords, weather, travel and the Register pages of interesting factoids;
  • The Times2 centre pullout has 10 features, some short, some long, as well as four reviews.

So our grand total for today’s Times is more than 100 articles. The quality of writing, pictures and editing is, as you would expect, consistently high.

But if these articles were available via a pay-per-view offer, how much would you pay? If they were priced 10p each, that means to buy everything in today’s paper, you would have to pay £10; at 5p per article, that’s £5 per issue. But my copy of the paper only cost £1.

News International boss Rupert Murdoch will more likely opt for a subscription model for the Times and Sunday Times websites – just as he’s succeeded in selling long-term pay TV packages around the the world.

But to reach a competitive pricepoint, he and other publishers will have to massively realign the value of each piece of news and comment from its current-day, paper value of one or two pence to fractions of pence.

In reality, the real market value of news is what people will pay and the danger is that for an entire generation of readers weaned on the free-to-air internet, that price is nothing at all

[See also: What's the average cost of a news article?]

Patrick Smith is a freelance journalist and event organiser, and formerly a correspondent for paidContent:UK and Press Gazette. He blogs at psmithjournalist.com and is @psmith on twitter.

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Journalism Online paid content venture to take 20 per cent commission

September 11th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

An update on Journalism Online, the venture started by Steve Brill, Gordon Crovitz, and Leo Hindery with the aim of helping news organisations charge for content.

  • The document [PDF] submitted to the Newspaper Association of America reveals the plans and is published by the NJL.
  • The Associated Press reports how IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp. and Google Inc. ‘responded to a request by the Newspaper Association of America for proposals on ways to easily, unobtrusively charge for news on the web,’ according to the report.
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Globe and Mail: ‘The model, the blogger and the web giant’

The Globe and Mail looks at the blogger anonymity case in the US sparking debate across the world.

The blogger unmasked by Google – as the result of a New York court order last week – is now threatening legal action against the company. The Globe and Mail’s Josh Wingrove writes:

“Is calling someone a ‘ho’ on a blog worthy of the anonymity afforded to the writings of the American Founding Fathers 200 years ago?

“That’s the basis of a landmark internet privacy debate sparked this week in connection with a looming civil suit against web giant Google Inc. The company is facing a potential $15-million (U.S.) lawsuit by a once-anonymous blogger, Rosemary Port, after it complied with a New York court order last week and released her name.”

Full story at this link…

  • Related: BBC Radio 4 Today programme featured a discussion this morning with Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes, and Dr Vince Miller, a lecturer in sociology at Kent University. Listen again at this link.
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OUT-LAW.com: Google not liable for defamation in snippets, rules Eady

July 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Legal

Google is not liable as a publisher even if ‘snippets’ (the summaries contained in its search results) contain libellous words, a high court ruled last week.

The search engine’s UK and US divisions were sued in England by a training business over comments about its distance learning courses made on a US web forum – an excerpt of which then appeared in search results for the firm.

“Google said that Google Inc. should be sued in California, not England. But even if England is the proper forum, it argued, Google has no responsibility for the words complained of, and therefore there is ‘no reasonable prospect of success’ which is a requirement of rules on serving lawsuits outside the court’s jurisdiction,” reports OUT-LAW.com.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Eady made some additional, significant comments (close to this writer’s heart):

“There appears to be no previous English authority dealing with this modern phenomenon (…) Indeed, it is surprising how little authority there is within this jurisdiction applying the common law of publication or its modern statutory refinements to Internet communications.”

Full story at this link…

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FIPP 09: Downturn is the conference buzzword – but is the mag industry facing up to it?

May 6th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Magazines

Yesterday at the FIPP World Magazine Conference, William Kerr, board chairman at Meredith Group suggested that ‘being 12 per cent down is the new up’.

The wider economic downturn and the gap between online and traditional offline advertising revenues in the magazine industry have been referred to in every panel I’ve attended so far (though more often than not it’s referred to as ‘challenging times’). But has the mag industry faced facts?

Dylan Jones, editor of GQ, doesn’t seem to think so:

“When we come out of this recession many industries will be the same, but the mass market motor industry and the newspaper industry will be changed forever,” Jones told delegates.

“There are many people in the magazine industry who think it won’t effect them, but we could equally be having these conversations in two or three years time about the magazine industry.”

There will be more cost-cutting, in particular staff reductions, as the industry realises the impact, he added. (GQ’s publisher Conde Nast reportedly axed five per cent of its US magazine staff last October)

For other’s the downturn is a huge opportunity for innovation and restructuring. Google’s UK MD, Matt Brittin, predicted that the current climate would accelerate certain types of user behaviour online. For example, the use of search and free technologies to create their own content.

The challenge for publishers is to monitor these changes and respond to the consumers’ changing needs online – often by embracing new, free technologies themselves, but also by finding new ways to serve up their content that will be found through specific search queries, for instance, or relating to niche topics.

According to Brittin, opportunities exist – with Google’s help of course – within the ‘first downturn in a truly digital age’.

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The budget online: Liveblogging and Twitter dominate news orgs’ coverage

April 22nd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Today’s budget announcement is being billed as the most significant of recent times given the UK’s current financial woes.

This is both a breaking news story, but one that requires closer analysis and follow up – and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to make it relevant to the reader.

So how are news organisations covering it online and who’s ticking these boxes?

Telegraph.co.uk
Currently performing well in Google News search for budget, the Telegraph is going in big on online coverage today.

It will be updating throughout the day via its @Telefinance Twitter account (headed up by @hrwaldram). Meanwhile a trio of Telegraph reporters have been liveblogging budget news since 6:30am.

On the subject of Twitter – the Telegraph has reinstated its Twitterfall – an embed aggregating all Twitter updates marked #budget. The feature had to be taken down earlier in the week, because of some mischief, but so far so good with the tweaked (filtered?) version.

In addition there’s a nice ‘What to expect’ guide breaking down the issues that are likely to feature in the budget announcement.

FT.com
Arguably the go-to site for budget coverage given its specialism, the FT is building on tried and trusted features from last year (a budget day podcast, video analysis, a budget calculator) with a new liveblog from 12pm covering Alistair Darling’s speech, editor Robert Shrimsley, who will participate, told Journalism.co.uk.

The format is based on the site’s MarketsLive feature successfully developed and used by its Alphaville blog. As such it will ‘bring people people up to speed, but inform them in an entertaining way’. Financial analysis but entertaining – two styles that rarely meet, said Shrimsley, but that will be key to FT.com’s liveblogging of the budget.

“There’s a premium on getting that information out and telling people what its means. We feel at the FT that we have the right people to pass on that analysis,” explained Shrimsley.

There will be a Twitter feed too, but it’s crucial not spam people with updates, he added. Readers are encouraged to participate in both this stream and the liveblog though.

Alphaville isn’t being used as a lab for experimenting with new ways of coverage, he stressed, but there is potential for more liveblogging across the site. It’s important not to overdose on technology, however, but to use only when applicable, he added.

“Can we offer our audience what is worth reading? There’s lots of innovation on the internet and there’s lots that you can do – that doesn’t mean you have to,” he said.

Channel 4 News website
More use of Twitter by the Channel 4 news team – as introduced by presenter Krishnan Guru-Murphy in the vid below:

There will also be use of CoverItLive (CiL) for a liveblog starting at 12pm, which was similarly used in the site’s coverage of the G20 summit.

Some nice additional touches include the use of FactCheck to test the claims made by the chancellor in the budget; and a wordcloud (or Snowcloud) of Darling’s announcement.

Sky News Online and Times Online
A specially built budget page has been set up including a liveblog, live video streams of the budget speech, and analysis from bloggers, tax experts and taxpayers, the site told us. There’s a good guide to how to use Sky’s online coverage too – one particular highlight, the chance for users to get answers from PKF UK tax accountant Matt Coward.

Meanwhile Times Online will be following up its excellent liveblogging of the G20 summit with a version starting at midday today.

Liveblogging at regional level
Deciphering what the budget means for the average news reader is being tackled head on by the Newcastle Evening Chronicle with a liveblog taking place across a number of Trinity Mirror centres.

“We’ll be mainly trying to digest it for *normal* people with rx [reactions] from experts, rather than the scary £180bn debt figures,” said Colin George, multimedia editor, in a Twitter update.

Wales Online (bringing in a tax expert) and the Birmingham Post – under its dedicated Live! Section – also host budget day liveblogs (using CiL again).

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Google ends Radio Ads scheme – cites same reasons as Print ads closure

February 13th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Advertising, Search

After the search giant announced the end of its Print Ads scheme, Journalism.co.uk contacted Google about the future of its audio and TV ad initiatives.

Would they be affected? A resounding no from the Google spokesman.

Well, yesterday Google announced it will be closing its Radio Ads programme – citing similar reasons to the print scheme closure:

“While we’ve devoted substantial resources to developing these products and learned a lot along the way, we haven’t had the impact we hoped for.”

Instead Google will focus on online audio streaming and advertising around this, phasing out the existing audio ads by May 31 and selling Google Radio Automation – the software that automates broadcast radio programming.

Up to 40 staff involved with the project are expected to lose their jobs, said Susan Wojcicki, vice-president of product management, in the blog announcement.

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Neil Thackray: The plight of the business magazine and the rise of the lone blogger

January 30th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Magazines

Neil Thackray has 25 years experience in B2Bs, in senior roles at RBI, Miller Freeman and as CEO of Quantum Business. Most recently, he was CEO of Nexus Business Media, before stepping down a few weeks ago.

He gets off to a good start with his second blog post: ‘Starting a discussion about the future of B2B Media’. He looks at the effects of the internet on niche business to business publications. One effect “has been the result of the phenomonen you are reading now” – the rise of the lone or collaborating bloggers.

Meanwhile, far from business magazines being the ‘bible of the industry’, “they are reduced to being one of many sources of information in a world where reader loyalty is as fickle as a click on a Google search result,” Thackray argues.

Full story at this link…

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Google closes Print Ads scheme

January 21st, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Advertising

Despite partnering with more than 800 US newspapers, Google has decided to end its Print Ads scheme, which saw the search engine help partners run traditional print-based advertising campaigns.

According to a post on the search engine’s Let’s Take It Offline blog, the service wasn’t having the desired impact and resources behind the project will be reinvested in finding other revenue sources for publishers through Google’s products.

“We believe fair and accurate journalism and timely news are critical ingredients to a healthy democracy. We remain dedicated to working with publishers to develop new ways for them to earn money, distribute and aggregate content and attract new readers online. We have teams of people working with hundreds of publishers to find new and creative ways to earn money from engaging online content. AdSense, DoubleClick, Google Maps, YouTube, Google Earth, Google News and many other products are a part of our significant investments to innovate in this space,” said Spencer Spinnell in the post.

“These important efforts won’t stop. We will continue to devote a team of people to look at how we can help newspaper companies.”

Google began trialling print advertising in 2005. The ads will no longer be available from February 28, though campaigns already planned will be run until March 31.

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HuffPost: What Google Can Do for Journalism

January 8th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

Dan Froomkin suggests seven ways Google could help journalism (if it really cared). Full story…

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