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GNM abandons the distribution of bulks

August 11th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

Guardian News and Media announced today that it will abandon the distribution of ‘bulks’.

GNM sold ‘bulk’ bundles of its papers to hotels and airlines for a nominal fee per copy to the businesses, but free to the readers. This sampling method was a way of tempting new readers towards the publications.

But bulk sales only contributed to a fraction of the Guardian and Observer’s overall sales figures compared to other newspaper groups, said a release from GNM.

“To a greater or lesser degree bulk sales are used by newspaper groups to prop up their ABC [Audit Bureau of Circulations] figure.  Yet their credibility in the ad community is low and for those affected by the recent investigation into airline bulks that credibility has been undermined further,” Joe Clark, GNM director and general manager, newspapers, said in the release.

“We are abandoning this practice in order to present a clearer, more honest picture of our sales performance to advertisers and to reinforce the quality of our product to readers.  The success of our subscription scheme has proved the value of rewarding loyal readers and prompted us to question the merit of subsidising a free copy for an occasional reader.

“In short dropping this traditional, and in our view, outmoded practice is a win-win move.  We hope that others will follow our lead.”

On Guardian.co.uk, Roy Greenslade celebrated the decision after a 10-year battle to convince the papers to drop the bulks.

“This so-called ‘sampling exercise’ was anything other than a way to ensure that, in a declining market, headline sales figures remained artificially high,” he wrote.

Over the past 10 years publishers have become increasingly aware that sampling had little effect on their sales.

As Greenslade reports: Trinity Mirror and Express Mirrors were the first to give up the practice, while News International never used bulks for its main titles, The Sun and News of the World, but did for The Times and The Sunday Times.

The Financial Times has also begun to lessen its use of bulks; whereas The Telegraph Media Group continues to use bulks to attract new readers, he adds. In addition The Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday have increased their reliance on bulks.

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Reasons to be cheerful? Seattle paper, Roanoke Times and magazine publishers turning a profit

August 11th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Magazines, Newspapers

In addition to reporting on plummeting profits for some newspaper groups, Journalism.co.uk thought it was about time we shared some better news or at least some examples of titles that aren’t making a loss.

  1. As the city’s only surviving daily newspaper since the decline of the Post-Intelligencer, the Seattle Times posted a rise in daily circulation of around 30 per cent for June. According to the New York Times, publisher Frank Blethen says the title is operating ‘in the black’ on a month-to-month basis now.
  2. “We are a profitable, debt-free enterprise,” says Debbi Meade, publisher of the US’ Roanoke Times, in this letter to readers.
  3. New figures from the US’ Publishers Information Bureau (PIB) suggest that 12 titles managed to attract more ad pages in the first six months of this year than in comparison to the same period in 2008. Newsweek looks at which titles are managing to buck the trend in this way.
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Opposition to BBC’s newspaper video-sharing plans grow (the links)

Journalism.co.uk feels like its gone back in time today – specifically to autumn last year when regional newspaper groups, unions and industry bodies were voicing unanimous opposition to the BBC’s plans to increase its local video news content.

Well, another year, another video plan – and more opposition.

Yesterday the corporation announced an agreement to share news video from four subject areas with the Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail and Independent websites. The clips will appear in a BBC-branded player and run alongside the papers’ own news coverage.

In the announcement, the corporation suggested it would extend the plans to other newspaper websites – and asked third parties to register their interest.

The reaction

Welcomed by its launch partners (The Telegraph described the deal as ‘a step in the right direction’) – the plans were quickly denounced by commercial rivals ITN:

“The BBC’s plans to offer free video content to newspaper websites risk undermining the demand for content from independent news providers, potentially undercutting a very important revenue stream,” said ITN CEO John Hardie in a release.

“The pressure on commercial news suppliers has never been greater which is why ITN has led the way in opening up valuable new lines of business, and the BBC’s latest move risks pulling the rug from under us.”

According to a MediaGuardian report, News International says the arrangement is far from a ‘free deal’ for the papers, but rather free marketing for the BBC, which will lead to less diffentiated content on newspaper websites in the UK.

Meanwhile the Press Association said it had spoken with the BBC Trust about the plans before they were announced and was hoping for a market impact assessment – a process it says cannot now be completed because of yesterday’s launch. In a statement given to both Press Gazette and MediaGuardian, a spokeswoman for the PA said there were other ways for the BBC to work with commercial rivals, such as by sharing facilities.

The PA launched its own video newswire for newspapers earlier this year and has said the BBC’s plans undermine investment in video by commercial players.

The questions

Arguably, providing a pool of news video for diary events/supplementary content could free up the titles’ staff to cover original content and produce more multimedia of their own. A similar argument to the PA’s recent announcement of a ‘public service reporting’ trial.

One question that should be asked – hinted at in Alick Mighall’s blog post on the matter – how will the commercial details be hammered out? Will the BBC add pre-roll ads for BBC programming to the clips; and what if a pay wall is erected in front of the video players?

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The NUJ’s economic stimulus plan for local journalism – can it work?

June 9th, 2009 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Journalism

With Andy Burnham’s still-warm seat now occupied by former BBC journalist Ben Bradshaw, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has wasted no time in sending an open letter to the new culture minister with an ‘economic stimulus plan for local media’.

The eight-point plan:

  1. Reform of cross-media ownership rules with a strengthened public interest test;
  2. Hard and fast commitment to ring-fence licence fee funding for the BBC;
  3. A levy introduced on commercial operators who benefit from quality public service content – including local news – but do not contribute to its production;
  4. Tax breaks for local media who meet clearly defined public purposes;
  5. Tax credits for individuals who buy quality media;
  6. Direct support to help establish new genuinely local media organisations;
  7. Strategic use of central and local government advertising;
  8. Support for training opportunities that open access to journalism.

The full plan can be downloaded at this link.

Some initial thoughts (please get in touch with any of your reactions, either below or in an email to laura@journalism.co.uk):

  • How will ‘quality’ content be defined for points three and five?
  • There’s a long-running union battle against council-run newspapers, which point seven clearly addresses
  • Licence fee funding – is the BBC friend or foe to local media? Newspaper groups decried the BBC’s local video project and often criticise the ‘special way’ in which the corporation is funded; how will the union’s suggestion sit with them?
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Scotland on Sunday: Trinity Mirror seeks rule change to allow mergers of newspaper titles – Scotland on Sunday

December 28th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

According to Terry Murden of the Scotland on Sunday, Trinity Mirror is lobbying for media ownership rules to be relaxed to allow newspaper groups to merge their regional titles.

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Local newspaper sees high traffic for online memorial

November 12th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

By creating an online version of the newspaper’s announcements page, the Limerick Leader has made its site the ‘focal point for entire community’s grieving,’ a press release from iAnnounce, the company which developed the page, said.

More than 17,600 people have now visited the Limerick Leader’s iAnnounce page for 28 year old Shane Geoghegan, who was shot dead in Kilteragh, Ireland, at the weekend.

Since the page was set up 36 hours ago, more than 8,500 ‘virtual candles’ have been lit and 2,000 messages of condolence written.

“The unexpected death of such a popular man as Shane has affected this very close community,” said Alex Stitt, the managing director of iAnnounce, in the release.

“It is a sign of the internet age that they have turned to online messaging to express their shock and sorrow at what has happened.”

iAnnounce is  used by various newspapers in the Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror and Newsquest newspaper groups, and was developed to make use social network tools for newspaper birth, deaths and marriages notices.

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