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NUJ invites News International journalists to meeting

November 1st, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events, Job losses, Jobs, Newspapers

The National Union of Journalists is due to hold a meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, 2 November) to discuss the recently announced cuts to editorial within the Times and Sunday Times, which is open to member and non-member freelance, casual and staff journalists at the publisher’s titles.

Last month the Times announced it was to cut around 100 staff from the newspapers’ editorial workforce, with the bulk of those said to be to casual staff. It was also confirmed that 20 compulsory redundancies are due to be made from full-time staff at the Sunday Times, which is cutting 30 per cent of its casual editorial workforce.

Following this announcement the NUJ set up a meeting, which is open to any staff who wish to seek advice. It will be held from 1 to 3pm at the Captain Kidd pub, 108 Wapping High Street, E1W 2NE. The union has also invited representatives of the company’s in-house union NISA to attend if interested in working with the NUJ.

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Should we ‘pay the wall’ to maintain quality journalism?

March 30th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Online Journalism

Should we pay for a digital subscription if we want to maintain quality journalism?

In this article on ZDNet, Tom Foremski, a former Financial Times reporter who writes about the intersection of technology and media, is urging people to “pay the wall” to “help to make an important contribution to the quality of our society and government”.

We need quality journalism because: media is how a society thinks about things.

Media is vital to our decision process.

We are facing a media landscape that is becoming ever more dominated by garbage media and that means that we, as a society, will be making bad decisions.

He argues that just because online news started out being free, it doesn’t – and shouldn’t – have to remain that way.

It seems that the Geekorati believe that once something is free then it should be free forever, and that if you can get past the New York Times paywall, then you are smart.

But will becoming a paid-up digital subscriber raise newspaper revenues? And what effect is digital having on falling print circulations?

The Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh and paidContent UK’s Robert Andrews have both taken a closer look at News International’s claim that, despite a sharp decline in sales of the print edition of the Times, overall circulation has increased with the addition of 79,000 digital subscribers, who pay to read the Times and Sunday Times online, on an iPad, or on a Kindle, according to figures released this week.

Sabbagh has made an educated guess at income from digital versus print and reckons the Times makes around £7.50 a month from each digital reader and £25 a month from those who buy a paper.

Now we can apply these values to the paywall numbers. What’s been lost are 58,421 print buyers of the Monday to Saturday Times – and 74,557 readers of the Sunday Times. The blended average decline is 60,726 – and the lost revenues for each of those readers is £25 a month as discussed. That’s a monthly revenue lost of £1.51m, or £18.2m a year. (Actually it’s a bit lower because there’ll be some print subscribers paying less than the news stand rate, but never mind that – the broad principle still holds).

Meanwhile, there have been 79,000 new online customers at £7.50 a month. That’s revenue gained of 592,500 a month (£7.1m a year). That’s a useful sum of money, but it is clearly not as much as the revenue lost from declining print copy sales.

Andrews also delves into the Times stats:

Our take (1): In other words, the papers notched 50,000 digi subs in their first four months – but only 29,000 additional subs in their second four months.

This is a slowdown. The Sunday Times iPad app, which launched in the second period, should have bumped up these total subs slightly. The challenge now is to maintain new subscriptions at a high rate and, in time, to keep churn low – new concepts, when applied to consumer news.

The Times has another challenge. It has seen a decrease of 12.1 per cent in circulation of its print edition within the past year. But is the decrease due to the fact the Times increased the cost of its print subscription or have newspaper readers moved to become digital readers? It is impossible to say but it will be interesting to keep an eye on the subscriber and print figures for the New York Times, which went behind a ‘porous paywall’ last week, easing readers in with  $0.99 a month subscription rate. Its model differs from the Times in the UK, but the more the paywall model is tested, the greater the understanding of the paid-for digital era.

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Clay Shirky on the Times paywall, commodity markets and a ‘referendum on the future’

November 9th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Business, Newspapers, Online Journalism

Media commentator, digital soothsayer and all-round interesting read Clay Shirky gives his views on News International’s paywalls at the Times and Sunday Times, the first figures for which were released last week.

‘Paywall thinking’, he suggests, may not be possible in a world where “the internet commodifies the business of newspapers”:

Over the last 15 years, many newspaper people have assumed continuity with the analog business model, which is to say they assumed that readers could eventually be persuaded or forced pay for digital editions. This in turn suggested that the failure of any given paywall was no evidence of anything other than the need to try again.

What is new about the Times’ paywall – what may in fact make it a watershed – isn’t strategy or implementation. What’s new is that it has launched as people in the news business are rethinking assumed continuity. It’s new because the people paying attention to it are now willing to regard the results as evidence of something. To the newspaper world, TimesSelect looked like an experiment. The Times and Sunday Times look like a referendum on the future.

Full post by Clay Shirky at this link…

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James Harding: Times paywall is a revolution for its journalism

November 2nd, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Business, Newspapers

After months of waiting, News International released figures for its much-discussed Times and Sunday Times paywalls today.

According to a release from the group, the Times and Sunday Times have more than 105,000 “paid-for customers to date”. This figures includes subscribers to the websites and to the Times’ iPad app and Kindle editions. Around half of these are monthly subscribers, News International says, adding that “many of the rest” are either single copy or pay-as-you go sales.

Speaking on Radio 4′s Today programme this morning, the Times’ editor James Harding said it was “early days” but that he was “hugely encouraged” by the figures so far:

What we’ve seen is for the first time in 225 years we’re selling copies of the Times on something other than paper; we’re seeing that those people who read the digital editions of the Times and the Sunday Times really like them, if they sign up for a trial they tend to stick with us; and most importantly we’re able to say something that very few papers can say which is that we’re growing …

What you get now is you see over a couple of million people who look at the front page of the Times online … we’d engaged in quite a suicidal form of economics which was giving our journalism away for free and we knew that if we continued to do that we couldn’t invest in reporting. So what our concern was was would be cut off from the internet conversation and the truth is that we haven’t been, because a) the media works as a huge echo chamber so our stories get picked up and the other thing we’re seeing is that our readers engage with or stories and comment on our stories in a much deeper way …

What you’re seeing here is something at it’s very early stages, but also a revelation as well as a revolution in journalism. The iPad edition for us has changed the way we are doing our journalism and technology as we all know can be a tricky business.

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Media Week: Times website loses 1.2m readers

August 17th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick

Media Week reports on figures from ComScore, which suggest that unique users of the the Times and Sunday Times websites have fallen from 2.79 million in May to 1.61 million in July.

The new websites were launched on 25 May with compulsory registration introduced in June and the paywall for both sites going up on 2 July. According to the report, page views for the sites dropped from 29 million in May to 9 million in July.

Prior to the launch of the new websites, News International withdrew from the monthly Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic (ABCe) reports for newspaper website traffic.

Full story on Media Week at this link…

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Sipho Ngcobo charts a ‘frightening’ week for South African journalism

Following the arrest of Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Sipho Ngcobo, Sunday Times investigative journalist and former deputy editor of Business Report, reflects on what he says was a “frightening” week for journalists in South Africa.

South African media are currently battling the Protection of Information Bill, which according to Ngcobo is fuelling fears the government will be able to “clampdown and muzzle media”.

There is virtually no real clarity as what Mzilikazi wa Afrika was arrested for. But we worry, I worry about him. I worry about the profession and the business of media. I am worried sick about the future of the industry.

But, he adds, the growth in poor quality journalism does warrant improved regulation of the media, or else reporters should prepare for the “death” of the industry.

I cannot say I am totally surprised by the proposed Bill. There has been a lot of shoddy journalism taking place. Some of it has been outright criminal, extremely libellous, demeaning to individuals and families and even contemptuous to the courts. It has been so bad that I have often wondered what the future holds.

See his full post on MoneyWeb here…

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South African journalist arrested and detained at ‘undisclosed location’

August 4th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Newspapers, Press freedom and ethics

Mzilikazi wa Afrika, a journalist for South African newspaper the Sunday Times, was arrested at the paper’s headquarters earlier today for possession of a letter, which police claim to be “a fraudulent letter of resignation” from premier of the Mpumalanga region, David Dabede Mabuza, to South African President Jacob Zuma.

The Sunday Times reports on the arrest via its Times Live website:

Wa Afrika was seized by police who became involved in a screaming match with senior editors about whether photographers could take pictures.

TheTimes editor Ray Hartley, adds in a blog post:

I am deeply concerned at the fact that a journalist can be arrested and held at an undisclosed location in a country where the rule of law ought to apply.

He was arrested by a large number of policemen in an operation which was clearly designed to intimidate and I can only conclude that this was the true motive for what took place today.

The empty desk of Sunday Times Journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika... on TwitpicThe Times used Twitter to help break the story of Wa Afrika’s arrest, including posting a picture of his empty desk:

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Newspaper magnate Lebedev: “I should be ready to go to jail”

July 19th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

He likes to eat papaya for breakfast, wants to set up an investigative journalism foundation and wakes up every morning prepared for arrest – welcome to the world of newspaper billionaire Alexander Lebedev.

Speaking to the Sunday Times for its ‘A Life in the Day’ feature, Lebedev, says his ownership of three British newspapers – the Evening Standard, Independent and Independent on Sunday – prompted some “absurd” suspicions at the start.

When I bought the Evening Standard and the two Independent titles, people thought I was some kind of Trojan horse for the Russian government. That’s absurd. I bought them because I truly believe in newspaper and a free press. An independent press that holds those in power to account is a vital part of a democratic society.

In fact he claims his “dream” now is to set up a foundation that will finance journalistic investigations into international corruption.

The free media can change the world. My idea is for some of the biggest titles around the world to pool resources to uncover the schemes and money flows used to sustain massive corruption.

But, he warns, life in the media elite is a risky business.

I sleep like a log and rarely dream. But as a big businessman in Russia who sees things differently from those in power, I tell myself every night and every morning that I should be ready to go to jail. The risk is always there.

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MediaGuardian: Jon Swain ‘in talks’ about exit from Sunday Times

May 27th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Jobs

Jon Swain, foreign correspondent and war reporter whose experiences were the basis of Oscar-winning film The Killing Fields, may leave the Sunday Times as part of planned job cuts at the title.

Full story at this link…

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Comment: Reaction to the new Times and Sunday Times websites

May 25th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Business, Comment, Newspapers

Having had a day to “browse and snack” on the new Sunday Times and Times websites, what’s the feedback so far? What’s the reaction to the new editorial layout, multimedia changes and approach to journalism behind a paywall?

Starting with those bloggers who were given a sneak preview of the sites the night before they went live:

Malcolm Coles on the Times:

Without the need to chase search engine traffic or page views for advertisers, the idea of covering fewer stories but in a better way sounds appealing (…) an article, for instance, with an information graphic and tabs to let you explore the history and different aspects of the story without leaving the page. This package of content is brilliant – it works much better as an experience than lists of related articles or auto-generated tag pages.

But, asks Coles, shouldn’t readers be allowed to subscribe to just one site with completely distinct sections and topics?

It strikes me that there is either sufficient distinction in the audience for the two brands that you let users subscribe to just one site; or the audiences cross over so much that you combine the two sites in one and think about what makes most sense from the user’s point of view.

Forcing people to subscribe to both sites but keeping them entirely separate, with no cross-linking, seems a bit odd.

Adam Westbrook on the experience of reading the Times and Sunday Times online:

Well, at first impressions I am not bowled over: black text on a white screen, size 12, serif font – just like every other news website out there (and even this blog!). A web page can be any colour and fully dynamic – a concept no major newsroom is yet to grasp.

Rory Cellan-Jones on how a smaller audience might offer a more engaged readership:

[T]he company is convinced that advertisers will find the smaller audience of committed readers more attractive than the 21 million promiscuous passers-by who flit through the free Times Online site each month at present. While there’s been plenty of sniping from the sidelines by News International’s rivals, I suspect they are all glad that someone is at least testing the waters.

Tim Fenton:

It’s a slick package, although whether well-bundled, good content is enough of a differentiator from everything on Google News remains to be seen. For me, the biggest surprise is that the Times is not planning a splashy ad campaign to launch the paywall – it is relying chiefly on promotion in the newspaper.

It’s a low-key – and very analogue – start to one of the biggest experiments in modern digital media.

Of those reviewing the sites today, TechCrunch Europe expands on concerns raised that the papers’ journalists will miss out on social media conversation around their work, with thoughts on what the paywall means for mobile and ecommerce developments:

I don’t know The Times’ development roadmap, but if it does not have an API for its content (I presume it won’t since the whole of the new sites will be paywalled and invisible to search engines) then there will be no opportunity to catch the Third Wave of social or indeed of mobile or commerce. The Times cannot possibly come up with all the ideas which will happen in the Third Wave, which is why third-party developers will be so important.

Will the Times and Sunday Times be taking themselves out of the social media conversation with paywalls that redirect deep links to a generic login page? (Interesting to note findings from a Pew Research Center study, which report that bloggers will share more links and stories produced by mainstream news organisations, Twitterers less so, suggesting there’s is still a reliance of the social media news world on traditional news outlets. Interesting also – digital director of Mirror Group Matt Kelly’s remarks last week about the importance of honing news sites to niches that their readers identify as the values of that particular paper or brand.)

Adam Tinworth provides food for thought on the issue with his post on the potential impact of a subscription wall on a site’s community:

People sharing what they think will be identifiable, and they will have paid an entrance fee to get in there. This is, in fact, a community model, just one that differs from the wide, inter-connected community model we’re used to on the open web.

I recall Lee Bryant saying at last year’s Social Media Influence conference that sometimes its the wall that defines the community. And that maxim will be tested on these sites.

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