Roy Greenslade reports on the Sunday Times’ coverage of a new direction for Guardian Media Group. According to the Times’ print edition yesterday, GMG is planning to separate its newspapers and their website from the rest of its multimedia assets.
The report follows previous claims by the paper that Andrew Miller, new GMG chief executive, is looking at a sale or stock market listing for its Trader division.
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.
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.
US political news site Politico will launch a subscription news service early next year, reports the New York Times.
The new service will focus on healthcare, energy and technology and run alongside the existing website and free daily publication.
The idea behind the service, which will cost subscribers $1,495 to $2,500 a year for the first topic and $1,000 for each subsequent topic, is to provide coverage at the microlevel of what Congress, federal agencies and trade associations are doing.
The first big difference is that being a journalist gives you a daily sense of accomplishing something by writing a story and having it be published. You then move on to the next story and get constant feedback. Trying to create a business and develop internet applications is a much longer process, filled with many ups and downs along the way. It’s exciting to be your own boss but also can be terrifying at the same time. I suppose dropping into crisis zones and new countries was a decent preparation for this, and also just being open to always learning new things.
Interesting take on the Guardian’s business model from Stephen Glover in the wake of Trader Media Group (TMG) writing off £463 million of the value of its magazine – TMG is part owned by Guardian Media Group.
Maybe GMG will be able to bankroll its national papers for ever. Personally, I wouldn’t count on it, especially if more of its investments go wrong. The trouble is that there seems to be no one in the Scott Trust or Guardian Media Group or on the papers themselves able or prepared to stand up and say what is blindingly obvious to everyone else in Fleet Street – that these newspapers are continuing to live dangerously beyond their means.
Update: A GMG spokesman has told Journalism.co.uk: “The write down Stephen Glover refers to is an accounting adjustment with zero impact on the overall value of TMG or its main brand Auto Trader (…) The write down reflects a transfer of value from print to digital rather than a drop in the actual value of the company. The net book loss arises simply because accounting rules don’t allow you to ‘write up’ the part of the business that has grown.”
Greenslade argues that Rupert Murdoch is “indulging in information protectionism” and with the Times’ and Sunday Times’ paywalled websites has removed the titles from online conversations.
Moss responds in the comments:
Have the Times “dropped out of the national conversation”, whatever that absurdly woolly phrase means. There seems to have been huge discussion (e.g. on Twitter) about their Populus poll findings and Clegg’s incendiary piece on welfare in today’s paper, so they seem still to be absolutely in the ‘national conversation’.
And the fact remains that news orgs have to try to make some dosh. It’s not enough to say paywalls don’t work; you – and the industry – have to come up with a package that does work, which in my view will mean protecting certain print products, paywalling some (tho (sic) by no means all) online material and building networks around information-gathering interest groups which can be monetised by donation and/or through the sale of ancillary products and services. There is no one big answer; there are a range of answers which will add up to a profitable business. And a business that isn’t profitable – and this includes the Guardian – is enfeebled and vulnerable.
From last week, but a good-looking infographic that takes gives an overview of the state of the print industry as a whole, from books to newspapers and magazines. Who knew the death of print could be so colourful?