“Embattled newspaper publisher Independent News & Media (IN&M) this afternoon confirmed that it was close to unveiling a financial rescue that would allow the owner of The Independent to pay off an overdue €200 milion bond,” reports TimesOnline. Full post at this link…
A couple of things extremely pertinent to the paid content debate in a ‘view from the top’ interview on FT.com.
It’s with Liberty Media chairman, John Malone, described by the FT’s Richard Milne as ‘one of the most powerful figures in the media world’. He controls a ‘sprawling empire of assets’ including DirecTV, the Discovery Channel, QVC, the Atlanta Braves baseball team and a company focused on Cable TV, Liberty Global.
Two extracts from the interview:
“How bad is the outlook for the media industry right now?”
“The media has lots of different elements in it. Probably at the bottom would be local, because local advertising has been the most adversely affected. Newsprint is probably the most damaged media going forward. Cable television has been OK. It continues to grow, a little slower than we’d like. The broadcast networks are getting beaten up, but not as bad on their national side as on their local side (…)”
“A big debate in media is: can you get consumers to pay for online content?
“There will be a transition to people paying for [the] internet. Unfortunately, a lot of the people promoting the internet have other monetisation theories, such as search, which is ‘free’ to the consumer. Believe me, it’s not free to the retailer. The real question is: can you get people to pay for content on the internet? That will happen over time. If you’re a newspaper publisher and you’re giving information free on the internet and charging a subscription fee [for the paper], I don’t understand the logic.”
“Long or short? Newspapers? Short James Murdoch? Long Hedge fund regulation? Long Share prices? Neutral The European economy? Short Nicolas Sarkozy? Long Ben Bernanke? Long Barack Obama’s healthcare plan? Disaster – short Twitter? Neutral Barry Diller? Long.”
#FollowJourn: Nick Turner
Who? Digital editor for CN Group.
What? Organiser of the Digital Editors Network and overseer of digital developments at regional newspaper publisher.
Contact? Nick [dot] Turner [at] Cumbrian-Newspapers [dot] co [dot] uk
Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.
Regional newspaper publisher Northcliffe posted an 81 per cent drop in operating profits in the six months up to March 29 2009, according to figures released today.
Operating profits for the group, which publishes the Bristol Evening Post and Hull Daily Mail, fell by £33 million to £3.2 million over the period. Advertising revenues also fell by 31 per cent to £103 million.
The publisher has reduced operating costs, however, by 11 per cent compared to the last period – including a reduction of its headcount by 500.
On the digital front, revenues were reportedly in line with the same period last year. Unique ‘visitors’ to the network of ‘thisis’ sites rose by 42 per cent year-on-year to 4.2 million.
Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT)
According to the figures, DMGT’s revenue fell by 7 per cent year-on-year – from £1,168 million to £1,085 million.
The group’s outlook:
“Within our UK local media operations, revenues continue to be stable which is encouraging, when combined with increasing cost reductions. Within our national consumer media operations, the positive impact will be felt of the cost reductions made to date and of the sale of the Evening Standard at the end of February. As a consequence, DMGT’s operating profits will be weighted more than last year towards the second half of the year.”
More twists and turns in the Independent and Mecom sagas today.
Independent News and Media (at time of writing) has failed to reach an agreement with bondholders – the company was meant to reach a deal on the £179 million bond by May 18, but is now seeking a ‘standstill’ period.
Meanwhile newspaper publisher Mecom has secured yet another convenant extension, raising about £140 million in new equity from shareholders, but also announced 500 job cuts.
The news has triggered a memory for blogger Kristine Lowe of a journalism conference in 1997 2007, where Mecom boss David Montgomery responded to an assertion by the Telegraph that there was no reason for the Independent or Guardian to exist:
“I didn’t say that. The Telegraph did. But in general I think companies should make money. I think it’s demeaning for people to work for companies that don’t,” he told Lowe at the time.
How very apt.
US newspaper publisher giant Gannett is to make all non-unionised staff take a one-week unpaid break in the first quarter of this year, in an attempt to minimise redundancies. Full story…
Creator of fake @dailymail_uk Twitter account has username changed by Twitter following legal pressure from the newspaper publisher.
The headline quote comes from a round-up up by Eric Scherer of a meeting involving French newspaper and magazine publishers and Google. The meeting suggests some heavy anti-Google feeling on the publishers’ part.
According to one executive at the event, magazine and newspaper publisher Lagadère is on the brink of reporting Google to the EU Commission for ‘predatory practices’.
Watch the video below (courtesy of Adrian Vanachter Damien Van Achter of Scherer’s tweeted coverage of the meeting and make your own mind up as to which party you agree with.
One quote that grabbed my attention, however, was newspapers reported remark: “You are accepting the end of news as we know it.”
Google, secrecy about its algorithms and dominance of the online ad market aside, is looking forward; newspapers are trying to protect and control what they perceive as news and the news business. The problems they are facing, some related to Google and others not, should show them that this self-interested attitude can’t be maintained and their perception of ‘news as we know it’ is out-dated.
“This anti-Google attitude comes from an apparent sense of entitlement that we see clearly in France but also elsewhere: Google owes us (…) They – like other publishers and journalists – think a market should be built around what they need and that there is a fair share that belongs to them even though they did not innovate and change so those who did should rescue them. But as Scott Karp has said, no one guarantees them a business model.”
Two questions being repeatedly raised at today’s Society of Editors (SoE) conference:
- stop talking about the nationals, how can regional media get in on the digital act?
- what to do about the BBC – or the ‘boa constrictor’ as Mail Online’s editorial director Martin Clarke called the corporation.
Guardian Media Group chief executive Carolyn McCall told delegates that there is a model for the local press, focusing on hyperlocal.
“There will be models that emerge: investing in SEO, local press have to do that. There’s an opportunity for local press to go very local and build revenue around this. There are models, but it will have to be off a very different cost base,” said McCall.
She went on to describe Channel M – the television offshoot of the Manchester Evening News – as ‘a good model’ for local media that could be replicated in the future.
The business risks associated with online and sustainable digital business models, she added, need to be shared regionally and locally.
Regional media will have to take ‘a real hit’ on their bottom line when it comes to online to if they are to maintain standards of quality journalism, she added.
Malcolm Pheby, editor of the Nottingham Evening Post, took up the regional press’ baton in explaining how the NEP had successfully integrated its newsroom with staff now trained to treat all news stories as rolling news to be broken on the web.
But the pervading theme of the day has been the opposition from regional newspapers to the BBC’s proposed local video plans.
Pete Clifton, head of multimedia for the Beeb, did his best to defend criticisms of the plans, saying that the proposals are subject to assessments by the BBC Trust and suggesting that the BBC could forge stronger relationships with other news providers.
Still it was comments from McCall and Clarke, whose affiliate Northcliffe added its voice to the debate today, that received impromptu applause.
According to both, the BBC’s plans present unfair competition to the local press
Cue videojournalism evangelist and consultant Michael Rosenblum, who promised to teach the audience how to beat the BBC at its own game. Key to this he said is embracing technology, in particular video, wholeheartedly and not incrementally.
In response to a question from a Rotherham newspaper publisher, which currently has no video on its website, Rosenblum said there was a demand for the content and the potential for partnerships with regional broadcasters like ITV local.
Former Mirror-boss David Montgomery’s Danish lieutenant, Lisbeth Knudsen, is contemplating the move, which could save a substantial sum of money – but it does not come without risk.
Berlingske Media already runs some of its sites on Drupal – a long-time favourite free content management system (CMS) of web hacker-geeks – but many consider the open source solution more vulnerable to hackers than proprietary systems.
“Our sports portal, launched early in June, is developed in Drupal, and we will use this for more sites. We are in the process of evaluating future online solutions, and will make a decision on this later this year. So far we have chosen Drupal for some of our smaller sites and Saxotech online for the bigger,” Knudsen told me.
But is Drupal up to the task?
The Danish newspaper publisher is in the process of integrating all its titles into ‘verticals’ that deliver copy across platforms and titles, and its sports site carries material from several of Berlingske’s titles.
Henning Sund, head of digital development for newspaper publisher Edda Media, is sceptical about how well Drupal is suited to such large-scale projects.
”I think part of the reason Berlingske Media is considering Drupal is that they are so desperate to get away from Saxotech Online. That is a desire I understand perfectly,” he said, explaining that Edda Media, Mecom’s Norwegian division, is also in the process of replacing Saxotech Online, but Drupal is not a candidate.
”I do not feel the security in Drupal is well-documented enough. We want a provider that can take responsibility for this, something we will not get with Drupal,” said Sund, adding that you also have to spend a lot of money on developing the desired functionality in Drupal, as it is not ‘plug and play’.
Berlingske-owned AOK.dk, a city guide for Copenhagen that runs on Drupal, has used an east European company to develop extra functionality in Drupal – a concept that has been exported to Berlin and Mecom Germany.
However, Sund does not think that Mecom boss Montgomery will impose Drupal as the standard CMS throughout the company should it be a success:
“Montgomery has made it very clear that as long as you reach your budget targets, you can choose the solutions you see fit. However, if you do not reach these targets, you will get Montgomery breathing down your neck, and that is something you would do anything to avoid.”
For more news on newspapers harnessing open source read about The Jewish Chronicle’s launch of a beta site using Drupal.