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PCUK/Harris Poll: Readers want to spend as close to nothing as possible for online news

September 23rd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

Perhaps unsurprisingly – given Monday’s results indicating that only five per cent of 1,188 users polled by paidContent:UK and Harris Interactive would pay for their preferred news website – people do not want to spend very much either.

“When asked the maximum amount they would be prepared to pay, respondents who read a free news site at least once a month gave us the lowest possible amount in each category – annual subscriptions under £10, a day pass costing under £0.25 and per-article fees of between 1p and 2p.”

Furthermore, PCUK’s Robert Andrews reminds us to bear in mind ‘that most of these readers said they did not want to pay – their answers suggest they may pay even less or not at all’.

Full PCUK findings at this link…

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Independent.co.uk: Racing Post’s online payment model

September 21st, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

The Independent profiles Racing Post and outlines its new online payment system launched in July: 3,000 subscribers signed up in the first week, with membership now approaching ‘five figures’.

“In July, Racing Post launched an enhanced online offering for members willing to pay £7.50 a month (equivalent to 25p a day) (…) Some are prepared to pay more. Other packages include a premium tipping service for £9.50 a month, a package that offers live online racing from the satellite subscription channel Racing UK (£7.50) or an all buzzers and bells ‘Ultimate Membership’ for £199.95 a year. More than a quarter of subscribers have chosen this ultimate package.”

Full post at this link…

http://www.racingpost.com/

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MSN UK signs up with PressDisplay to add newspaper e-editions to site

September 3rd, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Newspapers

MSN UK will now feature its own version of PressDisplay.com, which provides an archive of digital editions of newspapers and magazines, according to a press release from earlier in the week.

PressDisplay, which is owned by newspaper distribution firm NewspaperDirect, features e-editions of titles including the Times, Guardian, Washington Post and the Australian.

MSN PressDisplayThe new feature on the web portal will be branded as MSN PressDisplay and will give users free access to the front page and two stories from any publication on the day of print. To access more stories and back issues, users will be required to register with PressDisplay and offered subscription offers, starting at 79p to buy a credit to view another article.

The service offers different packages for personal and corporate use including greater access to archived editions, for example, the £79.95 ‘Corporate Unlimited’ lets subscribers go back up to 60 days in the archive.

Titles can be searched by country, language or browsed alphabetically, and search preferences can be saved by individual users.

The service is compatible with iPhones, Blackberry and eReaders, the release said and also offers interactive features – such as the ability to comment on articles and share them via social networks or email.

“Together we have been able to deliver innovative features which give consumers access to a huge number of publications on the great NewspaperDirect interface. At a time when the survival of newspapers is being questioned we see this as a great outlet for newspaper content,” said Peter Bale, MSN executive producer, in the release.

MSN UK also recently launched its local news and information site MSN Local.

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The Jobless Journalist: Week one – An introduction and redundancy packages

September 1st, 2009 | 4 Comments | Posted by in Job losses, Jobs

This is the first post in a series from an anonymous UK-based journalist recently made redundant. To follow the series, you can subscribe to this feed.

You can also read posts by our previous ‘Redundant Journalist’ blogger at this link.

Week one:
As every hack out there knows, journalism is one of the toughest professions to crack. It’s up there with becoming the Pope, a pilot or a pop star. (I’m being glib – winning X Factor would be far easier.) But seriously, it’s a gruelling process getting a job in journalism.

Twenty-three days and four hours ago I was made redundant from a hard-won job I dearly loved as staff writer on a consumer magazine. The big ‘R’ meant the magazine lost its funding and we were all out on our ears in a matter of weeks.

To make matters worse, it was my first staff job following a backbreaking four months of NCTJ training. I guess it was a wake up call to the harsh reality of the industry.

There was a tortuous period of uncertainty when we thought we had a buyer for the magazine, but I received my P45 last week, and nothing says it’s over like a note from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

As for a redundancy package… well, let’s just say I won’t be lunching at The Wolseley.

Think you’re not entitled to any money? You are. The government provides a certain amount of statutory redundancy pay, although it’s not readily advertised. I’d advise checking out this government website if your employer has also become insolvent.

It’s largely jargon-free and tells you who to contact to recover any outstanding wages and holiday pay, etc. It’s worth knowing that you are entitled to some sort of payout even if you haven’t been continuously employed by the company for two or more years.

Don’t expect miracles overnight – I’m still waiting for my forms from the insolvency practitioner, but I’ll let you know how I get on later in this blog series.

It’s daunting to think about going through the whole rigmarole of applying for jobs again. But while the process of sending off round after round of CVs is utterly depressing, it’s not half as depressing as the prospect of there being no jobs to apply for at all.

According to a story in Press Gazette published in May, the amount of journalists claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance from April 2008 to April 2009 leapt from 770 to 1,880. That’s an increase of almost 150 per cent in one year and only takes into account those on benefits.

There simply aren’t enough jobs to go round and with print media in freefall (thelondonpaper’s on its way out and the Observer’s future is under consideration) the outlook for us jobless journalists is far from rosy.

But if there is one thing I have learned as a journo, you must never ever give up, and with that in mind I’ve decided to use this period of redundancy as an opportunity to reflect on and improve my career.

This blog series will chart my search for a staff job – the applications, the CVs and covering letters, the calling on contacts, the rejections, the interviews and the various attempts to get my foot back in the door.

By sharing tips and anecdotes hopefully this blog will provide support for other unemployed journalists. And if by the end of the series I don’t have a job, at least I’ll know I went down writing.

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Jon Bernstein: Free is just another cover price

August 27th, 2009 | 10 Comments | Posted by in Comment, Newspapers

Apocryphal perhaps, but the story has it that Rupert Murdoch always wanted to charge for thelondonpaper.

When News International’s big boss was shown a dummy copy prior to the September 2006 launch, he apparently declared that the paper would easily justify a 10p cover price.

James Seddon, a member of thelondonpaper launch team, who recounts the tale on this blog, concludes:

“If he didn’t get ‘free’ then, it’s no surprise he dropped the paper when times were tough.”

Given Murdoch’s current fixation with finding a way to generate revenue online, it would be tempting not only to conflate thelondonpaper decision with a general trend towards paid-for content, but also to assume the paper’s demise sounds the death knell for freesheets.

So let’s be clear about a few things:

  • thelondonpaper didn’t fail because it was free
  • it didn’t lose £12.9 million in a year because it was free
  • a 10p cover charge would not have saved it
  • its free-to-view website isn’t closing because it’s a threat to Rupert Murdoch’s paid-for plans.

Oh, and:

  • the freesheet isn’t dead

All newspapers, and the bulk of broadcast media around the world, adopt an ad-funded business model.

In some cases advertising subsidises the cost of production and the consumer pays a competitive price.

In other cases advertising covers those costs completely and the consumer gets to read, watch or listen gratis.

In both cases the advertiser is paying for the eyeballs and the reader, viewer or listener gets content for a fraction (or none) of the real running costs of the media business.

Rather than two distinct models, there’s a continuous line that runs from commercial radio, trade publications and freesheets to subscription satellite channels, consumer magazines and national newspapers.

Whether the content is free or has a nominal price attached is something of a moot point.

As web strategist Jeff Sonderman argued earlier this summer “newspaper folk haven’t actually charged for content since the 1830s.”

It was during that decade that subscribers stopped bearing the full cost of putting the paper together. Typically, says Sonderman, newspaper prices fell from six cents to one cent.

At a stroke, access to newspapers was no longer limited to those who could afford the luxury. He notes:

“For about 180 years, the retail price of a newspaper has never reflected the total cost of assembling and producing it. Any paper that tried to charge such a price (6x more) would lose circulation and be undercut by correctly priced competing papers.”

Murdoch’s 10p cover charge wouldn’t have saved thelondonpaper. It certainly wouldn’t have paid for production costs and circulation would not have justified a 500,000 print run.

So, thelondonpaper isn’t closing because the model was flawed, but because News International either couldn’t make it work in the current economic climate or was unwilling to give a paper, still in its infancy, the time it needed to become commercially viable.

Or, as David Prosser neatly put it in last Friday’s Independent:

“The surprise with thelondonpaper is that it has survived this long, especially as the title was launched for no real commercial reason other than to get up the noses of Daily Mail & General Trust, owner of Metro and London Lite.”

This is not the end of the freesheet even if it feels that way right now.

Certainly, London Lite could fold. After all, it too was launched for tactical reasons – a spoiler in a spiralling tit-for-tat between DMGT and News International.

Having effectively achieved those ends, its owners may conclude there’s little point in London Lite overstaying its welcome and queering the pitch for its stablemates.

But if London Lite does go, commuters beware – you’ll still be playing dodge the Metro/City AM/Shortcuts/Sport vendor for some time yet.

After all, free is just another cover price.

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is part of a series of regular columns for Journalism.co.uk. You can read his personal blog at this link.

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thelondonpaper’s closure – tell the rivals or readers first?

August 21st, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Newspapers

Journalism.co.uk couldn’t help but part with 50p on the way back from London last night after seeing the Evening Standard seller’s newspaper boards at Victoria Station loudly declaring the death of newspaper rival thelondonpaper.

The front page was also dedicated to the story: “Free London paper to close”, “Murdoch axes loss-making title”, “Staff shocked at sudden decision”.

(This must be the new ‘positive’ direction for the paper Geordie Greig mentioned when he took over as editor in February)

Still the ES, as far as the print edition yesterday went, refrained from commenting further on the demise of a rival. And it must have been tempting given thelondonpaper’s full-page advert last January, which taunted the ES over its sale for ‘the price of a chocolate bar’.

As a collector’s edition – the last will be issued on September 18 – Journalism.co.uk also picked up yesterday’s thelondonpaper. No mention of the closure in print (perhaps news was released after it had gone to print – anyone who sees today’s edition is welcome to correct me) and it seems to be business as usual on the website. Journalism.co.uk towers received the release from News International around lunchtime yesterday, which begs the question: is it right to let your rivals and the rest of the industry know before your readers (and, indeed, staff – see yesterday’s NMA report about new launches for thelondonpaper website and the recent job ads for online staff)?

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Update on Wired Journalists’ new look; Publish2 claims it now has 20 per cent of all journalists in the US

As reported on the main site, the social network Wired Journalists is now looking rather different; it has been incorporated into Publish2, the social journalism venture based on a belief in the link economy. Since no terms of the deal were disclosed in the announcement, Journalism.co.uk was keen to know more. Publish2 CEO Scott Karp didn’t reveal the details of the agreement but added this statement:

“Creating a social network for our journalist community within P2 was always on our roadmap, and WiredJournalists presented an opportunity to buy instead of build. It was a great fit. WiredJournalists grew from nothing to more than 3,000 journalists in 18 months.

“The frontline web producers, reporters, and editors using Wired Journalists are exactly the journalists we’re bringing together at Publish2 to collaborate and share links with each other and their readers.

“With this deal, Publish2 now has the equivalent of 20 per cent of all journalists in the U.S, since launching less than a year ago.”

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Jon Bernstein: Why ITV’s micropayment plan is unlikely to make the Grade

July 15th, 2009 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Comment, Online Journalism

ITV management had better hope Ben Bradshaw’s deeds are as good as his words, because its faith in an another revenue-generating scheme looks misplaced.

Bradshaw, the recently appointed Culture Secretary, told the Financial Times earlier this week that the BBC’s refusal to relinquish licence fee money to aid other broadcasters with a public service remit was ‘wrong-headed’. He said the corporation’s hierarchy would have to come to its senses sooner or later.

While the BBC fights the good fight against ‘ideological’ forces such as these, part of the network gave airtime to a would-be recipient of top-slicing: ITV’s executive chairman, Michael Grade.

On BBC Five Live last Thursday, Simon Mayo asked Grade about the YouTube Susan Boyle affair (some 200 million video views to date).

After describing YouTube’s proposed revenue-share for the Boyle clips as ‘derisory’, Grade insisted ITV wouldn’t get caught out again:

“We are working on it and watch this space, but we’re all going to crack it, either when the advertising market recovers or a combination of advertising and micropayments which is 50p a time or 25p a time to watch it.

“We may move in time, in the medium term, to micropayments, the same way you pay for stuff on your mobile phone. I think we can make that work extremely well.”

(You can listen to the interview on the iPlayer until midnight Wednesday 15 July. Grade interviews starts around 1 hour, 22 minutes.)

Despite Grade’s confidence there are grave doubts that paying per clip is going to work. Here are four reasons to worry:

1. Micropayments don’t work for perishable goods
It’s an argument that has been made against charging for news stories, but it is equally applicable when you are talking about clips from a reality TV programme.

Quality drama may have a shelf-life and an audience willing to pay for it, but a water cooler moment from reality TV? Not likely.

The Susan Boyle phenomenon still feels vaguely current, but it is a passing fad.

If you’re unconvinced take this quick, highly unscientific test: would you pay 50p to watch the machinations of ‘Nasty’ Nick Bateman from the first series of Big Brother?

The correct answer: who’s ‘Nasty’ Nick Bateman?

2. Micropayments put people off
Writing back in 1996, social scientist Nick Szabo introduced the idea of mental transaction costs. He argued that no matter how small the payment, it still incurs effort on behalf of the potential buyer to work out if he or she is getting a good deal.

He wrote:

“The reason we don’t do the things is that they’re not worth the brain cycles: we have reached the mental accounting barrier.”

And that in a nutshell is why micropayments are doomed to failure.

It’s a theme Chris Anderson touched on in his recently released book ‘Free: The Future of a Radical Price‘. He wrote:

“It’s the worst of both worlds – the mental tax of a larger price without the commensurate cash. (Szabo was right: Micropayments have largerly failed to take off.)”

Unsurprisingly, Anderson advocates free as a preferable alternative to micro, but he’s not alone. New York professor Clay Shirky is with him.

In fact Shirky has been saying much the same thing since the beginning of the decade and his 2003 essay ‘Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content‘ has become something of a set text.

3. Micropayments only work if you control distribution
ITV’s Grade rightly cites mobile phones as a great platform for micropayments.

The network operator controls what is available via the handset, limiting availability and ensuring prices won’t be undercut.

Further, the operator offers a simple and largely pain-free way of paying for goods by adding the cost to a monthly bill or subtracting it from a top-up on a pay-as-you-go phone.

But the web is different – it’s anarchic, open, a free-for-all.

Nobody controls distribution and despite efforts to chase down copyright abusers, there will always be someone ready to undercut your micropayment with an even smaller charge – free.

Opponents of this reading cite Apple’s iTunes Music Store as proof that micropayments can work on the net. But, as Shirky argued earlier this year, the fee-per-track model works because this is a rare example where no alternative exists.

“Everything from Napster to online radio has been crippled or killed by fiat; small payments survive in the absence of a market for other legal options.”

Further, Apple does control part of the distribution, successfully creating a market for the must-have iPod.

So despite Grade’s assertion, it’s unlikely any micropayment system on the internet will turn out ‘the same way you pay for stuff on mobile phones’.

Incidentally, it will be worth watching to see how the smartphone redefines this divide between the largely ordered phone network and the web.

4. YouTube clips drive traffic first, revenues second
If you think about a clip on YouTube as a direct money maker, you’ve got your priorities wrong.

It’s about reach, exposure and promotion. It’s about creating a buzz and driving traffic back to the core.

Did the Susan Boyle clip achieve this? No question.

For starters, video views at ITV.com were up 528 per cent year-on-year and advertising slots for the duration of the ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ season sold out.

Meanwhile, such was the interest around the show, the final was seen by 19.2 million people – ITV’s highest audience since England vs. Sweden in the 2006 World Cup. More eyeballs this year promises high advertising yields next.

In short YouTube kept its part of the bargain.

Would all that have happened had ITV charged 25p a clip? Would 200 million people have checked it out? Will a pay-per-clip Britain’s Got Talent be a winner?

The twist in the tale is that Grade, who steps down as executive chairman at the end of the year, won’t be around to find out.

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is part of a series of regular columns for Journalism.co.uk. You can read his personal blog at this link.

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#Digital Britain: Ten good links

June 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Events, Journalism

Yesterday it arrived: the final version of the Digital Britain report. Landline users among us will have to sacrifice around three lattes a year to meet the 50p a month levy for the Next Generation Fund.

Director of digital content for Guardian News & Media, Emily Bell, asked, via Twitter, for two words to sum it up other than ‘colossal disappointment’. An advanced Twitter search showed these responses from her followers: ‘as expected,’  ‘damp squib,’ ‘disappointingly colossal,’ ‘wasted chance’ and ‘too cautious’. However, Bell is now worried she might have been ‘too negative’ in her reaction – but that could just be her going soft, she says.

Ten good links*:

  • 2. ThinkBroadband’s summary. It’s clear and rectifies misunderstandings that might arise from second-hand summaries of the report.
  • 5. PageFlakes page with related links for Digital Britain content: including video, Twitter and blog searches.
  • 7. The BBC opposes top-slicing of the licence fee for independent news consortia, stated by the Trust’s chair Michael Lyons in a BBC press release.

*with an extra two, for luck.


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‘Why is aged news better than real news?’ The Daily Show visits the New York Times

June 12th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

The Daily Show is let loose in the New York Times building. It’s very funny.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
End Times
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Newt Gingrich Unedited Interview
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