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Times and Sunday Times reach 79,000 digital subscribers

March 30th, 2011 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Business, Newspapers, Online Journalism

A total of 79,000 people have subscribed to read the Times and Sunday Times online, on the iPad and on the Kindle, according to figures released by owner News International yesterday. The number represents an increase of 29,000 over the previous five months.

News International claims that overall readership of digital and print editions for the newspapers have risen by 20,000, despite a sharp decrease in the circulation of the print edition of the Times, which has fallen 12.1 per cent within the last year, and the Sunday Times, which has fallen by 6.9 per cent.

News International has not released a breakdown of digital subscribers into those reading online, via the iPad or via the Kindle, but reported that total sales of digital products stood at 222,000 at the end of February, up from 105,000 on 31 October.

Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International said that the figures represent that “ever larger numbers of people are willing to pay for quality journalism across a variety of digital formats”.

She added: “Our industry is being redefined by technology and we will no longer measure the sales and success of our newspapers in print circulation terms alone.”

An online subscription to the Times and the Sunday Times costs £2; an iPad subscription costs £9.99 a month or £1 for one-day’s access to the Times and £1.79 for the Sunday Times.

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Video: I would have published leaks, says Harry Evans

December 8th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Investigative journalism, Newspapers

Veteran journalist Sir Harry Evans, the former Sunday Times editor who presided over many controversial investigations by the newspaper, including the Kim Philby espionage case, said this week he would have published the WikiLeaks embassy cables.

He was critical of WikiLeaks though, which he said had not done a responsible job with redacting their leaks.

The full video, courtesy of the 92nd Street Y, New York.

Original post at this link.

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Raymond Snoddy: News International throw the kitchen sink at paywall figures

November 5th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Newspapers

In case you missed it earlier this week, Raymond Snoddy reports from Tuesday’s MediaTel conference, taking a closer look at the Times paywall figures and finding no stone left unturned in the hunt for ‘digital sales’:

The News International press release announcing “105,000 digital sales for The Times and The Sunday Times” was a masterpiece of the spinners art – precise on the best possible gloss on the highest possible feasible headline numbers, more vague on what they mean.

While it’s not a totally catastrophic start the closer you look at the Times’ numbers the less impressive they appear

Clearly they threw in the kitchen sink to get past the magic 100,000 transaction mark. The figure includes single one-day purchases, the Kindle and iPad applications.  The monthly subscriptions, a better guide to sustainable, continuing business amount to “around half” of the 105,000 total.

Full story at this link…

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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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The Times and Sunday Times: What a paywall looks like

July 2nd, 2010 | 9 Comments | Posted by in Business

And it’s up – the long awaited News International paywall for the new Times and Sunday Times websites has gone up today. This is the screen you get when you try to go beyond the sites’ homepages – thetimes.co.uk and sundaytimes.co.uk. It’s interesting to see what’s not included in the £1 day pass option: email bulletins, mobile access and daily puzzles.

What the web and world is saying about it:

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Questions for Times editor James Harding on paywalling content

The Times hosted a live Q&A this afternoon with editor James Harding about its new plans for paid content, details of which were announced today. While there were a few interesting comments in there (he’ll “hide under the desk” if it all goes wrong, he says) it felt like a lot of questions went unanswered and unpublished. For example, as Adam Tinworth pointed out on Twitter, no questions about linking were addressed.

I’ll do as @times_live recommends and email them in, but in the meantime, here are a few of my own, and some from our Twitter followers too.

Mine:

I once heard that pre-moderation of comments posted on Times Online costs a six figure sum (I wasn’t able to clarify over what time period). With a paywalled site, do you hope to reduce this cost? How will the staffing of your website change with the paywall?

What kind of market research did you do to establish the price point? What different kinds of models did you consider?

How different will the new sites be? Do you think people would have paid for the existing content on Times Online?

Can you share any details of the additional digital applications that will be included in the package?

Then because none of my questions were getting answered, I threw this in:

How much involvement did NI CEO Rupert Murdoch have with paywall plans? Last week his biographer Michael Wolff suggested that up until last year he hadn’t been on the internet ‘unaccompanied’; do you think execs are best placed to judge the willingness of people to pay?

And here are a few I thought of afterwards:

You joked that you’ll hide under the desk if it all goes wrong, but what’s the real risk? If you reverted to a free model later, do you think it would be easy to regain all the lost unique users? Or will they be lost forever?

Journalists are often recognised and given opportunities and leads because of their Google ranking. How have your journalists reacted? Are they worried about their professional profile lowering, with restricted access to their content? Will you stop journalists posting their own articles on their own blogs?

And from Twitter:

@substuff asks: “I wanted to ask what The Times would do to attract promiscuous browsers such as me – as I’d probably only subscribe to one site.”

@neilblake73 asks: “Why would anyone pay for news when you can get it 24hrs via the BBC, CNN, Sky, radio and online etc? What on earth would be so good we’d pay?

“Also, with Evening Standard, and Metro free (& possibly the Indy in future?), why are roles reversing, ie. free papers / paid for web?”

@HooklineBooks asks: “What if they [the Times] charge and no-one visits? Is there a plan B?”

@gregorhunter: “What’s stopping the rest of the blogosphere from mirroring TimesOnline’s articles and continuing as usual?”

@gpcrc: “Will this change how journalists interact with PRs (if all consumers will be building relationships with online journalists)?”

@sarah_booker: “Will the Times link through social bookmarks and RSS functions outside the paywall?

“Will Times journalists be able to tweet?”

@JunkkMale: “If paywall is to ‘preserve quality reporting’, may we be assured that future coverage will be factually accurate, indeed more so than now?”

If you’ve got others, please tweet them in, or leave in the comments below. I’ll email James Harding the link to this post now.

Also, for background, here’s the News International press release in full:

News International today announces that The Times and The Sunday Times will start charging for access to their digital journalism in June using a pricing model that is simple and affordable.

Both titles will launch new websites in early May, separating their digital presence for the first time and replacing the existing, combined site, Times Online. The two new sites will be available for a free trial period to registered customers.

From June, the new sites, www.thetimes.co.uk and www.thesundaytimes.co.uk, will be available for a charge of £1 for a day’s access or £2 for a week’s subscription. Payment will give customers access to both sites. The weekly subscription will also give access to the e- paper and certain new applications.

Access to the digital services will be included in the seven-day subscriptions of print customers to The Times and The Sunday Times.

Rebekah Brooks, chief executive, News International, said: “These new sites, and the apps that will enhance the experience, reflect the identity of our titles and deliver a terrific experience for readers. We expect to attract a growing base of loyal customers that are committed and engaged with our titles.

We are building on the excellence of our newspapers and offering digital access to our journalism at a price that everyone can afford.

“At a defining moment for journalism, this is a crucial step towards making the business of news an economically exciting proposition. We are proud of our journalism and unashamed to say that we believe it has value.

“This is just the start. The Times and The Sunday Times are the first of our four titles in the UK to move to this new approach. We will continue to develop our digital products and to invest and innovate for our customers.”

John Witherow, editor of The Sunday Times, said: “The launch of a dedicated Sunday Times website is a hugely significant moment for the paper.

It will enable us to showcase our strengths in areas such as news, sport, business, style, travel and culture and display the breadth of Britain’s biggest-selling quality newspaper.

“For the first time, readers will have access to all their favourite sections and writers. We will be introducing new digital features to enhance our coverage and encourage interactivity. Every day, readers will be able to talk to our writers and experts and view stunning photographs and graphics. Subscribers will be able to get this brand new site, plus the enhanced Times site, seven days of the week, all for the price of a cup of coffee.”

James Harding, editor of The Times, said: “The Times was founded to take advantage of new technology. Now, we are leading the way again. Our new website – with a strong, clean design – will have all the values of the printed paper and all the versatility of digital media. We want people to do more than just read it – to be part of it.

“We continue to invest in frontline journalism. We have more foreign correspondents than our rivals and continue to put reporters on new beats – last year we added an Ocean Correspondent and we just became the only British paper to have a Pentagon Correspondent. And we want to match that with investment in innovation.

“TheTimes.co.uk will make the most of moving images, dynamic infographics, interactive comment and personalised news feeds. The coming editions of The Times on phones, e- readers, tablets and mobile devices will tell the most important and interesting stories in the newest ways. Our aim is to keep delivering The Times, but better.”

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Checking your facts – to every last detail

March 22nd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

Via the Fleet Street Blues blog, comes a story of intimate fact checking at the Sunday Times.

Showing that editors take their ‘There’s a part of you for every part of the Sunday Times’ motto seriously, journalist Camilla Long rang UKIP’s press officer to find out which of MEP Nigel Farage’s testicles had been removed, for yesterday’s profile feature.

The story not only reveals some meticulous journalism practice, but a disputed version of events.

Compare the two different accounts:

UKIP’s press officer, Gawain Towler:

“Look Gawain”, she said, “I am really sorry to ask you this but the editors have told me to”, “What’s that?” I said, “They want me to ask which one of his balls was removed after his cancer”.

You want odious? I would suggest even asking that question is pretty bloody impertinent and cheap, and I told her so, but she persisted. So I agreed to ask, but told her not to expect a particularly forthcoming answer. When I asked Farage, he was, unusually for him somewhat put out, but after saying that he though it a cheap shot he then he recovered his normal poise, “Tell her if she is so bloody interested that she can come over and check herself”. So I called her back and told her, both that he felt is tawdry, but if she must then that is his coment [sic].

and Long’s version:

[I] call his press officer to confirm which testicle he had removed. Farage has just given his party conference speech and is in high spirits. “Tell her to come and find out, ha-ha-ha!” he shouts over the din.

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Blogger to pursue legal action over Independent on Sunday headline

Last Sunday, writer and author Zoe Margolis was shocked to discover that the headline on her own opinion piece about the portrayal of women in the media for the Independent on Sunday, wrongly described her as a prostitute.

The headline was changed for later editions of the paper. An online version of the headline has now been changed to ‘I’m a good-time girl who became an agony aunt’, with the same article. The original version remained live on the mobile site for some time, before being removed.

Margolis now intends to pursue legal action, her spokesperson confirmed to Journalism.co.uk.

“Zoe has never worked in the sex industry and has worked hard to establish her writing as something distinct to it.”

Margolis said: “I’m absolutely distraught by this damage to my reputation both professionally and personally. Unfortunately this situation just shows how much work still needs to be done to challenge the sexism of the media in their conflation of female sexual desire with the sex industry.”

Margolis, keeps a successful blog about her sex life, originally anonymously as Abby Lee, and then under her real name once she was exposed by the Sunday Times in 2006. Her second book was published this week.

Her spokesperson said that the incident had revealed an “undercurrent of sexism”. It illustrated the very point that Margolis was trying to make, she said: “that if you are a woman, writing about sex openly, it is very likely you will be labelled with negative terminology”.

“Zoe believes women are chastised or labelled for expressing their sexual desires and that this needs to be opposed.”

Twitter users following Margolis on Sunday were shocked by the headline, particularly ahead of a week used to mark women’s rights, International Women’s Day (IWD).

“The eve of IWD & @girlonetrack is subject of vile SIndy h/lines for a positive piece on writing on sexuality & feminism,” tweeted @emmagillan.

The Independent on Sunday did not wish to comment at this stage.

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Press Complaints Commission to join Twitter; wants to explore social network debate

While the Press Complaints Commission has had limited contact with social networks directly, it’s an area the industry self-regulatory body wants to look at in further depth, the new director of the PCC Stephen Abell has said.

The PCC is soon to join Twitter, and will be taking part in an event about the media’s use of social networks organised by the think-tank Polis (more details when announced) Abell told Journalism.co.uk, in his first media interview since taking over the role from Tim Toulmin.

[Update: it has joined and made its first tweet: from @UKPCC)

“Newspapers use it [social networking] a lot and it’s a legitimate resource, but it’s certainly not a free for all.”

It’s for the PCC to offer guidance and explore the area, he said. But where does the PCC fit into this exactly? Is the self-regulatory body there to explain the dangers of social networks to the general public? “I think the PCC’s role is for people to understand their right in regards to what the media might do,” he said.

How far should newspapers go with their use of social networks? As Abell was keen to point out, the PCC recently upheld a complaint against the Sunday Times for one of its journalist’s “intrusive” use of Facebook. Users can control what is private and public with different settings, he says, but added that maybe people don’t know enough about “marshalling” their accounts.

But how about if a journalist ‘befriended’ a subject to gain access to private information, and a complaint was later made by that user? It would “raise an issue about a journalist of how honest they have been,” he said. “I think that would depend on the individual case.”

“There’s a function for us there – certainly to train journalists,” he said. “We go into a newspaper and say these are the last decisions we made [on social networking].”

Abell claimed that the presence of 10 lay members on the commission – “with a broad range of experience” – helped the Commission keep up to date with social media trends: “they can reflect changes in cultural expectations”.

With the PCC’s move into this area, it will be interesting to see whether newspapers will face sanctions for the way they use social network information: could they be penalised for presenting information out of context?

A blogger in Ireland, for example, has been in contact with the Irish Ombudsman over an article in the Irish Mail on Sunday which lifted material from her blog. The Mail has defended its actions in a lengthy statement, but bloggers and commenters remain angry about the way the blogger was portrayed in the article. How would the PCC act in a situation like this? Abell agrees that context is a key issue, and complaints over social network use could be made on the grounds of both privacy and accuracy.

“Indeed the internet is itself a very self-regulatory body”
Although the PCC seems to be increasingly engaging with online content, comments by its chair, Baroness Buscombe, to the Independent newspaper, taken to mean that bloggers might come under within the PCC’s remit, did not go down well with many high profile bloggers.

“Frankly, we do not feel that the further development of blogging as an interactive medium that facilitates the free exchange of ideas and opinions will benefit from regulation by a body representing an industry with, in the main, substantially lower ethical standards and practices than those already practiced by the vast majority of established British bloggers,” wrote Liberal Conspiracy and Guardian.co.uk blogger Sunny Hundel at the time.

On this subject, Abell claims that Buscombe’s comments were misinterpreted (as she did herself): “I think the point Peta was really making with bloggers, is that she was talking in the context of a speech she was making, talking of the dangers, or the impracticability of top-down regulation – in a world where everyone is a publisher.

“There’s an argument that any form of the internet is going to be about self-regulation – people voluntarily adhering to a set of standards. That might not be anything to do with the PCC at all, but self-regulation fits the internet very well.

“And indeed the internet is itself a very self-regulatory body and blogs tend to work by someone making a proposition and someone challenging it via comments: that can correct any misapprehensions in the beginning and create a dialogue.

“The way it works with newspapers is a useful model I think. Newspapers are voluntarily buying into the PCC (…) a set of standards they are voluntarily adhering to.”

It seems that the point that Abell is making is that both bloggers and newspapers self-regulate, and don’t need statutory control; bloggers could have their own code, even. But bloggers under the PCC? He won’t even go there:

“I think the point about blogging and regulation … it’s far too early … I’m not even saying it [independent blogging] should be connected to the PCC.”

Stephen Abell discusses phone hacking, superinjunctions and forthcoming reports with Journalism.co.uk here

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Telegraph.co.uk: ‘The last gentleman printer of Fleet Street’

February 5th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

A pick that’s not at all related to online media, but a reminder of how things were. This is the Telegraph’s obituary to George Darker, head printer of the Sunday Times for 22 years. He has died aged 98.

With a full head of white hair and invariably dressed in an immaculate white shirt, sleeves rolled up to the elbow, he stood out from the rest of his inky profession like a beacon. From June onwards, he was never seen without one of his prize roses in his buttonhole. His gentlemanliness and inexplicable air of serenity set him apart at a time when the composing rooms of most national newspapers pulsated with industrial strife as well as the natural tension of meeting deadlines.

Full story at this link…

(via Gentlemen Ranters)

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