The Future of Media Gradually Coming Into Focus

Source: seekingalpha.com

by: Larry Kramer

Suddenly there are a lot of moving parts on the media landscape. And what’s really interesting is that they all seem to be moving in the same direction. 

We have old media coming toward new media: Rupert Murdoch and Steve Jobs building an IPad-only newspaper.

We have new media moving toward old media: Gawker’s Nick Denton, Newser’s Michael Wolff, Talking Points Memo and Digg all changing their look to add curation and perspective to their pages, and make them behave more like traditional media, editors and all.

We have a huge example of old and new media merging to create, well, newer media: Tina Brown riding her Daily Beast up a steep slope to take over and merge with Newsweek………………  click to read entre story

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For Newspapers, the Future Is Now: Digital Must Be First

Source: gigaom.com
By Mathew Ingram Dec. 2, 2010, 8:21am PDT

As newspapers everywhere struggle to stay afloat and remake themselves for a web-based world, many continue to debate how much emphasis they should put on digital vs. their traditional print operations. John Paton, CEO of the Journal Register group of newspapers, says the time for debate is over. Newspapers need to be digital first in everything they do, he says, and more than that, they need to take the same approach to their businesses that many web-based startups have, and that means being transparent, crowdsourced, collaborative and flat. There’s no question; it’s an inspiring message, but will anyone listen?

In a speech he delivered Thursday at the Transformation of News Summit in Cambridge, Mass. (put on by the International Newsmedia Marketing Association or INMA), Paton said that the Journal Register — which he took over in February — has been living and breathing these principles for the past year, and they’ve paid off in terms of both revenue growth and profits for the company, which was effectively bankrupt last year. Paton says the Journal Register’s profit margins will be about 15 percent this year.

In effect, Paton says, the Journal Register — which publishes about 170 daily and weekly papers in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey — is already a digital-first company whether it wants to be or not, because its total online audience is bigger than its print audience. “We are already a Digital company,” he said in his presentation, “with small sales in the area of growth and a burdensome cost structure on the declining business – Print.” The newspaper CEO said the company has dealt with that cost structure problem by outsourcing everything it can to others who can do it cheaper or better.

We are getting out of anything that does not fall into our core competencies of content creation and the selling of our audience to advertisers. Get rid of the bricks and iron [and] focus on core competencies — meaning, get rid of those things that don’t add value to the business. Reduce it or stop it. Outsource it or sell it.

What’s most interesting about the Journal Register’s approach is it doesn’t rely on putting up paywalls, the way that media mogul Rupert Murdoch has done at his newspapers in Britain — which led to a decline in online readership of more than 90 percent — and the way some other media outlets such as the New York Times are planning. Instead, Paton is focused on expanding the relationship his newspapers have with both readers and advertisers in their local communities, and taking that online. He says it’s working even better than expected.

Digital ad growth is 2 times better than the industry. More importantly the company’s digital revenue has grown from negligible to 11 % of ad revenue in November – in less than a year. The company will write about 1,000 digital ad orders this month and has expanded its revenue streams from about 13 basic revenue streams to about 60. And all of that with less costs.

In addition to the advertising growth, Paton says his papers are reaching out to the communities they serve, to make them part of what he calls the “new news ecosystem.” For one paper, the Register Citizen in Connecticut, that means creating a new community newsroom, which the newspaper is moving into later this month — the new offices have no walls, Paton says, and feature “a newsroom café with free public Wi-Fi, a community media lab and a community journalism school.”

The Journal Register CEO has also been taking the same approach to his own company: Earlier this year, Paton launched a project called ideaLab, in which employees from across the company were chosen from an open application process that generated almost 200 comments on Paton’s blog (his post about the lab is here). Armed with their choice of mobile phone, a netbook and iPad, members of the ideaLab get 10 hours of paid time per week to experiment and innovate — and only one rule, Paton said: There are no rules, and no sacred cows. Paton also had strong words in his presentation about why most newspapers aren’t changing:

The reasons… are simple: Fear, lack of knowledge and an aging managerial cadre that is cynically calculating how much they DON’T have to change before they get across the early retirement goal line. Look at the grey heads in any newspaper and you will see what I am talking about.

The solution, according to Paton?

Stop listening to newspaper people. We have had nearly 15 years to figure out the Web and as an industry we newspaper people are no good at it. No good at it at all. Want to get good at it? Then stop listening to the newspaper people and start listening to the rest of the world. And, I would point out, as we have done at JRC – put the Digital people in charge – of everything.

Whether anyone decides to take the Journal Register Co. CEO’s advice, it seems clear that the approach is working for Paton’s chain; he says in the year to date, the company outperformed the newspaper industry, with ad revenue growth three times better than the industry average, and classified ad performance that was six times better. Since costs have shrunk, profit margins have actually increased. On top of that kind of financial performance, it’s refreshing to see a newspaper publisher not just talk about going “digital first” but actually put his money where his mouth is. If you care about the future of newspapers and media, it’s well worth reading the entire presentation.

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Why Media Apps Aren’t as Good a Business as They Seem

Source: Jeff Bercovici
Story by: http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffbercovici/

It’s long been an article of faith among media optimists that the shift to digital publishing would be a good thing for publishers in the long run, freeing them of the burden of their biggest costs: paper, printing and postage.

That’s why I was surprised to hear David Link, founder and creative director of the digital design firm The Wonderfactory, say, at a recent conference, that producing and distributing app-based magazines for tablet computers and other mobile devices is as costly as putting them out with ink and paper, if not more so. The problem, he told me afterward, is bandwidth. Magazine apps are large downloads. One of the biggest, the early version of Wired’s iPad edition, was around half a gigabyte.

If you’re selling directly through Apple’s iTunes store, that’s no problem: Apple handles the download — in exchange for a 30 percent cut of the sale price. But most publishers aren’t satisfied with that arrangement, which leaves Apple in control of the customer relationship and the resulting data and, for now, limits them to selling single copies rather than subscriptions. However, says Link, “if they’re going through the subscription route and they want to circumvent that” — for instance, through Zinio, a digital publishing services provider with an app of its own — “then they actually have to pay for all that bandwidth.”

Over time, of course, bandwidth gets cheaper, and file compression gets better. Link says most magazine apps now fall in the range of 80 to 250 megabytes per issue, and “I’m hoping they’ll get down to 30 to 50 megs.” But set against that is the pressure to inflate them with ever more rich media. Just as publishers once conditioned readers to expect that all print content ought to be free online, now they’re teaching consumers to expect magazine apps that are tricked out with videos, interactive graphics and more. Link points out that Sports Illustrated’s iPad app, which Wonderfactory developed, features 50 to 100 photos per issue not found in the magazine. And all that extra content doesn’t produce itself, either: Link estimates that putting out an enhanced mobile edition requires two to five extra staffers.

None of this is to say media apps won’t be a great business at some point. But if and when they get there, it will be because of of the high rates publishers will be able to charge for rich, interactive, targeted advertising. Take that out of the equation and app-based publishing, like print publishing, is a cost-heavy, money-losing proposition.

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Rupert Murdoch creates ‘iNewspaper’ – with the help of Steve Jobs

News Corp reportedly set to launch iPad news publication exclusively via download

Source: guardian.co.uk/

Rupert Murdoch, head of the media giant News Corp, and Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, are preparing to unveil a new digital “newspaper” called the Daily at the end of this month, according to reports in the US media.

The collaboration, which has been secretly under development in New York for several months, promises to be the world’s first “newspaper” designed exclusively for new tablet-style computers such as Apple’s iPad, with a launch planned for early next year.

Intended to combine “a tabloid sensibility with a broadsheet intelligence”, the publication represents Murdoch’s determination to push the newspaper business beyond the realm of print.

According to reports, there will be no “print edition” or “web edition”; the central innovation, developed with assistance from Apple engineers, will be to dispatch the publication automatically to an iPad or any of the growing number of similar devices.

With no printing or distribution costs, the US-focused Daily will cost 99 cents (62p) a week.

According to the US elite fashion industry journal Women’s Wear Daily, the Murdoch-Jobs “newspaper” will be run from the 26th floor of the News Corp offices in New York, where 100 journalist have been hired, including Pete Picton, an online editor from the Sun, as one of three managing editors. The editor of the Daily has not been announced, but observers are assuming it will be Jesse Angelo, the managing editor of the New York Post and rising star in the News Corp firmament.

Angelo, who was at school with Murdoch’s son Lachlan, was formerly editor of the Post’s business section and has recruited the tabloid’s gossip columnist Richard Johnson to run the Daily’s Los Angeles bureau. Other staff include Sasha Frere-Jones, a music critic at the New Yorker, who will oversee arts and culture. News Corp’s pattern of hiring for the project suggests that video will be a major component of the new publication.

The 79-year-old Murdoch is said to have had the idea for the project after studying a survey that suggested readers spent more time immersed in their iPads than they did – comparatively speaking — on the internet, where unfocused surfing is typical.

Sources say Murdoch is committed to the project in part because he believes that the Daily, properly executed, will demonstrate that consumers are willing to pay for high- quality, original content online.

Murdoch believes the iPad is going to be a “game changer” and he has seen projections that there will be 40 million iPads in circulation by the end of 2011. A source said: “He envisions a world in which every family has a iPad in the home and it becomes the device from which they get their news and information. If only 5% of those 40 million subscribe to the Daily, that’s already two million customers.”

But Murdoch’s success with internet ventures is mixed. The Times recently said it had gained more than 100,000 paying customers for its web edition, while the Wall Street Journal now has more than two million readers behind a partial paywall. But MySpace, once the leading social networking site, which Murdoch paid $580m for in 2005, is now an also-ran in the field, and Murdoch is running counter to current thinking that web publications need print editions to justify themselves to advertisers.

Apple has been expected to announce a subscription plan for newspapers based on the model of its iTunes music download service, but some publishers have been unwilling to let Apple in as an intermediary or let it control pricing the way iTunes has done in the music business.

“Obviously, Steve Jobs sees this as a significant revenue stream for Apple in the future,” Roger Fidler, head of digital publishing at the Donald W Reynolds Journalism Institute, told the San Jose Mercury News recently.

And with Apple expected to dominate the tablet market until compelling competitors are introduced, Murdoch may have no choice but to ride with Jobs. According to Women’s Wear Daily, Jobs is “a major fan” of the newsprint patriarch: “When the project is announced, don’t be surprised if you see Steve Jobs onstage with Rupert Murdoch, welcoming the Daily to the app world.”

• This article was amended on 22 November 2010. The original described Sasha Frere-Jones as a former music critic at the New Yorker. This has been corrected.

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New owners of Canwest papers targeting business offices after slashing editorial, advertising jobs

Source: cwa-scacanada.ca

Postmedia Network, having just slashed scores of jobs in editorial and advertising departments across the former Canwest chain, is now turning its sights on the newspapers’ business offices.

The new company’s owners plan to begin centralizing the finance departments’ functions in Toronto and Winnipeg by the end of January. Staff reductions will be accomplished through buyouts and layoffs.

While Postmedia says it does not envision departmental closures, it is unknown how many business office jobs will be lost across the chain, which includes the flagship National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun and Province, and the Victoria Times-Colonist.

Cuts in a newspaper’s business office will undoubtedly reduce local service and mean fewer connections between the paper and the people it serves in the community.

 “While any staff cuts are lamentable, we are particularly concerned about the editorial jobs that have been eliminated,” says Arnold Amber, Director of CWA Canada, which has members at five of the former Canwest papers. “Cutting reporters, photographers and editors certainly does not improve the quality of a newspaper.”

Although Postmedia is justifying the cuts by saying it wants to focus on a move to digital media, getting rid of experienced journalists is a recipe for mediocrity, says Amber.

“Loyal readers of these newspapers, advertisers and business customers expect high-quality local service and news coverage. If all of that is diminished, it does not bode well for the future of that community’s newspaper,” he notes.

The cuts have been swift and deep since Postmedia’s new fiscal year began on Sept. 1. CEO Paul Godfrey, while acknowledging that nearly all of the 11 Canwest dailies are profitable, is looking to recover $40 million to help pay down debt incurred when Postmedia bought the chain from Canwest.

CWA Canada has determined that Postmedia has shed at least 228 employees, including managers, across the chain. While it is difficult to obtain precise figures, the union estimates there have been about 100 cuts in advertising and at least 70 in editorial. Overall, CWA Canada has lost about 50 members as a result of the cuts.

Last year, Canwest chopped almost 800 jobs or 13 per cent of its workforce, while struggling under creditor protection, leaving Postmedia to inherit about 5,000 employees.

The most recent cuts were achieved by either buyouts or layoffs, with the former dominating at unionized newspapers and the latter at non-union papers.

One source told CWA Canada that all the cuts at the non-unionized Calgary Herald were layoffs. “Nobody was offered a buyout in the Herald newsroom; they were just laid off. Management announced that 35 jobs would be chopped, including eight in the newsroom.” The source adds: “The deskers (copy editors) feel like the sword of Damocles is hanging over them because management classifies them as ‘non-content providers’ and considers them expendable.”

This suggests that Postmedia is prepared to have its reporters and correspondents publish directly to the Web, without an experienced copy editor in between, ensuring an article’s accuracy, balance and, in many cases, legally acceptable reportage.

The Cuts
Calgary Herald
Jobs cut: 35 layoffs / 8 editorial positionsEdmonton Journal
Jobs cut: 20 (2 layoffs) / 8 editorial positionsMontreal Gazette
Jobs cut: 27 (23 union) / 10 editorial positions (includes 2 retirements)Ottawa Citizen
Jobs cut: 42 (17 union) / 10 editorial positions Regina Leader-Post
Jobs cut: 18 (3 layoffs) / 3 editorial positions
Saskatoon StarPhoenix
Jobs cut: 9 (unconfirmed)Vancouver Sun
The Province

Jobs cut: 50 (48 union) / 20 editorial positionsVictoria Times-Colonist
Jobs cut: 12 (12 union) 
2 editorial positionsWindsor Star
Jobs cut: 8 / 7 editorial positions
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Newspapers must find ways to sell content

John Shmuel, Financial Post · Thursday, Nov. 11, 2010

Source: financialpost.com

Newspapers will certainly survive well into the future, but that survival is going to rely on finding increasingly new and innovative ways to monetize their content — and not just putting up pay walls.

Finding a happy middle was the message that came through most strongly during the Media in Transformation conference held in Toronto Thursday which was hosted by the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

Paul Godfrey, chief executive of Postmedia Network Inc., which owns the National Post, and one of the event’s speakers, said right now all eyes are on newspapers such as The New York Times, which will put up its pay wall in January.

“You know, I think everyone is exploring pay walls. Everybody seems to be waiting to see what happens,” he said in an interview after his speech. “The fact is that that’s going to be one of the big questions.”

Keeping readers, and drawing in new ones after a pay wall goes up meanwhile elicited different opinions from a panel that sat down to debate whether readers should be paying for content at all.

One of the panelists, Andrew Madden, who is Google’s head of strategic partnerships, said newspapers risk bleeding off readership if they erect pay walls that make them invisible to search engines.

“You need to think strategically on how to use search engines and pay walls,” he said.

Mr. Godfrey stressed that innovation was an important facet in monetizing the content of newspapers.

He cited an example where a newspaper might have a restaurant review section, and allow other users to comment or submit their own reviews. In order to monetize the content, the newspaper could charge restaurant owners to post their own submissions about their business, or even post their menus.

“Restaurateurs don’t traditionally advertise in newspapers, it’s just too expensive for them,” he said. “But something like that gives them an opportunity to be able to use our platform.”

Mr. Godfrey also said it was crucial that the newspaper industry direct capital spending toward improving digital con-tent, rather than spending it on traditional technologies.

“We can’t be spending it on printing presses because, A, they’re very costly, and you can get a printing press that’s 20 years old and it’s still in great working condition,” he said. “But now printing presses have colour on every page for example, so you’re behind the times five years after you spend millions and millions of dollars.”

And whereas improving the traditional newspaper medium will likely only serve to impress current readers, Mr. Godfrey said increasing capital spending on digital content and delivery will help build an audience, since digital content can engage audiences in ways newspapers can’t.

Of course, funding digital content won’t matter unless people are willing to pay for it. The good news, however, is that most of the event’s speakers believed that readers are willing to pay for quality content.

“If you have exclusive content, niche content — people are drawn to that,” said Lynne Brennan, senior vice-president of circulation for Dow Jones & Company. “If you provide readers with something they want, they’re going to pay for it.”

jshmuel@nationalpost.com

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