New York Times
May 16, 2013
Renamed NewsRight, it was an industry consortium, and here a truism applies: It’s tougher for a consortium — as much aimed at defense than offense — to innovate and adjust quickly. Or, to put it in vaudevillian terms: Dying is easy — making decisions among 29 newspaper companies can be torture.
It formally launched just more than a year ago, in January 2012 (“NewsRight’s potential: New content packages, niche audiences, and revenue”), and the issues surfaced immediately. Let’s count the top three:
1) Its strategy was muddled. Was it primarily a content-protection play, bent on challenging piracy and misuse? Or was it a way to license one of the largest collections of categorized news content? Which way did it want to go? Instead of deciding between the two, it straddled both.
2) In May 2011, seven months before the launch, the board had picked TV veteran David Westin as its first CEO. Formerly head of ABC News, he seemed an odd fit from the beginning. A TV guy in a text world. An analog guy in a digital world.
3) Publishers’ own interests were too tough to balance with the common good.
May 3, 2013
Design is an important part of these acquisitive moves. One reason these companies have value on the market is that they stand out. It must be said: For the most part, news companies have once again missed a chance to innovate, to make something new of a new platform. Flipboard, Pulse, and Zite each saw the potential of tablet news and magazine feature reading early and set to work to present it harnessing the glowing touchscreen. Now Flipboard 2.0 (build your own magazine) and Zite 2.0 are moving to a next generation. The best newspaper sites have mastered the utilitarian basics, but they hardly break new presentation ground. They also emphasize a single brand, where plainly many readers relish cross-title variety and a bit of serendipity. Innovation on tablet news design has been minimal, and it’s outsiders who largely deserve the credit for it.
One noteworthy exception: AP Mobile. While it lacks the finesse of Flipboard, it delivers a national and local experience, bringing in hundreds of local news feeds into its tablet and smartphone products, and is one of the top news apps downloaded in Apple’s App Store. AP Mobile is a rare case of newspaper cooperation, building a single customer experience; now it’s up to AP to deliver the next-generation mobile experiences.Read More »
Apr 25, 2013
As the Times Company readies its sale of the Boston Globe (at the Nieman Lab today, I further explore the sale of the Globe and Tribune metro properties), it’s clear the Globe is underperforming the Times. It was down 6.7% in overall revenue, as its reader revenue lost 1.9% and advertising declined 10.1%. Two takeaways here: 1) the new owners of the Globe face a tough challenge in getting back to growth, given those numbers; 2) as the Times emerges as essentially a standalone entity, its own reader revenue strategy looks better. Without the Globe, it was up 8.2% in circulation dollars.
The national ad market movement from print to digital may be faster than the regional one. As Gannett, the largest newspaper company reported yesterday, it announced a 4.5% decline in ads. Gannett’s ad revenue is more heavily tilted to retail advertisers,, whose movement from print to digital is slower than either classifieds (largely gone) and now national. Significantly, Gannett, also reported a 14.5 percent increase in local market circulation revenue.
In sum, paywalls are working, but will they be enough to turn the industry from red ink to black?
Apr 19, 2013
Let’s look then at the newsonomics of Pulitzers, paywalls, and investing in newsrooms, and think about whether our intuition has any basis in provable fact. If even 20 percent of expense devoted to newsroom seems like a low number, consider that the industry average is about 12.7 percent for the largest dailies. That’s the average newsroom expense, of total expenses, for papers above 100,000 circulation, according to Inland Press Association, the industry’s acknowledged leader in much benchmarking work. Interestingly, those with smaller circulations spend a bit more, and we know their business results over the last 10 years — less decline in ad revenue and in circulation — have been better. We can also see in the data that newspapers overall are spending a smaller percentage of their overall expenses on their newsrooms than they were 10 years ago. (The comparisons are 2011 to 2001; 2012 data will be out soon.Read More »
Mar 8, 2013
Why paywalls now? Why weren’t paywalls put into place in 2007, or 2002, or 1997?
Might such paywalls have prevented the massive loss of reporting that local papers — and local readers — have suffered? Would they have saved a good number of the more than 15,000 newsroom jobs (a 28 percent decline since 2001) that have evaporated? Might the global bureaus of the big metros been spared? Would regional business news coverage be as robust as it was in the 1990s? Would investigative units be off the endangered species list?Read More »
Feb 22, 2013
Make no mistake: 2013, as your friendly newspaper realtors would tell you, is a great time to sell. The last 18 months have seen the greatest volume of deals in the last five years. And, why not: There’s a mildly up economy, all-access is bolstering revenue optimism, and heck, the Oracle himself, Warren Buffett, is buying newspapers by the dozen. The only problem for sellers is that prices haven’t moved much up. The newspaper market looks a lot like the nation’s housing markets: There’s a better balance of buyers and sellers, yes, but prices haven’t picked up much from their bottoms.
Still, for the Times Company, it’s time to let its impressive little brother go.Read More »
Feb 15, 2013
The New York Times Co.’s zero, in fact, is actually a milestone number. It’s the first increase, however meager, in overall revenues since 2006, when it managed a 1.8 percent increase in revenues…..Overall, the zero plateau provides at least the illusion of a resting point. A point from which to figure out how to find growth, or at least how not to go negative again. That’s the company Mark Thompson has inherited; his job: find life above zero.Read More »
Feb 7, 2013
2012 is the first year in which circulation revenue has surpassed advertising revenue. Full-year, it’s now 51% of all revenues.
Especially given the continued ad decline, that majority revenue number is hugely important. It’s now the foundation of the business, and it gives the Times the only real stability it enjoys. As it becomes a larger and larger share of revenues, the ad loss — even if it continues — becomes a bit more manageable. One often-unseen point here: digital subscriber “churn” is lower than print churn; fewer readers cancel.Read More »
Jan 24, 2013
The Tribune Company owns eight newspapers, six of them metros. Two — the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune — are in top 10 of U.S. dailies; five — adding in the Orlando Sentinel, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and Baltimore Sun — are in the top 40, while the Hartford Courant ranks 60th. Their likely sale will be the single largest sale of metro newspapers in the U.S. since McClatchy bought Knight-Ridder in 2006.Read More »
Jan 21, 2013
Cultural misalignment. Reader misalignment. Merchant misalignment. Shopper misalignment.
Publishers searched for new models but came up short, and too many stayed the course as the world was changing. You can listen to Click and Clack and realize that lots of people, including publishers, drive ailing vehicles for way too long.
Now, though, finally, publishers and editors have been heading in for some repairs — clearly still bodywork in progress — and getting better realigned. Let’s call this the newsonomics of the body shop, the realignment of business models and mindsets.Read More »