May 24, 2013
Welcome to the emerging world of value exchange. It’s not a new idea; value exchange has been used in the gaming world for a long time. As the Zyngas have figured out, only a small percentage of people will pay to play games. So they’ve long used interactive ads, quizzes, surveys, and more as ways to wring some revenue out of those non-payers.
It’s a variation on the an old saw that says much of life boils down to two things: money and time. It also brings to mind the classic Jack Benny radio routine, “Your Money or Your Life.” If people won’t pay for media with currency, many are willing to trade their time.
Now the idea is arriving at publishers’ doorsteps. It is being tested mainly, but not exclusively, as a paywall alternative. Yet, as we’ll see it, there may be many other innovative uses of time-based payment.Read More »
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 26, 2013
How did we get here? How did we get to a place where a half dozen of the top newspaper nameplates in America could fall into overtly political hands? What does it tell us about the reshaping of the U.S. daily landscape? How might the Koch brothers’ ownership fare, a lesson applied here that may both confirm worst fears and offer counterintuitive lessons about the nature of local press power in 2013? Finally, what are the newsonomics of the Tribune sale, as its new board ponders its options?Read More »
Apr 13, 2013
All-access circulation revenue is spinning upward, leading to a 5 percent gain in overall circulation revenue in 2012. Print advertising is whirling downward — 9 percent last year — in a seeming death spiral. Digital advertising is growing tepidly at 5 percent. Put those circulation and ad trends together and you end fairly flat on your back. So NAA’s number is that dailies lost 2 percent of revenue overall; I’ve made the point that their big goal, as nothingburger as it may sound, is to get back to zero revenue growth (“The Newsonomics of Zero, and the New York Times”).
Which brings us back to that non-ad, non-circ number. If local news organizations are going to regain growth — and hire — they must find new revenue. They have plumbed marketing services, events, and print-insourcing. Now some are putting a new category on the board: content marketing.
No, not content marketing, you say! It’s already a hackneyed phrase, seemingly identical to “native advertising” and “sponsored content,” both now much-recognized and already much-maligned techniques that bigger brands are using to break through the digital clutter and get to potential customers. Yes, content marketing (and we’ll narrow some definitions below). As news companies rediscover the power of their own content, there is new revenue to be gained. How much, not whether to seek it, will be the major question.Read More »
Mar 15, 2013
At a time when so much of the news industry seems in flux, the FT has managed a steady-as-she-goes transition into the digital age arguably better than anyone else. While it occupies an enviable global business news niche, the ingredients of its relative success are ones that can be mixed and matched into all kinds of recipes — metro, regional, or local; daily or weekly; newspaper or magazine. It’s not otherworldly magic that’s happening at the FT. It’s just ahead-of-the-pack thinking that has given it a headstart — and now gives it the ability to build second and third generations of its digital business. It is now where fast followers will be in two to five years.
Make no mistake: The FT hasn’t quite cracked the code yet. It’s profitable, but not by that much. In 2012, the FT Group, which includes the FT, Mergermarket, and 50 percent of The Economist, registered an 11 percent profit margin or £49 million. It is reducing and re-skilling its staff. Further, it’s been subject to new “for sale” rumors, though John Fallon, the new CEO of parent company Pearson, has recently denied that likelihood. Fallon’s recent take on how 2013 will turn is painfully familiar to all in the business: “We expect the FT Group to benefit from continued growth in digital and subscription revenues in 2013, but advertising to remain weak and volatile with profits reflecting further actions to accelerate the shift from print to digital.”
All that said, given its digital transition, I believe it is far more likely to successfully cross over to the new age than other publishers.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 11, 2013
How much do top-echelon journalists need media brands? How much do brands need top-echelon journalists? The timing of pay initiatives from Andrew Sullivan and from The Daily Beast will provide a great picture into those questions. One way we’ll see how that contest goes is in comparing the sign-up-for-pay rates for both. Sullivan’s The Dish make up about 10 percent of The Daily Beast’s uniques, and plainly has enough brand throw-weight to stand on its own. He’s already pulled in more than one percent of his unique visitors as subscribers — 12,000. They are paying on average $8 more than his minimum annual price of $19.99. The Daily Beast — essentially a digital magazine — will have a hard time charging much more than that, given how print magazines are priced. Of course, as a brand, it must maintain much more overhead than Sullivan’s merry band. Ultimately, this comparison will help us understand the real current value of prime office space, brands, marketing, audience development and technology departments, sales staffs — and top editors (the David Remnicks and Tina Browns).Read More »