Birmingham Post may go weekly having faced competition from online rivals

August 17, 2009

The Birmingham Post, which has been a daily publication in one of the UK’s biggest cities for the past 152 years, may cease daily publication, the FT reports:

The circulation of the Birmingham Post has dropped from 18,500 to 12,700 since 2000, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Locally, a fully paid circul-ation of less than 7,000 is spoken of. It is understood that options studied by Trinity Mirror, which owns the white-collar morning title, include converting the lossmaking publication into a weekly title. The media group might publish the Birmingham Mail, an evening newspaper with a blue-collar readership, in the mornings instead.

Free papers have also impacted on the daily’s sales – a problem for many newspaper publishing through the week in major cities, which thanks to the volume of people and wide extent of public transport, lend themselves to free papers.


Online newspaper experiment failed in Seattle

August 17, 2009

As reported by, an experiment in Seattle for an online newspaper has failed – due to money. Seattle Courant founder Keith Vance, talks about why:

‘The Courant failed because I didn’t have enough cash and I didn’t find someone who could handle the business side, such as finding customers, technologists and managing projects. The trick I had to pull off was to be able to fund the Courant while I not only built a newsroom, but also a technology firm to support it. I couldn’t do it all.

My advice to anyone who seeks to create something like The Seattle Courant is to make sure you have at least enough money to get you through the first year and someone who’s as committed as you are to the business. To generate revenue, focus your efforts on providing technology solutions to your customers and not just selling banner ads. You have to be able to do something that other people can’t, or don’t want to do. Going to city council meetings and covering press conferences counts as something people don’t want to do, but news doesn’t make money it costs money. One way to think of it is that instead of a print shop that supports a newsroom, we need to build a technology firm that supports a newsroom. It’s really not that different, it just requires a different skill set.’

Even with online newspaper, the issues still returns to money – and more than adverts are needed. ‘News doesn’t make money, it costs money’ – and the user doesn’t care how much it costs, they only care about the quality.

Could Google be the solution to charging online?

August 17, 2009

Greenslade has a post on Robert Thomson, the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, who has stated that certain websites – like Google, are ‘parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet’, thanks to their profiting from content they don’t produce:

“There is no doubt that’s in the interest of aggregators like Google who have profited from that mistaken perception. And they have little incentive to recognise the value they are trading on that’s created by others.

“Google argues they drive traffic to sites, but the whole Google sensibility is inimical to traditional brand loyalty.

“Google encourages promiscuity – and shamelessly so – and therefore a significant proportion of their users don’t necessarily associate that content with the creator.

Of course, Google also directs vast amounts of traffic to newspaper websites – and Google is providing the advertising, not the newspaper websites. Is this not really any different from a bookshop getting commission when it sells a book by a publisher, rather than consumers going direct to the publisher – something they might not do if they hadn’t come across the book in the shop in the first place?

Paul Bradshaw on making money online – slideshow

August 16, 2009

Paul Bradshaw’s slideshow on making money online is worth a look – at least for the links and the quotes.
Making Money from content online

Malcolm Coles on why Murdoch’s plan will work

August 10, 2009

Malcolm Coles has an extensive post on how Murdoch’s plan to charge for online content – contrary to popular belief – might just end up working. His justification revolves around the quality of content being produced by The Times and The Sun and the unique position of Murdoch, allowing him to offer exclusive, multi-platform content through a variety of pay schemes:

  • What if they add 50p on to the cost of Sky broadband subscriptions and bundle it as a non-optional part of the package? Straightaway, they would have more than 2 million subscribers to the Times or the Sun online – an instant success.
  • What if each copy of the Times/Sun papers came printed with a unique code that gave 24 hours’ access to the site. As people became used to the site, maybe they would be prepared to pay for ongoing access.
  • What if subscription included online access to Sky channels, so you could watch Premiership football live?
  • What if newsagents sold pre-paid access: £5 for a card with a unique code that gives you a week’s access

It’s worth reading the full piece. However, this comes on the same day that the Guardian publishes an in-depth interview from Claire Enders , of Enders Analysis, on the future of the media:

Her company predicts that half the country’s 1,300 local newspapers will close between now and 2013, destroying 20,000 media jobs. There will be “a decline of original content across the board that will have enormous consequences for democracy”.

When the bookseller Waterstone’s asked for her advice on how to combat Amazon, Enders argued that it needn’t bother. Amazon, she suggested, was unstoppable. Today, she offers similar advice to newspaper bosses. “They should stop looking and investing in the next thing,” she says, “because they’re wasting their capital.”In particular, Enders is critical of newspaper companies – including the Guardian Media Group (which publishes this newspaper), News International and Trinity Mirror – that have collectively spent hundreds of millions replacing printing presses. “Being tied down to fixed-cost equipment and fixed-cost staffing in an era where they cannot predict sales is crazy,” she says. In Enders’s view, the FT and the Telegraph Media Group have acted wisely in outsourcing their print work.

The Media Blog Survey on paid content

August 10, 2009

The Media Blog have published the results of their own survey into charging online. With over 1,000 respondents, it may provide some clarity as to whether users will pay for online news.

Of course, those who respond to surveys like this, from a media-focused website, are unlikely to be representative of the entire online population. Still, it’s worth an extract, and not one that makes for especially promising reading for News International:

An overwhelming 75 per cent of consumers said they do not believe any of the three UK News International newspapers produce the kind of content which cannot easily be found elsewhere.

There was some reassurance for The Times, with 21 per cent of respondents saying they believe the paper does produce exclusive content. However, only four per cent of respondents said the same of the News of the World, while not a single respondent said The Sun offered anything they can’t find elsewhere online.

The most urgent problem for Murdoch would appear to be with the kind of content consumers are prepared to pay for. Not a single respondent said they would be prepared to pay for celebrity gossip or sport which account for much of The News of the World and The Sun’s content.

Columnists (28 per cent) and exclusive interviews (13 per cent) were the two most popular types of content respondents would be prepared to pay for.

You can still vote in Fee or Free’s poll into charging online, and see an analysis of the results so far. What’s clear from both is that there may be something of a gap between what some newspaper owners hope users will pay for, and what those users will actually end up paying for. Any market research conducted by those advocating charging online would make for interesting reading.

Financial Times to introduce micropayments

August 7, 2009

As reported by the Independent, the FT is introducing micropayments, only a day after Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp announced plans to charge for all its news websites within a year:

FT executives, who hope to have the system in place by 2010, have not settled on the price for an individual story, but say that they have been impressed by the “fabulous buying experience” of iTunes, which allows users to buy a single song for 79p.

Rob Grimshaw, the managing director of, said that Apple’s impact on the music download culture was inspiring for news publishers: “iTunes is a great one to talk about because fundamentally they have created a fabulous buying experience. I’m a great believer that people don’t object to buying things online.

Mr Grimshaw said publishers had misunderstood the internet: “The demand for information is larger than it has ever been but for some reason the publishing industry as a whole decided it might be a good idea if they all gave away their primary product. It does not strike me as being a smart decision. There seems to be this belief abroad that the whole mechanics of human nature and economics have changed utterly on the internet and I simply don’t believe that’s the case. If you need a piece of information or an article and the only way you can get to it is to pay for it, then people will pay… they do object to hassle. If you create an experience that’s so quick and easy it involves pressing one button, you will find a lot of people are happy to do it.”

This plan would of course, complement the Financial Times’ pre-exisiting subscription method, which offers buiness and financial information essential to many companies. It seems unlikely that the FT thought this up in a day after Murdoch announced it, but could more papers be tempted to consider charging for content now that NewsCorp are planning to? Could they afford to wait to see if the business model works, a time which could be well over two years away?