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.

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Online newspaper experiment failed in Seattle

August 17, 2009

As reported by CyberJournalist.net, 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?


Trinity Mirror planning to charge for specialist online content

August 3, 2009

As reported on Media Guardian, Trinity Mirror is planning several specialist sites – namely ‘MirrorFootball’ and a 3am.co.uk gossip site – for which it will charge online. Sly Bailey, Trinity Mirror CEO, said that there was little point charging for news content when it was offered, and will continue to be offered, by the BBC were free. Similar sentiments were offered by Peter Morrell, Head of Multimedia at Media Wales, when Fee or Free spoke to him recently.

Bailey continued:

The next launches you’re seeing from Trinity Mirror are on August 6, MirrorFootball.co.uk, taking us in to an area where we do have unique content in the form of our archive, and developing an engaged audience who are passionate about that, that is more definable than a general news audience … thinking over time about how we might develop audience and what the pay model might be over time.

The Times has it’s crossword, the FT it’s financial reporting – what is the specialist content and tools offered by other papers? It appears the debate is shifting from charging for news, to charging for high quality, unique content and services that an outlet can offer.

Bailey’s latest comments come after a fall in profits at Trinity Mirror, though she also considered the industry to have hit the financial bottom of the advertising slump.


GMG releases full year profits

July 31, 2009

The Guardian Media Group (GMG) has published it’s financial results for 2008-2009.

With a turnover of £405.4 million, it would appear GMG is managing to weather the financial storm – but it also had pre-tax losses of nearly £90 million, having turned a profit o £306.4 million in 2008.

Amelia Fawcett, Chair of GMG, said

“While declining revenues were a factor in our financial performance, the reported loss is also due to the restructuring of the portfolio over the last two years – specifically the partial sale of Trader Media Group and investment of the proceeds in long-term assets

The Guardian webste is still a source of pride for GMG:

During the year guardian.co.uk achieved a record audience of nearly 30m unique users. It is now not only the UK’s largest newspaper site but also one of the biggest in the world.

GNM’s aim is to emerge from the economic downturn a leaner and stronger organisation: leaner due to a bottom-up reappraisal of the cost base to ensure it is affordable; stronger because it will continue to invest in its journalism and in maintaining its market-leading positions.

Despite this, Guardian News and Media made a loss of £36 million. However it is local and regional press, unsurprisingly, that is suffering the most. The results reveal that GMG is in fact operating these publications at a loss for the last six months:

GMG Regional Media’s operating profit declined to £0.5m (2008 £14.3m) on turnover of £94.5m (2008 £120.5m). This steep decline was driven by a 30% fall in classified advertising revenues. Recruitment fell by 34%, motors by 16% and property by 46%. Display revenues slipped by 7%.

As reported by how-do, which reports on the media industry in the North West, the drop is classifieds has been significant for GMG.

The Guardian is the advantageous position of not being required to turn a profit, thanks to it’s ownership by the Scott Trust. It has been suggested that one of the survival routes for newspaper journalism is to be administered by charities or philanthropic organisations, rather than aggressive companies. The journalism still has to be paid for, but is free experiment more widely and undertake some projects at a loss.


New ABCes figures on newspaper websites

July 28, 2009

The Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronics published their new rankings of newspaper websites for the month of June.

Obviously, the higher the number of website visitors, not to mention the amount of time they spend on the site, what they click through on and what features they use, will have an impact on online revenue through advertising.

The Daily Mail was first, with 29,373,379 unique users, an 83% boost on June last year. The Guardian was second with 28,966,942, with the Telegraph a bit further behind on 27,175,233.

The Independent, whose website is widely regarded as a big step down from its competitors, actually suffered a drop in unique users last month, at 9,352,369. However, it still gained a year-on-year rise.

These figures do not tell the whole story by no means – the differing business strategies mean that more users don’t simply translate into higher web revenue: it will depend on many adverts, how much is being charged, how smart that advertising is and whether the websites are charging for any services.


Warnings on Media Profits

July 28, 2009

From the Media Guardian, warnings about the profits on UK media companies:

The past six months have seen the greatest number of media companies issue profit warnings since the dot com crash of 2001, according to Ernst & Young.

Rudberg pointed out that during the slump of 2001, 21 UK listed companies made profit warnings in the first half of that year – but the trend saw a “sharp increase” to a record level of 18 in the third quarter.

Ernst & Young concludes that the decrease in profit warnings between the first and second quarters this year is due to cautious financial forecasting by smaller AIM-listed media companies rather than a sign that the industry is stabilising.

“If anything the second-quarter 2009 profit warning figures suggest that the downturn has started to impact the larger listed media companies,” Rudberg said.

“In the 12 months to the end of March, 75% of the media companies that warned [on profits] were listed on AIM. [This compares] to the majority [of companies reporting profit warnings] being FTSE companies in the second quarter this year”.

The number of warnings being it’s highest for eight years only highlights the need for print media to find a new business model, whether they be small scale local papers or FTSE companies. Trinity Mirror’s declining advertising revenue plots a similar sense of urgency:

Trinity Mirror reported today that advertising revenue at its regional newspaper division fell by 36% year on year for the period to 26 April, with sectors such as recruitment and property advertising falling by more than 50%.

Overall Trinity Mirror, owner of the Daily Mail and more than 140 regional newspapers, said that group advertising revenue declined by 30% year on year.

The regional division fell 37% in January and February and 35% in March and April. Display advertising was down 24% for the period, recruitment down 50%, property down 54% and automotive advertising down 35%.

Given that much of their advertising can now be placed online, and for free or virtually any cost, it is hardly surprising that classifieds are down by such a dramatic rate. When we talk of competition for newspapers, we no longer simply mean news websites, but those competing with their business: Craiglist being one frequently mentioned.