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February 02 2011

21:00

“Serendipity and surprise”: How will engagement work for The Daily?

All of us here at the Lab watched the unveiling of The Daily (even those of us who are on a beach sipping umbrella drinks).

But there was something that News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch said that seems significant now that the genie is out of the bottle. He said this about today’s readers:

“They expect content tailored to their specific interest to be available any time, anywhere. Too often this means that news is restricted, only to interest that have been predefined. What we are losing today are the opportunities for true news discovery. The magic of newspapers and great blogs lies in their serendipity and surprise, and the deft touch of a good editor.”

There’s a lot to unpack in that statement, but what is interesting to me is how it jibes with what we are learning about how engagement will work on The Daily — specifically how they plan to use comments and social media, and to access the greater Internet.

The Daily deserves credit for making strides to meet expectations of social functionality we see on news sites: You can share stories with your friends via email, Twitter and Facebook, and you can leave comments within the app. (Something we’re particularly interested in here at The Lab is audio comments. Seems to open up all kinds of questions — for example, what do trolls sound like? And can the comments be turned into more content, a comments podcast, perhaps? But I digress.)

Similar to The Washington Post iPad app, The Daily will be able to deploy Twitter feeds in stories or other features. Further, editor Jesse Angelo said today, they plan on linking out and pulling in HTML5 content as needed.

As Jon Miller, the News Corp. digital chief presenting The Daily, said, “The Daily is not an island. It definitely will be a part of the entire web discourse and the social world.”

The Daily seems to fit that description, but I can’t help but wonder: Can you really link to stories from The Daily? In the questions following the demo, Miller and Angelo gave the impression that access to The Daily from the greater web would be, well, tricky, to say the least. Stories shared from the app would be free (meaning if I send you a link from The Daily, you can see it). But direct from the homepage, apparently: not. (This seems similar to the balance the NYT has struck between walled garden and open web: side-door entry, through blogs and social media, leads to the same thing as front-door. But it’s the front door where you’ll be asked to pay for admission.) Angelo gave the impression that select content from the app would be mirrored online, but not the whole publication — or even the whole piece of content.

For The Daily to succeed, of course, it’ll need subscribers. But does that mean its Twitter feed, Facebook page, and blog will be used to engage readers — or simply as a promotion device?

So the question then becomes: How will the “serendipity and surprise” that Murdoch talked about actually work?

In a way, it would seem that The Daily wants to incorporate the web from inside the app, but not from outside it, taking it a step further than the “walled garden” approach we’ve seen in some apps. The app (if you’ll allow a Minnesotan transgression) reminds me of the Chaska Community Center, an indoor, one-stop destination that includes (deep breath) a soccer/multipurpose field, hockey rink, two gymnasiums, workout facilities, a movie theater, and swimming pool complete with a water slide several stories high. In other words, a lot of shiny, cool stuff that you can use all under one roof.

As an iPad-only newspaper, The Daily is clearly betting on people spending a lot of time on the device, and in some ways that seems to harken back to the glory days of subscribers reading every section of the paper. It wants to move away from the “drive-by” audience, instead rewarding subscribers for their loyalty.

Reader engagement, at least as we’ve come to think of it, requires an open and two-way exchange, one that can benefit publishers by potentially creating a stronger connection with readers while putting their content in front of more eyeballs. As best as I can tell, story sharing and linking will have to come primarily from subscribers out to others, which would create limited opportunities for those “I didn’t know I needed that before now” moments of serendipity. Murdoch noted, during the launch, the benefits of “true opportunities for news discovery.” Whether The Daily will be able to create those, though, remains to be seen.

January 20 2011

18:30

The Newsonomics of Mr. Murdoch’s Daily

[Each week, our friend Ken Doctor — author of Newsonomics and longtime watcher of the business side of digital news — writes about the economics of the news business for the Lab.]

Let’s pause for a moment and reflect.

It’s a daily newspaper being taken to the web. And: It’s the sensation of the moment. After 15 years of decrying the re-purposing of print newspapers for “online,” we’re making quite a fuss about a product — Rupert Murdoch’s digital outlet, The Daily — that is proudly leveraging the newspaper metaphor, creating a mostly (we think) daily edition, with some updating.

At first blush, it seems like a 2001 idea, dressed in new 2011 clothes. But maybe it’s the clothes that make all the difference, and that make Mr. Murdoch The Man. The new outfit, after all, is the iPad, the hot device of our time — the one that seems to be playing havoc with what we thought we knew about digital news reading (“The Newsonomics of tablets replacing newspapers“).

It is impossible, of course, to make much sense of The Daily until we can actually read it. With iPad products, we’re often into that crazy first blush associated with any new digital device, confusing the device itself with the product.

We think The Daily will now launch in the next couple of weeks, as Apple finalizes its work around subscription offerings. Maybe Rupert won’t get his two-shot with Steve Jobs, given Jobs’ new leave of absence, but we know The Daily will greatly benefit from the great shelf placement Apple is bound to give it as it opens its subscription store. (And News Corp., of course, has plenty of its own owned properties to help in marketing, as well.)

So what might The Daily be?

It could be the USA Today of 2011, 30 years after that newspaper started its own category of national papers identified by nuggetized journalism and color-coded, easy-to-grasp presentation. As the first digital news native in the tablet space, The Daily certainly offers that possibility. Or it could be just New York Times lite, with its timing, by coincidence or purpose, blunting the Times’ own efforts to charge for digital content more generally and for the iPad specifically. Or it could be a next generation of “The National,” a white-hot star of a national sports daily, crammed with talent, that burned out within a year and a half in 1991. And it could read like either a newspaper or a magapaper, given its hiring of some magazine hands.

If you are the Huffington Post or the Daily Beast or Slate, you’ve got to be asking the question of why The Daily could charge and why it couldn’t. Is the value in its web (desktop/laptop access) lineage — or is portability just how we, readers and publishers, think about information now? As seems increasingly true, the tablet in general is upending lots of ways we think about digital news.

So let’s take a quick look at the Newsonomics of The Daily, tempered by our partial knowledge of it.

Budget

We’ve heard the $30 million number, which covers two-plus years of operation. (That’s close to the $31.5 million that Murdoch sunk into Alesia, as Jeff Bercovici has noted.)

The $30 million would be a big investment for many newspaper companies these days, but not for News Corp. Consider, just as an example, the $33 billion (in revenues) the company takes in through its 20th Century Fox division. Marmaduke, “a dog of a movie,” came in fourteenth on the company’s 2010 grossing list, at $33 million, behind Unstoppable, Knight and Day, and Vampires Suck. And Avatar (“The Avatar Advantage: Big and Bigger Media“), the top grosser, took in $408 million.

So the $30 million for The Daily is pocket change, at worst another big R&D project.

Costs

We’re hearing that about 150 staffers are assigned to the project, about 100 — or two-thirds of them — journalists. Let’s take $90,000 as an average FTE cost, a valid estimate given the New York (with L.A. as a bureau) siting of the product. That’s $13.5 million in annual staff costs. We don’t yet know how much News Corp. is leveraging its well-developed and ample advertising sales staff, its technologists, or its marketing people — or how the costs of “borrowed” News Corp. or Dow Jones resources are being allocated internally (echoes once again of USA Today). News Corp. could be devoting significant marketing dollars here, as well, to better leverage its Apple relationship and its first-in-format launch.

Figure a first-year run rate between $15 and $20 million, and maybe a tad less for a second year, and you’ve got $30 million.

Subscription revenue

On revenues, as well, the hypotheticals are intriguing. The Daily is a U.S.-centered, iPad-based product; its only web presence will be promotional. We think that Apple sold over 10 million iPads last year, mostly in the U.S., and — though numbers vary widely — forecasters estimate another 50 million in iPad sales between 2011 and 2012, and 70 million tablets overall (again in the U.S.). So let’s say, roundly, that by the end of 2012, there are around 80 million tablets extant in the U.S. Getting just 1 percent of their users to subscribe to The Daily (and, yes, some households will have multiple tablets, but let’s let that go for the moment) would mean 800,000 subscribers. And a quarter of those would be 200,000 subscribers.

Let’s say The Daily could get to 200,000 at $52 a year. (It’s priced at 99 cents a week, out of the chute.) That’s $10.4 million in subscription revenue. Apple, which presumably will be doing all the e-commerce for this tablet-only product, would take 30 percent of that, leaving $7 million in net annual returns.

There are a couple of early caveats here. First, The Daily, an old-fashioned news idea, will likely have to use old-fashioned selling approaches: lots of free sampling and discounts. (That’s one of the many issues Apple must work out as it decides what it means to be a subscription-offering company.) So the 200,000-multiplied-by-$52 math won’t be a straight line. (And, of course, if it’s successful, News Corp. can raise rates.)

Second, let’s fast-forward six months from The Daily’s launch. It is now challenged by a number of paid digital news products: those of the Times, the Journal, magazines, and regional newspapers. Those products, all with non-tablet roots, have lots of ways to promote both themselves and their digital/iPad subscriptions. The Daily, with no web presence — and so, presumably, little search engine optimization — may be at a significant disadvantage from that perspective. On the other hand, it can use News Corp. promotional assets (but those do have real costs) or continue to invest in marketing to keep awareness high. Of course, if The Daily is a great product and its social axis (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In) works, social search could offer a great deal of help there and cheaply.

Ad revenue

Early tablet revenue was off the charts, an effective cost-per-thousand rate of 10X website sales. Much of that early shine is wearing off, say some tablet news publishers, with some placements tossed into a print/online bundle in 2011. Does that mean that tablet rates will swoon to low website ones? Not necessarily, but we don’t yet have enough data to know. Sponsorship (given high brand value and lower traffic) will inevitably be joined by a full array of video pre- and mid-rolls, behavioral targeting and re-targeting, and still-ascendant pay-for-performance — all the modern tricks of the trade.

So if the cost run-rate is about $15 to $18 million a year, and subscription revenues net at $7 million, News Corp. would need $8 to $11 million a year in ad revenues to break even. Certainly possible, if that 200,000 number is hit and sustained, but that could be a tough proposition as tablet newbies sample widely and are confronted by a world of paid choices.

Bottom line: Yes, The Daily can work. But for Murdoch, whose moxie even the biggest detractor from Fox News can admire, The Daily represents another test, another foray. His success has been mixed. Alesia, his news portal, didn’t work, so he abandoned it. MySpace is being sold off, at a low point in its trajectory, while the Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal buy may indeed find significant new business success in the tablet age. And now there’s The Daily. It’s a grand lab for Murdoch. And the rest of us.

November 25 2010

13:17

“THE DAILY” (3): WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT NEWS CORPORATION FIRST USA NATIONAL TABLET PUBLICATION (3)

Who is Jesse Angelo?: The leader of this project is a former managing editor of the New York Post, a tabloid that has been losing a lot of money since Murdoch bought this competitor of the New York Daily News. Angelo is a Harvard graduate and lifelong New Yorker. He began as a freelance reporter for The Post’s Page Six in 1999. He was hired full time as a news reporter, then moved to the business desk, where he quickly rose to deputy business editor. Angelo was named metropolitan editor in April 2001.

Murdoch on The Daily one week ago: “I’m starting a paper in six weeks. A brand new paper. It will be a bit like the New York Post. But it will be national. It will only be seen on tablets. It will only employ journalists – and maybe eight to 10 technicians.”

Promotion: Amazing. Learning from Apple, News Corporation is almost silent, but the viral marketing is going crazy. Serious newspapers like The Guardian have been trap in this noisy silent-strategy publishing rumors with no facts.

Is this paper another example of “Dead On Arrival”?: That’s the main view of all the blind experts, people that have not seen anything and are killing the baby before birth.

My own take: Give them a chance. They have will, money, resources and talent to try this only-tablet national publication. If Murdoch wins, expect a lot of replicas around the world. If he fails, all of us will learn how to do it better. So, let’s wait and see. My only concern is that the time has been too short: a huge project like this cannot be done in six months.

November 18 2010

16:34

“THE DAILY”: WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT NEWS INTERNATIONAL FIRST USA NATIONAL TABLET NEWSPAPER (1)

Tentative name: “The Daily”

Publisher: News Corporation.

Headquarters: New York, USA.

Digital platforms: Apple  iPad and Google Android based tablets.

Target: general readership, offering short, snappy stories that could be digested quickly.

Main print competitors: USA Today and The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal  national editions.

Launching date: before Christmas.

Budget: $30 million.

Tentative subscription cost: $1 per week (The Wall Street Journal on iPad is available for a $4 weekly subscription fee).

Staff: 150 editors, journalists, IT experts and managers.

First big guns: The New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones hired as culture editor; Richard Johnson (gossip) and Jesse Angelo (crime) come from The New York Post; Mike Nizza from AOL, The Atlantic and The New York Times.

Business manager: Greg Clayman, former head of Viacom’s digital division,

Key-factors for success: original content.

Why a tablet? Because is the iPad is “a game-changer,”

Why Rupert Murdoch is so much involved in the project?: Because he believes that The Daily, properly executed, will demonstrate that consumers are willing to pay for high quality, original content specifically designed for a burgeoning category of high-end digital readers.

Mobile first: As Murdoch said, “Mobile technology will transform the print business. We’re going to see, around the world, hundreds and hundreds of millions of these devices – we’ve got to develop our methods of presentation of news.”

In summary:Murdoch’s number 1 and most exciting project right now.

More at our Harvard Tablets Summit.

Be there!

September 15 2010

12:24

Sun Online editor called from across the pond for new digital project

Editor of Sun Online Pete Picton has been enlisted to help launch a “new digital project” at News Corporation in New York, according to a paidContent report.

The project is understood to be part of News Corps’ reported plans to develop a new tablet-only newspaper.

News Corp has already enlisted New York Post executive editor Jesse Angelo to head the project, which seems designed to go nationwide with a mass-market U.S. title on iPad in the same way the Sun has been in the smaller UK for decades.

Picton has been editor of the Sun Online for the past 10 years.Similar Posts:



August 20 2010

10:29

News Corp gives to Republicans, but who’s giving what to Democrats exactly?

Responding to News Corporation’s donation of $1 million to the Republican Governors Association in the US announced earlier this week, the Business Media Institute (BMI) reports on figures released by the OpenSecrets website that show significant political donations to the Democrats from other media organisations.

Delving into the numbers, the BMI looks at who’s donating what and where, including stats on News Corp.’s previous donations to the Democrats – asking if those criticising the corporation for this latest sum are missing out some vital, balancing figures.

Full story on Business and Media Institute website at this link…Similar Posts:



August 02 2010

15:56

News Corporation forced to sell Fiji Times under new law

Offers are now being taken for Rupert Murdoch’s Fiji Times, following a new decree in the country which means media outlets must be largely owned by the country’s citizens.

According to a report by the Shaping the Future of the Newspaper blog, PricewaterhouseCoopers – hired by News Limited (News Corps’ Australian brand) to value the daily paper – is calling for “expressions of interest” from potential buyers up until 9 August.

Under the new decree, which went into effect on June 28, media outlets must be 90 percent owned by Fijians citizens that reside in the country. Although News Limited did not want to sell the newspaper, the military government has said there will be no amendments to the decree and no extensions will be given.

See the full post here…Similar Posts:



July 30 2010

10:12

News Corp nearing a decision on ‘tablet-centric’ unit

According to a report in the Financial Times, News Corporation is “nearing a decision” on plans to start a news organisation which could provide content specifically for tablet device applications.

The plans, which could still be dropped, would mean the creation of a “tablet-centric” subscription product, for devices such as the iPad, with dedicated content produced for that platform.

The ambitious undertaking under consideration would be another test of consumers’ appetite to pay for news. The momentum behind developing a tablet-centric product is driven by a belief that readers are willing to pay for portability. News Corp’s early progress in selling subscriptions on the iPad has inspired the company to consider the new business.

The report adds that if the project goes ahead, it would mean job opportunities for new staff who would have to produce new content on news, entertainment, sports and politics.

See the full report at this link… (note: registration required)Similar Posts:



June 15 2010

08:07

Media Release: News Corp invests in newspaper paywall business Journalism Online

News Corporation has announced an investment in Journalism Online, the company founded last year by former US newspaper executives Steve Brill, Gordon Crovitz and Leo Hindery to help newspapers charge for their websites.

“We’re especially pleased with this investment because News Corp. is the industry leader in making the case that there is value in journalism online for which readers will be willing to pay,” says Crovitz in the release.

Journalism Online says its Press+ system will offer newspapers and publishers a range of paywall options from metered access, such as that used by the Financial Times’ website, and give users a common login across the sites it serves.

In September, Nieman Journalism Lab reported that Journalism Online would take 20 per cent of subscription revenue after credit card fees. The move by News Corp underlines its commitment to charging for content online, as shown by new paywalls for the Times and Sunday Times websites.

In the same release, News Corp also announced that it is buying Skiff, the e-reading platform developed by Hearst Corporation.

Full release at this link…

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March 26 2010

17:01

Questions for Times editor James Harding on paywalling content

The Times hosted a live Q&A this afternoon with editor James Harding about its new plans for paid content, details of which were announced today. While there were a few interesting comments in there (he’ll “hide under the desk” if it all goes wrong, he says) it felt like a lot of questions went unanswered and unpublished. For example, as Adam Tinworth pointed out on Twitter, no questions about linking were addressed.

I’ll do as @times_live recommends and email them in, but in the meantime, here are a few of my own, and some from our Twitter followers too.

Mine:

I once heard that pre-moderation of comments posted on Times Online costs a six figure sum (I wasn’t able to clarify over what time period). With a paywalled site, do you hope to reduce this cost? How will the staffing of your website change with the paywall?

What kind of market research did you do to establish the price point? What different kinds of models did you consider?

How different will the new sites be? Do you think people would have paid for the existing content on Times Online?

Can you share any details of the additional digital devices that will be included in the package?

Then because none of my questions were getting answered, I threw this in:

How much involvement did NI CEO Rupert Murdoch have with paywall plans? Last week his biographer Michael Wolff suggested that up until last year he hadn’t been on the internet ‘unaccompanied’; do you think execs are best placed to judge the willingness of people to pay?

And here are a few I thought of afterwards:

You joked that you’ll hide under the desk if it all goes wrong, but what’s the real risk? If you reverted to a free model later, do you think it would be easy to regain all the lost unique users? Or will they be lost forever?

Journalists are often recognised and given opportunities and leads because of their Google ranking. How have your journalists reacted? Are they worried about their professional profile lowering, with restricted access to their content? Will you stop journalists posting their own articles on their own blogs?

And from Twitter:

@substuff asks: “I wanted to ask what The Times would do to attract promiscuous browsers such as me – as I’d probably only subscribe to one site.”

@neilblake73 asks: “Why would anyone pay for news when you can get it 24hrs via the BBC, CNN, Sky, radio and online etc? What on earth would be so good we’d pay?

“Also, with Evening Standard, and Metro free (& possibly the Indy in future?), why are roles reversing, ie. free papers / paid for web?”

@HooklineBooks asks: “What if they [the Times] charge and no-one visits? Is there a plan B?”

@gregorhunter: “What’s stopping the rest of the blogosphere from mirroring TimesOnline’s articles and continuing as usual?”

@gpcrc: “Will this change how journalists interact with PRs (if all consumers will be building relationships with online journalists)?”

@sarah_booker: “Will the Times link through social bookmarks and RSS functions outside the paywall?

“Will Times journalists be able to tweet?”

@JunkkMale: “If paywall is to ‘preserve quality reporting’, may we be assured that future coverage will be factually accurate, indeed more so than now?”

If you’ve got others, please tweet them in, or leave in the comments below. I’ll email James Harding the link to this post now.

Also, for background, here’s the News International press release in full:

News International today announces that The Times and The Sunday Times will start charging for access to their digital journalism in June using a pricing model that is simple and affordable.

Both titles will launch new websites in early May, separating their digital presence for the first time and replacing the existing, combined site, Times Online. The two new sites will be available for a free trial period to registered customers.

From June, the new sites, www.thetimes.co.uk and www.thesundaytimes.co.uk, will be available for a charge of £1 for a day’s access or £2 for a week’s subscription. Payment will give customers access to both sites. The weekly subscription will also give access to the e- paper and certain new applications.

Access to the digital services will be included in the seven-day subscriptions of print customers to The Times and The Sunday Times.

Rebekah Brooks, chief executive, News International, said: “These new sites, and the apps that will enhance the experience, reflect the identity of our titles and deliver a terrific experience for readers. We expect to attract a growing base of loyal customers that are committed and engaged with our titles.

We are building on the excellence of our newspapers and offering digital access to our journalism at a price that everyone can afford.

“At a defining moment for journalism, this is a crucial step towards making the business of news an economically exciting proposition. We are proud of our journalism and unashamed to say that we believe it has value.

“This is just the start. The Times and The Sunday Times are the first of our four titles in the UK to move to this new approach. We will continue to develop our digital products and to invest and innovate for our customers.”

John Witherow, editor of The Sunday Times, said: “The launch of a dedicated Sunday Times website is a hugely significant moment for the paper.

It will enable us to showcase our strengths in areas such as news, sport, business, style, travel and culture and display the breadth of Britain’s biggest-selling quality newspaper.

“For the first time, readers will have access to all their favourite sections and writers. We will be introducing new digital features to enhance our coverage and encourage interactivity. Every day, readers will be able to talk to our writers and experts and view stunning photographs and graphics. Subscribers will be able to get this brand new site, plus the enhanced Times site, seven days of the week, all for the price of a cup of coffee.”

James Harding, editor of The Times, said: “The Times was founded to take advantage of new technology. Now, we are leading the way again. Our new website – with a strong, clean design – will have all the values of the printed paper and all the versatility of digital media. We want people to do more than just read it – to be part of it.

“We continue to invest in frontline journalism. We have more foreign correspondents than our rivals and continue to put reporters on new beats – last year we added an Ocean Correspondent and we just became the only British paper to have a Pentagon Correspondent. And we want to match that with investment in innovation.

“TheTimes.co.uk will make the most of moving images, dynamic infographics, interactive comment and personalised news feeds. The coming editions of The Times on phones, e- readers, tablets and mobile devices will tell the most important and interesting stories in the newest ways. Our aim is to keep delivering The Times, but better.”

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March 22 2010

14:00

February 25 2010

14:33

February 05 2010

11:15

THE 2009 INNOVATIONS IN NEWSPAPERS IS ON SALE

Caricatura Rupert Murdoch

Read here, free, the Foreword written by Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation’s Chairman and CEO, for our 2009 INNOVATIONS IN NEWSPAPERS Global Report and get here the full edition now on sale.

February 03 2010

19:01

RUPERT MURDOCH ON THE APPLE iPAD

bilde

Andrew Clark reports at the Sunday Morning Herald:

• Rupert Murdoch said the iPad and the Kindle would be ”unloved and unsold” without creativity from companies like his News Corporation.

• Tablet computers, e-readers and smartphones would be unloved ”empty vessels” without quality creative content.

• He revealed the company was in ”advanced discussions” with hand-held device manufacturers about a subscription model allowing people to access media content ”whenever and wherever they want it”.

• ”Content is not just king, it is the emperor of all things digital,” he said. ”We’re on the cusp of a digital revolution from which our shareholders will profit handsomely.”

• In a reference to technology such as Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle, he said such ”fabulous devices” would be ”unloved and unsold” without creativity from companies such as his own, adding they were powered by content – not batteries.

• ”Instead of the existential debate about value, now we’re merely arguing about valuation,” he said. ”Consumers want content delivered immediately and on a variety of devices. They’re willing to pay to be entertained and informed.”

• Profits of News Corp’s newspapers rose 29 per cent to $US259 million, aided by cost cuts at British titles and a robust performance from The Wall Street Journal.

November 29 2009

09:12

FAQ: How would paywalls affect advertisers? (and other questions)

More questions from a student that I’m publishing as part of the FAQ section:

1. If News Corp starts charging for news stories, do you think readers would pay or they would just go to different newspapers?

Both, but mostly the latter. Previous experiments with paywalls saw audiences drop between 60 and 97%. And you also have to figure in that a paywall will likely make content invisible to search engines (either directly or indirectly, because no one will link to them which will drop their ranking). Search engines are responsible for a significant proportion of visits (even the Wall Street Journal receives a quarter of its traffic from Google). Still, some people will always pay – the question is: how many?

2. A newspaper website which introduces paid content is very likely to see a decline in number of visitors. How would this affect advertisers and the amount they agree to pay to that website/newspaper?

Advertisers will pay more per user, firstly. Both because they will know more about that user through registration details (and therefore advertising will be more targeted), and also because they know that that user has paid to see content, making them both more engaged and likely to be more affluent.

Of course, there will be fewer of those users, so the challenge is compensating for the loss of quantity through the increase in quality.

3. In your opinion, how could the concept of ‘charging for content’ affect the quality of journalism?

The interesting thing about the recent announcement by the editor of The Times is that he said they wouldn’t charge per article because that would influence their commitment to expensive journalism such as covering Sri Lanka.

An optimist would hope that charging for content would mean that a news organisation would focus more on unique journalism that doesn’t replicate what is available elsewhere for free. Sadly, I don’t think we’ll see that happen, at least in the near future.

It’s worth pointing out that many web operations churn out content because the advertising rates are so low they need to get as many views as possible.

On the flip side, if your paywall is preventing you from attracting enough readers to fund decent journalism, then you save the same problem.

More generally, putting up a paywall means that your journalism is seen – and criticised – by fewer people, which I would argue does present a quality issue. The future of journalism is collaborative, so if you’re putting up barriers you’re not enabling that opportunity to tap into the enormous knowledge in your former audience.

4. Do you think other newspaper publishers would follow News Corp and start charging for content or there would always be “free” places for news?

If News Corp makes it viable, then yes, others will surely follow. Until then I think almost all will sit back and see what happens with News Corp. But there will always be free places for news for a range of reasons: firstly, publicly funded organisations like the BBC and those with a social remit such as The Guardian; secondly, those funded by voluntary or foundation income such as The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and organisations like Amnesty; and finally, passionate citizens and those who simply like to chat.

5. Do you think that ‘charging for content’ is a vital business model which would last for long time?

I think it’s a business model that can work in some circumstances, if managed intelligently. The FT, for example, seems to be making it work, mainly because that content is financially valuable (I’d argue it’s information they’re charging for rather than content) but also because they’ve not cut it off entirely.

But broadly I think it’s the most difficult model because people never paid for ‘content’; they paid for a package and a service that included content. They bought a newspaper, not ‘the news’.

As for its longer term viability, as the means of production and distribution become more widely available, and advertisers themselves become content producers, it’s going to be increasingly difficult, and we’ll see increasing pressure on government to legislate to shore up publishers’ monopolies because of that, I fear.

November 11 2009

14:13

Sun misjudges readers’ mood over Gordon Brown letter

The Sun is running a despicable campaign against Gordon Brown. But I’ve analysed the comments on its website – and readers disagree with its stance by a ratio of more than 3 to 2 (on top of which, there are now accusations that the Sun is censoring pro-Brown comments).

The paper has exploited the grief of Jacqui Janes over her son Jamie’s death in Afghanistan to attack the PM – because his handwritten letter of condolence was supposedly disrespectful due to sloppy writing and (disputed) spelling errors.

It’s loathsome journalism that ignores the effect of his disability (the PM is blind in one eye).

And it seems Sun readers are mostly on the Prime Minister’s side.

Of the 100+ comments on the story (don’t worry, I’ve nofollowed those links) when I checked, 111 expressed a view for or against Jacqui Janes or Gordon Brown (the rest commented on other issues or corrected people’s spelling errors). Of these:

  • 42 were anti Gordon or pro the Sun’s stance.
  • 69 were pro Gordon or anti the Sun’s stance.

So that’s more than 60% who don’t agree with the Sun, and less than 40% who do.

Sample comments from those who agree with the Sun’s stanceanti-gordon-brown

Some comments from those opposing itpro-gordon-brown

Conclusion

The Sun is channeling this woman’s grief into a personal attack on the Prime Minister.

It’s refusing to make allowances for his disability (maybe we could next attack the war wounded for being workshy benefit scroungers?).

And it’s facilitating her breaking data protection laws by releasing a recording of a private phone call.

The whole thing is sickening – let’s hope that observing its readers’ reactions will lead to an end to this (not that this happened in the Jan Moir case) – and preferably prosecution of the Sun over the data protection offence. What’s more, Daily Mail readers are pro Brown, too. The Sun has got this badly wrong.

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