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August 19 2010


OJB: What online publishers can learn from Ofcom’s internet research

Writing on the Online Journalism Blog, Paul Bradshaw shares key points from the internet section of Ofcom’s latest report on The Communications Market 2010, analysing the implications of each for online publishers.

1: Mobile is genuinely significant: 23 per cent of UK users now access the web on mobile phones (but 27 per cent still have no access to the web on any device).

Implication: We should be thinking about mobile as another medium, with different generic qualities to print, broadcast or web, and different consumption and distribution patterns.

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Internet use in the UK – implications from Ofcom’s research for publishers

Apart from photo sharing and social networking, most internet users have little interest in UGC

I’ve just been scanning through the internet section of Ofcom’s latest report on The Communications Market 2010. As always, it’s an essential read and this year the body have done a beautiful job in publishing it online with unique URLs for each passage of the document, and downloadable CSV and PDF files for each piece of data.

Here are what I think are the key points for those specifically interested in online journalism and publishing:

1: Mobile is genuinely significant: 23% of UK users now access the web on mobile phones (but 27% still have no access to the web on any device).

Implication: We should be thinking about mobile as another medium, with different generic qualities to print, broadcast or web, and different consumption and distribution patterns.

2: 23% of time spent online is on social networks – and there has been a 10% rise in the numbers with a social media profile across all demographics. Mobile emerges as an important platform for social media access, particularly among 16-24-year-olds. Twitter is has 1m more unique visitors than MySpace, but Facebook has 20m more than Twitter.

Implication: We should have social network strategies not only around distributing content but also commercial possibilities such as embedded advertising, diverting marketing budget, etc.

3: Display advertising grew slightly, but search advertising continues to gain market share.

Implication: Not good news for publishers – the question to ask might be: why? Is it because of the mass market search engines enjoy? Or the measurability of being able to advertise against search terms? Is that something news websites can offer too – or something similar?

4: 48% of 24-34 year olds use the internet to keep up with news – more than any other age group – older people are least interested in news online.

Implication: confirms not only that our online audiences are different demographically, but young people are interested in news. What’s missing is an elaboration of what they consider ‘keeping up with news’ – that doesn’t necessarily mean checking a news website, but might include letting news come to them via social networks, email, or finding ‘news’ about their friends.

5: Google literacy - only 20% think search results are unbiased & accurate; 54% are critical.

Implication: surprising, and challenges some assumptions.

6: Google Image Search becomes a significant search engine on its own, above all other general search engines (Bing, Yahoo, MSN) apart from Google’s main search portal. Curiously, YouTube is not listed, although it is widely known that it accounts for more searches than Yahoo! I am guessing it was not classified separately as a search engine (it is, however, the second most popular search term, after ‘Facebook’).

Implication: emphasises the importance of SEO for images, but also the growing popularity of vertical search engines. A news organisation that created an effective search facility either for its own site (most news website search facilities are not very good) or in its field could reap some benefits longer term.

7: UGC is changing – there is an overall decline in uploading and adding content. “The only age group in which this figure did not fall since 2009 was 45-64 year olds, while the number
of 15-24 year olds claiming to upload content fell by 10 percentage points.”

That said, in the detail there are increases in the numbers of users who have created UGC in certain categories – there was an 8% increase in those who have commented on blogs, for example, and a 6% increase in those who have uploaded images to a website. It may be that UGC activity is being concentrated in social networks (the numbers who have created a social network profile doubled from 22% to 44%)

Implication: There seems to be a limit to the people who will contribute content online (even where there were increases, this appears to be drawn from the proportion of people who previously wanted to contribute content online – see image at top of post). And these appear to be gravitating towards particular communities, i.e. Facebook. There may be a limited window of opportunity for attracting these users to contribute to your site – or it may be that publishers have to work harder to attract them with functionality, etc.

8: News and information is the 4th most popular content category – although ‘search and communities’ are lumped together in first place. Time spent on news and information is significantly lower than other categories, however. Likewise, the BBC and Associated Newspapers both feature in the top 20 sites (along with more general portals AOL, Sky and Yahoo!) but have lower time per person.

Implication: the news industry has an ongoing ‘stickiness’ problem. People are clearly interested in news, but don’t stick around. Traditional cross-publishing and shovelware approaches don’t appear to be working. We need to learn from the areas where people spend most time – such as social networks. Research is needed into media types that appear to have a strong record here, such as audio slideshows, wikis and databases.

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August 11 2010


Ofcom considers removal of regional media ownership restriction

Ofcom is considering a government proposal for further relaxation of regional media ownership rules, which could see the one remaining restriction removed.

According to a report by the Press Association, the regulator is considering a request by the Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport Secretary Jeremy Hunt to look at the effect of removing the last restriction, which prohibits any one body from owning all of the following: local newspapers with more than a 50 per cent market share, a local radio station and the ITV licence for the area.

In its response, Ofcom said local media was facing “significant economic pressure” and removing the remaining restriction “could allow local media greater options to consolidate to respond to these pressures”.

But it added that a “serious consideration” remained that combined ownership could give too much control over the local news agenda to one person or company.

The regulator admitted “it is also worth noting that there is probably a reasonably low risk of the kind of consolidation that the remaining rule protects against actually occurring even if the rule was removed.”

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July 22 2010


July 16 2010


First local TV stations planned by Hunt to be licensed by 2012

The government outlined its plans for structural reform this week, including a timetable for media reform from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMA).

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for DCMS, writes in the report that he hopes to “roll back media regulation” in order to “encourage investment and create the conditions for sustainable growth”.

Plans for local media include a relaxation of the rules governing cross-media ownership by November this year and for the first of Hunt’s local TV stations to be licensed by summer 2012, with a target of creating 10 to 20 new stations by the end of parliament.

Actions laid out in the plans include changes to the media regulatory regime by reforming Ofcom and deregulating the broadcasting sector. Measures to scale back Ofcom’s duties are planned as part of a Public Bodies Reform Bill and Communications Bill, with the legislative process set to begin by November 2012.

Hunt also plans to agree the terms of a new licence fee settlement between July 2011 and April 2012.

He said these plans aim to give the public an idea of the programme to follow, but that much “broader ambitions” will be set out in the autumn in a spending review.

See the plans here…Similar Posts:

June 11 2010


Media economist: Government ‘doesn’t understand economics’ over relaxing ownership rules

On Wednesday I spoke at the thoroughly enjoyable Journalism’s Next Top Model conference at Westminster University. Highlight of the day was keynote speaker Robert Picard, a media economist able to separate publishers’ sense of entitlement from the hard realities of economics and business (mis)management.

Journalism will survive, he said, because there will always be a demand for it. But most print publishers will die because over the past few decades they quite simply haven’t managed their accounts responsibly. While a typical business should have a debt-to-equity ratio of around 1:1, some publishers have racked up ratios ranging from 6:1 to 66:1.

“If you haven’t managed your balance sheet you get in trouble in a recession. Do I feel bad for them? No. They made stupid mistakes.”

One particular mistake highlighted by Picard was the switch in the 1990s from making acquisitions with stock to making acquisitions with debt.

“All the newspapers were making profits when they went bankrupt,” he pointed out. It was their handling of debt that killed them.

I asked Robert about the government’s plans to relax (and consider removing) local media ownership rules – and whether that would indeed create the environment for entrepreneurialism they want to encourage. His response was simple: “You don’t encourage competition by relaxing ownership rules.

“They don’t understand economics,” if they thought that would happen, he continued. “We need people to start more media organisations, not merge into fewer organisations.”

Picard seemed to feel that the Dutch government’s moves to provide funds to help news organisations restructure, or to re-skill journalists, were more intelligent responses.

June 01 2010


Public service broadcasting symposium to discuss digital future

Places are still available for a one-day symposium on the Future of Public Service Broadcasting, on Thursday June 10th 2010. The event is the result of the Public Service Broadcasting Forum project, which has debated public service broadcasting issues to coincide with the public consultation period for the BBC’s Strategy Review.

The symposium is organised by openDemocracy, hosted by City University London’s Department of Journalism, and chaired by Steve Hewlett, presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The Media Show.

The aim of the day:

The symposium embraces the current consultation on the BBC’s Strategy Review in asking a broader question: what is the future for pluralism in the supply of public service content in the UK?

The schedule includes: The role of the licence-funded BBC and the significance of the Strategy Review with Caroline Thomson (chief operating officer, BBC), Professor Steven Barnett, Mark Oliver (Oliver & Ohlbaum Associates), Professor Richard Collins; How to identify, supply and fund the PSB needs the BBC cannot fulfil with Jonathan Thompson (Director of strategy, Ofcom), Geraint Talfan Davies (former controller of BBC Wales), Blair Jenkins (former head of news, BBC Scotland), Helen Shaw (Athena Media); and The public service media content that merits support in the digital future, and how it can be funded with Tim Gardam (Ofcom board member), Tony Curzon Price (openDemocracy), Claire Enders (Enders Analysis), and Jeremy Dear (NUJ).

Tickets can booked at http://psbf.eventbrite.com for £25 (including coffee/lunch) / £15 for students. Any enquiries should be sent to the PSBF’s moderator, Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal via daniel.macarthur-seal [at] opendemocracy.net.

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January 29 2010


Ofcom revokes Teletext licence

The Teletext goodbyes have already been done, but Ofcom has today revoked the Public Teletext Licence with immediate effect [PDF at this link].

Teletext Limited, which ceased supplying national, international and regional news in December 2009, is now in breach of its public service obligations, so the broadcasting licence has been revoked by the broadcasting regulator. Teletext did not take the remedial steps to comply with the licence.

Ofcom said that Teletext’s subtitling provision and the page 100 index remain unaffected.

In its statement, Ofcom said:

This [ceasing supply of national, international and regional news] is a serious breach of the licence conditions. Teletext Limited was asked for its representations and, following consideration of those representations, the Licence has now been revoked.

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January 27 2010

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