- Many newspaper executives have made an enemy out of Google and other online aggregators who disintermediate newspapers and all other traditional media.
- These aggregators drive a significant amount of traffic to newspapers.
- The real fear is that aggregators are destroying the direct brand relationships that newspapers and other branded media have traditionally had with their audience.
- The problem that newspapers and other traditional media brands have is that they still see branding as a function of controlling the distribution channel, rather than branding each unit of content that must now live and survive on its own in a disaggregated online media ecosystem.
- The real missed opportunity for newspapers is in optimizing their content to convert user who find their way to newspaper content via search and other aggregators into subscribers and direct users of the brand. (there is an interesting example from The New York Times and some interesting data from Publishing 2.0 RSS subscriptions in the post)
- Newspapers will also limit their growth by focusing only on their own content — the New York Times and many other mainstream media sites have embraced aggregation themselves, as blogs have done for years, by linking usefully to other sites, which only increases their value as a destination.
- None of this will save newspapers from declining print circulation, i.e. it won’t turn young people who don’t read print newspapers into print readers. But it can help people discover the newspaper’s original content online — and if they discover it enough times, some of them will start going to these newspapers directly as a source. This is essentially a reinvention of the circulation department.
June 22, 2007
Catching up on some interesting blog posts this week, I found this superb analysis by Publishing 2.0 about why newspapers should embrace online aggregators.
What it means: a couple of things. First, if you are traditional media, you need to re-think how you see your brand. There is a retail version of your brand (your destination sites) and there is a wholesale version of your brand (rss feed, SEO strategy, content licensing, etc.). Both are as important strategically. Second, the idea of branding content pieces in addition to your destination site is brilliant. Make sure you take that into account when working on your wholesale strategy. Finally, embrace search engines and aggregators to increase your reach.
March 12, 2007
(via the Los Angeles Times)
News organizations confronted with declining revenue and increased competition are entering an era of more limited ambition in which they will drop a broad worldview for more narrowly focused reporting, according to an annual review of the news business being released today by a watchdog group.
The Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that the struggle to create sustainable media brands is driving “hyper-local” coverage in newspapers; encouraging citizen journalism on the Internet; and giving rise to opinion-driven television personalities like CNN’s Lou Dobbs and Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. “The consequences of this narrowing of focus involve more risk than we sense the business has considered,” said the report from the project, an arm of the Washington-based Pew Research Center. “Concepts like hyper-localism, pursued in the most literal sense, can be marketing speak for simply doing less.”
The review describes print, radio and television news operations as weathering “epochal” changes — with audiences splintering so radically that is has become difficult to accurately measure new viewing and reading habits. Daily newspaper circulation declined 3% in 2006, for instance, but the increase in online readership is more difficult to quantify. The three television networks collectively lost an additional 1 million viewers — about the average in each of the last 25 years — but YouTube and other online services created a new delivery vehicle for the networks’ content.
Traditional newsrooms remain the primary source for information, and the report suggests that news organizations need to be more aggressive about mining revenue for their work. The old-line media may have to form consortiums to force Internet “aggregators,” which compile content from other sources, to pay licensing fees for news and information, the report says.
Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said that most news organizations would have to shrink their staffs but that much more thought needed to go into how the reductions are made. “The current thinking, hyper-localism, seems problematic,” he said in an e-mail response to a question. “In an era of globalism, how can you suggest that the L.A. or Boston market does not need its own specialized foreign reporting that informs the local economy, the local culture and more, in a way that is different than what generic wires would cover?”
Respected newspapers such as the New York Times and Washington Post have placed high hopes in replacing declining print advertising with ads on their websites. Indeed, as audiences online have expanded, newspapers have seen their online revenue grow by more than 30% a year. But the Project for Excellence report suggests that the boom in online news audiences and income has begun to wane. A Pew Research Center study cited in the report found that the number of Americans who said they went online for news every day declined to 27% in June 2006, compared with 34% in June 2005. (…)
Today’s report says that the loss of about 4,000 newspaper journalists since 2000, combined with the smaller number of pages devoted to news, “suggest that American newspapers have reduced their ambitions.” Newspapers have traditionally served a “complete diet” of news to the public and alerted television, radio and other media to stories, the report found, suggesting that more study is needed to determine “what is lost and what is left uncovered.” (…)
The Project for Excellence report says that the ethnic media sector is one of the few experiencing solid growth. Spanish-language newspaper circulation, for example, jumped 900,000 to 17.6 million in 2005. That was the most recent year with available data. (…)
What it means: is hyperlocal all about reduced ambitions or increased relevancy and differentiation? I think it’s all about the latter. I personally believe that we will see a polarization between what I now call hypernational news sources (very credible news organizations that cross borders like the ones I mentioned here) and hyperlocal ones (very relevant local news and content sources). Those in between will possibly lose a lot of their former luster. Smart news organizations will own one or two hypernational brands and a multitude of smaller hyperlocal brands. Hypernational content will flow into hyperlocal vehicles.
February 14, 2007
Journalism Fan just sent me a note to le me know Arthur Sulzberger is going to address his staff today to discuss the comments he made to Ha’aretz last week. I found more details on the New York Observer’s web site.
Here is in essence what Sulzberger is going to be talking about:
“We are continuing to invest in our newspapers, for we believe that they will be around for a very long time. This point of view is not about nostalgia or a love of newsprint. Instead, it is rooted in fundamental business realities: Our powerful and trusted print brands continue to draw educated and affluent audiences.
“Traditional print newspaper audiences are still significantly larger than their Web counterparts. Print continues to command high levels of reader engagement. And, of course, we still make most of our money from print advertising and circulation revenue. And yes, I remember what I said here last year and what I was supposed to have said last month at Davos about not having a printed product in five years time.
“So let me clear the air on this issue. It is my heartfelt view that newspapers will be around–in print–for a long time. But I also believe that we must be prepared for that judgment to be wrong. My five-year timeframe is about being ready to support our news, advertising and other critical operations on digital revenue alone …whenever that time comes.”
It was a gaffe, but also an epiphany. The New York Times is the newspaper of today. As it happens, today is when people read the newspaper. (…) And even as the American newspaper industry is preparing for the day the Internet kills it off, The Times has made itself into the dominant newspaper on the Web. It has gotten there by trial and error—and the trials and the errors are both ongoing—but the basic premise has held: It is the paper, only without paper. (…)
It’s easy, except it’s not. The Washington Post is a soup of cryptic links, bobbing in and out of view. Dailies in cities like Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco are still hidden behind “portals” (please resize your newspaper to fit this window). It’s not that nytimes.com is immune to fads or bad ideas. There are tepid blogs and cornball videos and if-you-insist podcasts strewn around the site. They will likely go away, piece by piece, as the real experts in those media—following The Times’ example—claim their own share of the Web audience. In the meantime, you can ignore them, and read the paper.
February 13, 2007
- Global newspaper circulation up 9.95 percent over five years and 2.36 percent over twelve months
- Daily newspaper titles surpass 10,000 for first time in history with more than 450 million copies sold daily
- In excess of 1.4 billion paid-newspaper readers
- Total free daily circulation more than doubles in five years from 12 million copies in 2001 to 28 million in 2005, an increase of 137 percent
- Combined paid-for and free newspaper circulation increased globally 9.95 percent over five years, and 2.36 percent over one year, in 2005, the most recent period for which full-year figures are available
- North America showed a five-year circulation increase of 0.70 percent and was virtually stable over one year
- Europe showed a 2.12 percent increase over five years and a one-year increase of 4.18 percent
Via the Center for Media Research
What it means: while the chairman of the New York Times Company is looking at how to best manage the transition from print to Internet, the World Association of Newspapers releases data showing some growth on the print newspaper’s side. What I find interesting is the data about free newspaper growth. On the Web, it’s very rare that the user ends up paying for content. TV, radio, business directories are also subsidized by advertisers. Does this mean that part of the problem is on the consumer pricing side (i.e. what would happened if all newspapers dropped their prices)? Or is this just a new consumer segment? I’d be curious to hear from newspaper experts.
February 8, 2007
Found in today’s Haaretz (via TechMeme) an interview with Arthur Sulzberger, owner, chairman and publisher of the New York Times company. In this interview, he gives readers honest answers to tough questions. Here are the highlights:
- Given the constant erosion of the printed press, do you see the New York Times still being printed in five years?
“I really don’t know whether we’ll be printing the Times in five years, and you know what? I don’t care, either,” he says. He’s looking at how best to manage the transition from print to Internet. “Internet is a wonderful place to be and we’re leading there,” he adds. The Times has doubled its online readership, and now has 1.1 million subscribing to the print edition – and 1.5 million readers online, each day.
- Asked if local papers have a future, Sulzberger points out that the New York Times is not a local paper, but rather a national one based in New York that enjoys more readers from outside, than within, the city.
- Classifieds have long been a major source of income to the press, but the business is moving to the Internet.
Sulzberger agrees, but what papers lose, Web sites gain. Media groups can develop their online advertising business, he explains. Also, because Internet advertising doesn’t involve paper, ink and distribution, companies can earn the same amount of money even if it receives less advertising revenue.
- The New York Times recently merged its print and online news desks. Did it go smoothly, or were there ruffled feathers? Which team is leading the way today?
“You know what a newspaper’s news desk is like? It’s like the emergency room at a hospital, or an office in the military. Both organizations are very goal-oriented, and both are very hard to change,” Sulzberger says. Once change begins, it happens quickly, so the transition was difficult, he says. “But once the journalists grasped the concept, they flipped and embraced it, and supported the move.”
- How are you preparing for changes to the paper that are dictated by the Internet?
“We live in the Internet world. We have, for example, five people working in a special development unit whose only job is to initiate and develop things related to the electronic world – Internet, cellular, whatever comes. The average age of readers of the New York Times print edition is 42, Sulzberger says, and that hasn’t changed in 10 years. The average age of readers of its Internet edition is 37, which shows that the group is also managing to recruit young readers for both the printed version and Web site.
- In the age of bloggers, what is the future of online newspapers and the profession in general?
There are millions of bloggers out there, and if the Times forgets who and what they are, it will lose the war, and rightly so, according to Sulzberger. “We are curators, curators of news. People don’t click onto the New York Times to read blogs. They want reliable news that they can trust,” he says. “We aren’t ignoring what’s happening. We understand that the newspaper is not the focal point of city life as it was 10 years ago. “Once upon a time, people had to read the paper to find out what was going on in theater. Today there are hundreds of forums and sites with that information,” he says. “But the paper can integrate material from bloggers and external writers. We need to be part of that community and to have dialogue with the online world.”
What it means: I think it’s the first time I read an interview with a print media executive that clearly states that their goal is to manage the transition from print to online. I believe it’s a very candid view at what’s happening behind the scenes in the New York Times Company boardroom and possibly at all newspapers around the world. I also like the concept of the New York Times, as a trusted brand, being the curator of news, i.e. an aggregator of trusted news sources (including blogs). Finally, the NY Times chairman seems to embrace the fact that the New York Times is an authoritative international newspaper brand.
February 1, 2007
“According to a special release from The Media Audit, newspapers are increasing their market penetration beyond 60, 70 and even 80 percent with the help of their websites. Ten daily newspapers have achieved a net reach of more than 80 percent.(…) Bob Jordan, president of International Demographics, says “To improve the net, newspaper(s) are making impressive gains in attracting viewers to (their websites.) As recently as 2003 just 30 daily newspapers had attracted more than 20 percent of adults in their immediate market to their websites. Our current numbers show 49 dailies have attracted more than 25 percent of adults and 30 dailies have attracted 30 percent or more.” (via the MediaPost blog)
At the same time, as reported in Mediapost, Nicholas Ascheim, the New York Times’ director of entertainment, video and audio products declared that “the Times’ top priority at the moment is not money, but cultivating readers. “The strategy is to build an audience.”. “I think we’re only 5% down the road,” said Ascheim, speaking generally about the growth potential of “content and the audience around it.” He was speaking at the Software & Information Industry Association’s Information Industry Summit in New York. In addition, Times readers will get the opportunity to contribute their own content to NYTimes.com in the very near future, said Ascheim, noting the benefit of user-generated media to the bottom line. “Using consumer content is interesting, because it allows you to increase content without cost,” he said.”
What it means: I think I’ve told the same story to all my media customers in the last few months. From a strategic point of view, if you want to insure the long term perpetuation (or perennity) of your media business, your online reach will eventually have to be as high as your current offline reach. Even though monetization online is currently not equivalent today as offline (see “Is Google the Only Company Properly Monetizing its Online Traffic?“), I believe a pair of eyeballs is a pair of eyeballs. You have to build traffic all the time to increase your online reach (one of my Local 2.0 prediction for 2007). The New York Times, even though they have a great “hypernational” brand (see this post) understands this. It’s certainly why they bought the About.com Network two years ago.