“Sift, crunch, pack” – making money out of news in the digital age

Fascinating talk at the Reuters Institute in Oxford by The Economist’s Tom Standage. He says his newspaper’s strength is that it is seen as The Voice of God, telling its readers (and Obama, Merkel etc) what to think.

A few choice views from the oracle, as conveyed by Tom:

– The Economist makes 70% of its revenue from subscriptions and 30% from advertising. It is profitable on subscriptions alone. In five years, he expects the ratio to move to 80:20 or even 90:10.

– The Economist employs 75 full-time journalists – the New York Times some 1,200.

– The Economist’s processing of news can be described as “sift, crunch, pack.”

– Economist journalists now write news in two ways: one for print and the other as blogs. Blogs can test ideas for the weekly print edition, since they attract feedback.

– In the digital age, publication of an article is no longer the end of the process. It is the beginning.

– Impartiality is venerated in America, where local newspapers have a monopoly and don’t want to antagonise part of their readers. The trend is for an openly expressed point of view to be accepted. “Transparency is the new objectivity.”

– Digital publishing of newspapers is not always more profitable than print: advertising in print editions does not necessarily migrate to digital versions.

– Apps have an advantage over web sites in providing news, in that consumers feel they are getting the whole news, not just bits and pieces.

– There is no single new business model for news, but for digital metered paywalls are promising – the reader gets a few news articles per month free, then has to pay.

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