Posts Tagged ‘China’

Working on my new book … The Fight For Freedom

May 9, 2014

Not much time for blogging, as I am writing, writing, writing. Here’s the book I am working on:

19.3.2014 cover FFF - iPad cover (3)

Will The Economist’s phenomenal success feed through to Reuters?

August 26, 2013

(This article first appeared on 24.8.2013 on The Baron, a web site covering media trends http://thebaron.info/.)

In appointing a senior manager of The Economist as “chief executive, Reuters, running news and media business from London,” Thomson Reuters has picked talent from one of the world’s most successful news businesses.

Instead of turning to another wizard from America, the company is looking towards a UK-based organisation which has built a powerful readership worldwide including the U.S. The Economist boasts playfully that it is the Voice of God: read its content once a week, and you know all you need about the world.

So what are the keys to success that Thomson Reuters must surely be eyeing in choosing Andrew Rashbass? Some of his colleagues recently briefed journalists attending the Reuters Institute in Oxford:

– The Economist has a circulation of 1.5 million, making 70% of its revenue from subscriptions and 30% from advertising. It is profitable on subscriptions alone. In five years, the ratio is expected to move to 80:20 or more. So much for the myth that nobody pays for news in the digital era.

– Digital publishing grows rapidly, but The Economist finds that print is far from dead. In fact, it tends to be more profitable.

– The Economist employs only a handful of staff journalists. But it draws on a powerful array of expert writers who produce dauntingly thorough series on subjects such as the U.S., China, India, international finance, technology and science.

– It surprises readers by writing about topics they had no idea mattered.

– The Economist does not try to be impartial. It believes readers accept an openly expressed point of view. It is liberal, socially and economically, and sees this predictability as a strength.

– Its journalists don’t write just for the weekly edition. They keep the news flowing in between in the form of blogs. They use feedback from the blogs to adapt followups.

– They see apps delivering news to tablets and smartphones as a more promising business model than web sites with paywalls, because consumers feel they are getting the whole news, not bits and pieces.

Some of The Economist’s lessons will not apply, and Reuters brand already carries authority. But Reuters does not quite have The Economist’s intellectual firepower. It has introduced comment, but it is varied and unfocused. Reuters avoids having “a line,” and in The Economist’s experience that is not a plus.

Look at Reuters web pages, and you see a disparate array of stories – some financial, some global, others lightweight and local. While Reuters has more experience of running 24-hour news, it has struggled to make it profitable. Its web sites have no paywalls.

By refocusing on the name “Reuters,” Thomson Reuters is signalling that it wants to make serious money from news. This has been the Holy Grail for Reuters throughout the ages.

Rashbass, who has been guiding a highly profitable global news brand, has been brought in to deliver.

Northern Europe may be dull, but it’s economically competitive – survey

September 6, 2012

Northern Europe may not fire the imagination, but five countries in that region are in the top 10 worldwide measured by economic competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). They are Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and the UK.

Southern European countries, struggling to cope in the eurozone, languish far back (Spain 36th), but are stabilising their positions due to austerity measures, says the WEF’s latest survey.

In Asia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan are the top 20. China may be a powerhouse but competitively it is back in 29th place.

Top of the class, for the 4th consecutive year is Switzerland. This is what the WEF likes there:

– flexible labour market
– R & D
– protection of intellectual property
– education and training
– transparent public institutions
– rule of law
– economic stability

Credit Suisse has just forecast that after growth of 0.5% this year, Switzerland’s economy will grow strongly again next year.

The moral? Perhaps it’s that you get on well if you are solid and hard-working, but not necessarily hugely inspiring.

“Great Britain” – an old concept with a startling new face

August 13, 2012

The phenomenal haul of Olympic medals won by a team named “Great Britain” has changed the way Britons look upon themselves the morning after.

A year ago, a rioting underclass wreaked destruction across London. The notion of Scottish independence was seducing many Scots, and indeed English. “Great Britain” was a term used mainly by diehard nostalgics.

Last June however, the separate components of the United Kingdom hugely underperformed at the European Football Championships. By contrast, a united “Great Britain” has done better in the Olympics than any nation except the U.S. and China, which have much larger populations.

Who today is for a breakup of the United Kingdom, now that a “Great Britain” team has outstandingly demonstrated the effectiveness of internal coherence and mutual solidarity?

And what remains of the idea of the “underprivileged” after the popular British classes have set their stamp on the London Olympics with such panache? Who could imagine that a team drawing on all parts of society, from the lowest to the very top, could work so well together?

Britons can for a change be proud about citizens excelling in a peaceable activity. That’s a refreshing change from focusing on warfaring exploits.

Above all, Britons can celebrate a real achievement, rather than desperately blow on flickering memories of imperial power and victory in world wars.

Successful, classless, united, peaceable? Who knows how long this will last? But I’m abroad on holiday at the moment, and perhaps it’s time to come back.

Why there will be no “Arab Spring” in China

March 8, 2012

Rob Gifford, head of The Economist’s new China section, talked to Fellows of the Reuters Institute of Journalism in Oxford. Highlights:

– In Arab countries people were hopeless. In China, there is hope. People are getting wealthier, and many believe they are lucky to be able to “join the gold rush.” There will be no “Arab Spring” in China.

– Over 300 million Chinese are middle class. But there is a big gap in living standards between the cities and the countryside and this is causing tensions.

– The regime’s unspoken deal is: stay out of politics and you can do what you like. The Chinese people have bought the deal.

– China has 175 million manufacturing jobs. But it can no longer live on being a cheap manufacturer. Skilled labour is so expensive and scarce in the coastal cities that firms are building new factories deep in the interior.

– The current combination of a one-party state and market economy cannot last. State capitalism has done well so far, but is transitional, not sustainable.

– The regime is frozen and unable to plan a road map forward. Communist Party politicians are scared of the chaos which broke up the Soviet Union under Gorbachev.

– China won’t be able to keep up its non-interventionist foreign policy of the the last 20 years, since it has so many Chinese working abroad. China is already helping nations combat piracy.

– Chinese journalists cannot write about Taiwan or Tibet – the subjects are off limits.Chinese know nothing about the crimes of Mao Tse-Tung. The subject is too painful.

– Over the next decade, China is likely to be transformed by the development of a civil society.

– If you are confused about China, you should be!

 


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