Posts Tagged ‘media’

Financial Times “goes through Gutenberg moment”

March 5, 2014

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The Financial Times has just gone through its “Gutenberg moment,” with digital revenues for the first time outstripping print, according to managing editor James Lamont.

Setting up a paywall for its internet news site was its biggest decision of the past decade. “It was a good decision. It has guaranteed our survival. We are profitable and we can see our future,” he told journalists studying at the Reuters Institute in Oxford.

Highlights from his upbeat talk:

– Digital subscriptions have been rising at an annual rate of 31%.

– The move to digital meant profits grew 17% last year on a revenue increase of only 1%.

– Fastest growth is in mobile, which accounts for half of traffic to ft.com.

– Print circulation continues to decline (to around 240k), but is profitable because of cheaper print technology and rationalisation of distribution. “We want to keep print going.”

– The proportion of revenues earned from content grows – now 63% compared with 37% for ads. “There is a secular decline in advertising, but we can now survive on subscriptions.”

– Sales are predominantly in 1. Continental Europe 2. UK, 3. US. 4. Asia. “We are global.”

– Web analytics show a “long tail of stories nobody reads.” They are cutting down on those.

– Analytics show at what times readers in the main regions access its news. This led to changes in news schedules.

– The Financial Times increased its journalist staff from 450 to 611 between 2005 and 2011. Now there are 571. It hires five journalists a year from outside.

– It hires journalists on the expectation they will stay for 20 years and have five different jobs. One in four changed jobs last year.

– News stories on multiple platforms have become shorter. “Engagement,” “community” and “relevance” are the buzzwords.

Guardian phone-hacking exposure: a lonely road against latent menace

March 4, 2012

The Guardian led the way in exposing phone-hacking by journalists of News International. Other papers now cover it too, including The Times, a News International title, but for many months they looked the other way.

Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger spoke for an hour at the Philips Geddes lecture in Oxford last Friday about the lonely place his newspaper found itself in when it broke the story and followed up over a period of months.

The Head of the Metropolitan Police came to his office trying to persuade him to lay off. Another senior police officer turned up a few days later to exert more pressure. Subsequently it emerged some police and other officials were being corrupted by News International with regular payments for salacious gossip.

News International at first denied practically everything. Over the following months they admitted quite a lot.

Other newspapers kept away from the story, which leads Rusbridger to conclude they had an unspoken understanding not to attack Murdoch’s newspapers. Prime Minister David Cameron continued friendly contacts with News International executives.

Rusbridger can quietly count his triumphs. The two senior policemen have had to resign. Cameron has had to rid himself of the former News International editor who was his communication director.

James Murdoch and Rebekah Wade have lost their top jobs at News International’s UK newspapers. The group’s best-selling UK newspaper has had to close. A number of News International journalists have been arrested.

The newspaper rivals to the Guardian have had to follow a story they originally spurned.

And the independent Leveson inquiry into the media has been lifting the lid on malpractices and corruption of an extent nobody imagined.

When I was a journalist, I too can remember the hot breath of powerful figures occasionally leaning over my shoulder with latent menace, if not on the scale that Rusbridger must have felt.

He has an understated style and does not crow. All credit to him for walking a path others dared not tread.

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

November 23, 2011

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.

Will Leveson change the British media? Unlikely. But something can be done.

November 23, 2011

This year’s Reuters Memorial Lecture in Oxford earlier this week focused on the astonishing invasions of privacy by the UK media being revealed to the Leveson inquiry. A panel of leading academics and media people provided interesting and varied insights into the conflict between privacy and freedom of the press. ‘Something must change’ was the consensus, and in the direction of more control.

I doubt whether all that much will change in the long run, nor should it. Britain has laws protecting both privacy and free speech. The tension between the two has existed ever since people gathered round the village pump and chatted.

Hacking into telephones of victims of crime does seem outrageous. At the same time, a glance at popular media web sites shows some celebrities pretending to be enjoying private moments clearly pose for paparazzi to attract attention, adding sexual titillation to make it captivating. Likewise, media headlines every day reveal attempts by governments and corporations to manipulate and cover up. So we may regret more controls.

Can anything be done? Baroness Onora O’Neill, the lecturer, suggested journalists should have to reveal publicly the extent to which they use covert methods to collect information. No betraying of sources, just a cataloguing of their practices. I am not sure what benefits this would have brought when I was a foreign correspondent behind the Iron Curtain in the Cold War. But generally transparency is welcome.

I suggest mobile telephone companies should also be regulated to force them to make their phones more secure. In the digital age, this is unlikely to be absolute. But banks have generally been able to keep ahead of the criminals in e-banking, so why not mobile phone makers?

Lastly, people having a tough time with journalists could make more use of professional media coaching. This is not foolproof, but can allay fears and restore confidence. For people with few resources, perhaps the state could even provide this for free, in the same way as it offers psychological counselling to victims of crimes of violence.


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