Tag Archives: Financial Times

Google drops idea to buy a newspaper what is the industry going to do now!?

Did Google ever really want a newspaper? Did it want the New York Times? Well it doesn’t now and has told the FT that it is really not interested. Maybe it has worked out that, well, while it can make money out of newspapers they in themselves are worthless black holes.

There had been speculation that Google might buy something like the New York Times and turn it into a charitable trust, but according to CEO Eric Schmidt this idea is as dead, well, as some US newspapers. He also appeared to rule out buying the 19% stake in the paper that is owned by investment firm Harbinger Capital (who are clearly wishing they never bought it).

FT: Would you ever consider buying a newspaper; they’re cheap right now?

Eric Schmidt: We’ve actually looked at this and we’re trying to avoid crossing the line between the infrastructure and technology that Google provides and the content that our partners provide. There is a line and we’re trying to stay on our side it.

FT: And so the Harbinger Capital doesn’t hold any appeal for you?

ES: I don’t want to comment about a specific stake and ownership but, in general, we have done well by letting content people do content in their own terms and in their own way, and working with them to try to make some significant money for them.

In short Google wants to focus on the bit of the business that makes money. And you have to get the irony here. Google has risen to fame and fortune to a great extent on the endeavours of others.

It is one of the few firms that have made a lot of money out of content online. That is the truth.

Google is a something of a sneaky operator. Having made all of this money out of content it should in some way now contribute, give something back if you want, for all that it has taken. Maybe buying a newspaper is one way of doing it. I’m sure there are others.

But what does Schmidt have to say about this? Well, as the FT put it, he “played down industry calls for Google to increase the amount of revenue it shared with news organisations whose content appears on Google News”.

“We’ve decided that the value we provide to the partners is the traffic. So we want to provide incredible numbers of users going to their sites, their content, which is why we urge them to make it deeper, stronger and use better tools and so forth. From our perspective, that’s where the real source would be.”

He apparently said that to do this Google would have to take money from “another pocket” to do so. Would that be another really deep pocket? I’m guessing so.

What Google is doing is working with newspapers in some shape or form including The Washington Post.

“With a number of newspapers, and The Washington Post being an example, we are very interested in trying to develop online news versions that somehow address the immediate needs of people and for which advertising works better. Without commenting specifically about products it seems to me that the newspaper that I read online should remember what I read. It should allow me to go deeper into the stories. It’s that kind of a discussion that we’re having.

Schmidt is also clear that as far as paid content goes, it is not going to happen except in specialist and B2B cases, which appears to be the general consensus.

“I think it’s [paid content] unlikely to work although people will certainly try it and they’re welcome to do so. And the reason is that for most content people are preferring an advertising model. There will be some very specialised content, you know, high-quality newspaper articles, magazines, that sort of thing, which I suspect subscriptions will work for. But for the average news that everybody gets today they would prefer an advertising-supportive model.”

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New York Times one of the few that can thrive in a digital age

John Gapper in the FT today has a good piece on the woes of the New York Times, but he says the Gray Lady is one of the “few print publications with a good chance of thriving in the digital age”.

It has been a helluva week for the New York Times as mogul David Geffen emerged as someone being interested in buying a stake in the New York Times Company and elsewhere it was speculated by Gawker that Mexican billionaire, Carlos Slim, could become the biggest shareholder in the New York Times in the next couple of years because of the high interest rates the Ochs-Sulzberger family borrowed $250m at.

Gapper says that while it must be tempting for Arthur Sulzberger Junior to sell up, he says that unlike the Bancroft family who cashed in two years ago and sold the Wall Street Journal to Rupert Murdoch and News Corporation, he should hang on.

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Wait and see as WSJ leaps with micro payments

So the Wall Street Journal got it moving as it launches first with micro payments after Rupert Murdoch hinted heavily last week. It was the most obvious to go first, but what the industry really wants is for someone else to leap.

People will shortly be able to buy individual articles according to WSJ managing editor Robert Thomson. He said to Reuters: “It’s a payments system — once we have your details we will be able to charge you according to what you read, in particular, a high price for specialist material.”

What’s as interesting is that the WSJ.com is using the opportunity for expansion. While newspapers around the US totter on the brink, the WSJ.com is pushing out to cities such as Detroit and San Francisco in an effort to broaden the title’s appeal by playing up local political and sports coverage on its website.

What’s very interesting about that is that it is not the specialist financial stories (the stuff that people already pay a hundred bucks for), but the more general stories that it also wants to get people paying for.

I could be reading that wrong, but it does not seem likely that the WSJ is to push out to these cities and start giving content away. So it is clearly hoping that people will pay for “local political and sports coverage” as coverage in their own local papers go.

Murdoch said last week that he plans to have all his papers charging. The speed of his US announcement could mean that it happens sooner rather than later in the UK.

If and when that happens, things will start to speed up and maybe quite quickly, as if this is going to work, the industry has to do it as a concerted push – to assert this as the new world order, so to speak.

It was the Financial Times, which reported this story about the WSJ, and it must, along with some element of Guardian Media Group (after chief executive Carolyn McCall’s comments last week), be a strong candidate to be somewhere near the front of the cue to begin experimenting with charging. At the moment the FT’s system of giving some content away really does not work. I subscribe to the WSJ.com and get to read about all I need from FT.com for free. You can always find its content on Google, no payment necessary.

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Paid-for content – an impossible dream?

The PaidContent blog has a good piece today on why the idea of charging for content might be a flight of fancy and impossible to implement after years of free access.

The post comes in a week that two media figures have been talking paid content and raising much debate in the industry. First there was CEO of Guardian Media Group Carolyn McCall identifying B2B and MediaGuardian.co.uk as possible future areas for charging.

Then came Rupert Murdoch, the News Corporation chief executive and chairman, who said he expects News Corp-owned newspaper websites to start charging users for access within a year. Murdoch is, of course already in a rather lovely position in that he owns the biggest subscription newspaper site in the world, the Wall Street Journal.

“We are now in the midst of an epochal debate over the value of content and it is clear to many newspapers that the current model is malfunctioning. We have been at the forefront of that debate and you can confidently presume that we are leading the way in finding a model that maximizes revenues in return for our shareholders… The current days of the Internet will soon be over,” Murdoch said.

Do you remember when Murdoch first took over the WSJ and talked about dumping the subscription charges? How far and how quickly we have come.

Paidcontent has a number of really salient points summing up the risks and challenges:

You can’t charge for abundance: basically news is done for, there is too much and it is not a premium, but you can charge for market intelligence and niche information the WSJ, FT.com and many small B2B sites do rather nicely.

What then does this means for newspaper sites like the Mail Online, Times Online and Telegraph.co.uk is anyone’s guess as they cannot charge for the bulk of what they do. Unless Murdoch knows something we don’t?

Paidcontent mentions databases – Americans talk a lot about this and the power of database journalism. Think things like league tables and other information people cannot get elsewhere are possible candidates.

—The genie can’t go back in its bottle: It says that because of 15 years of free content it will be tough to turn back the clock unless it is an industry-wide effort, but that means working together and that is not something the newspaper and magazine publishing industry does well.

—BBC News is the gorilla in the room: When McCall made her comments about charging for content she was answering a question about the BBC. Paidcontent points out rightly that the BBC, not to mention bloggers, is not going away and that it is ludicrous to suggest that the corporation’s remit should not extend to online. Whatever publishers do they will have to consider that the BBC is there with a well-funded site.

I don’t personally think that is an issue, as the BBC’s content is general in its nature and if the same content were produced by a commercial organisation I do not think you could charge for it.

—Advertisers would hate it: This is a question that has not been readily discussed in much detail by anyone that I have heard speaking on the subject. How will advertisers react to the erection of paywall barriers? Not with open arms, as they will see it as users being locked out. Paidcontent argues publishers need to be sure that the extra revenue that comes from charging makes up for any lost advertising.

—E-readers are a white elephant: Paidcontent has no time for the idea that the e-reader, which many publishers are looking at developing for, represents a new way they could charge for their content. The extra gadget in the bag that an e-reader represents has always been my main problem with Amazon’s Kindle and e-readers. Like Paidcontent I don’t think people want to carry around another gadget adding to their mobile, iPod and netbook.

—Even paid-for content is infinitely copyable: true to a point. Clearly bloggers take from the WSJ as quickly as anywhere else, which underlines the idea that if you are going to charge make sure that it is content that is difficult to replicate.

This is why database journalism (tables, charts et cetera) is good. Anything that basically comprises a bunch of words and nothing else can be ripped off in no time.

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Groundswell around newspaper e-readers growing

I blogged last week asking whether there was a future for e-papers/e-readers and into my in-box pops an email from the Wall Street Journal announcing new e-reader plans.

 

The Wall Street Journal Europe has launched an e-Paper service apparently: “the new and fast way of getting The Wall Street Journal Europe”.

The launch follows comments made by News Corp chairman Rupert Murdoch (also last week) who said the content giant was investing in developing an e-reader, like Amazon’s Kindle or the Sony Reader.

Other newspapers are also looking to go down the e-reader route. Earlier this year e-reader firm Plastic Logic signed agreements with the Financial Times and USA Today to sell and distribute a wealth of content for its forthcoming Plastic Logic Reader.

There are others planning e-reader moves as well. Magazine and newspaper publisher Hearst has also said it is planning to develop a Kindle rival.

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Paid for content high on Guardian wish list

It is is probably on everyone else’s in the newspaper industry as well, but Tim Brooks has raised the flag today at the FT’s Digital
Media Conference in London.

 

It looks like the place to be today and Tim Bradshaw (who is doing some good
Twittering from the conference – @tim) is reporting Brooks saying that if he could get his “wish
this year it would be that New York Times would put up a pay wall, then
we could achieve all our objectives”. It is as we already know on the mind of the New York Times, so who knows.

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FT begins niche social networking

Last week, while blogging on Facebook, and the fall in interest in it, the rise of niche social networking sites seemed to be one obvious knock-on effect of that and today the Financial Times has confirmed just that with a launch of its niche network.The FT has announced it is to launch an exclusive social network service for executives working in the media and technology industries.

It's an obvious move for the FT and it is the first media company in the UK to push ahead with such plans. I fully expect others will launch similar initiates (if not, they should be), building networks around small, like-minded communities.

The FT's service is clearly aimed at the top end of the market with a £1,700 price tag, but there is quite a lot on offer for your money, with not just the ability to contact fellow members, but free passes for any FT Global Conferences and Events portfolio as well as face-to-face networking events.

The FT says that the Telecoms Media and Technology Executive Membership Forum is the first in a series of membership forums it plans to launch with plans for the luxury goods and property sectors to follow later this year.

There is no reason why other newspaper groups could not do it. You could, for instance, easily imagine the Guardian launching something similar, bringing together a number of areas where it is strong, such as education, the public sector, media and even politics.

It's the kind of thing you can imagine B2B publishers would be interested in also, as well as many other groups.

In the professional sector, the FT could pose a challenge for services like Linked In, but it seems more complimentary and not necessarily in any way exclusive. Oddly enough Linked In had an announcement of its own today with a mobile version of its professional social network in six languages. Among other things, it will make it easier for people to add new contacts and find out information about people while on the move.

Read more on FT begins niche social networking…

WSJ.com and Metro International

Two things in my in box this morning and they seem to be related. Rupert Murdoch has decided to keep the subscription model to The Wall Street Journal Online in place and Metro International is possibly putting up the for sale sign in the US.

Read more on WSJ.com and Metro International…

The end of paid-for content?

The New York Times has put another nail in the coffin of paid-for content on the web as it opens up its archive to readers for free.

The NY Times had been one of the few major international newspaper brands online to charge for content. Now only the Wall Street Journal Online and the FT.com remain.

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High end freebie

Richard Addis, the former Daily Express editor, is launching a free daily newspaper targeting big earners.
According to Media Week, Addis, who was more recently FT Weekend editor, is launching a free daily newspaper at the end of March, targeting high-worth Londoners with arts, leisure and current affairs content.

It sounds like an interesting idea, not so sure about the name: Newsstand? Maybe it’s a grower.

If you were thinking that the Tube and buses were already overrun with copies of City AM, thelondonpaper and London Lite flying around then don’t worry, Addis has given this some thought and has come up with a new distribution idea. Newsstand is going to be delivered every weekday morning to 30,000 homes with upmarket London postcodes.

So if you don't live in SW1 or thereabouts, I wouldn't worry about it because you're probably not going to see it.

In keeping with its compact circulation, editorially the paper is going to be filled with a little commissioned material, including some comment, but will mostly comprise third-party deals for much of its content.

Some of which Addis says will come from websites that have no print arm. Addis sees it providing a new outlet and distribution for these sites. It’s a nice idea.

He's also planning further launches, including some more specialist publications such as a magazine targeting London's large Polish community. Maybe combining it with those upmarket Londoners looking for builders.

Read more on High end freebie…

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