Posts Tagged: New York Times

Hard to figure out hyperlocal business model says New York Times

The New York Times has given an update on its hyperlocal experiment and says that while the content is flowing it has “been harder to figure out the business model”.

In one of its regular Talk to The Times slots Jim Schachter, editor for digital initiatives, spoke about hyperlocals and the New York Times pilot, called The Local, in response to a question from Lynn Smith, a former Los Angeles Times journalist.

Schachter said that The Local (the NY Times has two: one in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, the other in the New Jersey towns of South Orange, Maplewood and Millburn) had been what a pilot is supposed to be: “a learning experience for us on every front”.

Each of the NY Times hyperlocal projects is led by a full-time Metro reporter who has a dual role of covering stories and finding ways to help those communities to cover themselves.

On that front Schachter that both Locals had been a successes with local contributors coming forward and producing more than half of the posts on each site. This has turned out to be the easy bit.

He said citizen journalists were doing things as varied as covering meetings, analysing data, creating Google maps, making videos and writing a variety of columns and blogs.

“People in the news business talk all the time about “increasing reader engagement” as a key to our future success. I can’t think of any better measure of engagement than the frequency with which readers actually undertake to report the news and create high-quality content to share with one another,” Schachter said.

But on the other front, of turning these pilots into viable businesses, the NY Times is having less success.

“Not surprisingly, it has been harder to figure out the business model for all of this. An explosion of interest among local merchants in advertising on hyperlocal sites has been just around the corner for a number of years now.”

But despite that Schachter said that the hyperlocal advertising market is a hard one for an “established organisation like The Times to enter; for now, the potential revenues don’t match up very well with the cost of acquiring customers, even using a low-cost system like self-service advertising”.

He said the Times was looking at other ideas for generating revenue streams from its hyperlocal efforts and that it has the support of the New York Times Company to explore this further.

The lack of revenues is not stopping more and more players entering the market. With expansion in places like Seattle where Fisher Communications has launched 44 hyperlocal sites in the Seattle area and 38 in Oregon making it the largest in the US.

Hyperlocal website WikiCity was recently snapped up by Nebraskan newspaper group The Omaha World-Herald.

MSNBC has which sits alongside other established players big and small such as and Baristanet.

In the coming months more and more players will enter this market in the US not to mention the UK where the interest (from the likes of Guardian News & Media, Associated Newspapers and Trinity Mirror) and challenges in making hyperlocal work are similar.

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Murdoch stalls on the road to paid content/NMA raise pay wall

First it was the New York Times and now Rupert Murdoch has hinted that News Corporation may not hit its year end deadline to implement paid content.

A not entirely gratuitous NY Post frontpage of the awesome YankeesMurdoch, who owns the Times and the Sun, Wall Street Journal and New York Post (what a great front page; great game), told reporters that he can not promise that News Corp will meet its own deadline.

“We are working all very, very hard at it but I wouldn’t promise that we are going to meet that date. It’s a work in progress and there is a huge amount of work going on, not just with our sites but with other people,” Murdoch said in a conference with journalists.

According to the Age when he was asked about the delay Murdoch said he was “not prepared to comment on that at all”. Thorny issue.

Murdoch & Co are struck by the exact same thing that has hit the New York Times execs earlier this week when executive editor, Bill Keller, admitted that the issue of charging had proved a much tougher and more complicated decision “than it seems to all the armchair experts”.

This seems to indicate that executives at both News Corp and the New York Times Company are struggling to work out which system they are going to opt for in their pursuit of paid content.

The delay will validate critics who say that newspapers are going to find it very hard to successful erect pay walls and get cash from their readers who are so used to a world of free.

The news that News Corp is delaying its decision to implement a pay wall came as its first quarter results revealed a sharp fall in operating income in its newspaper business, down to $25m in the three months to September from $134m last time as advertising revenue fell in the UK 15% and at the Wall Street Journal.

All those numbers say that Murdoch is not going to turn away or balk at the paid content conundrum. He doesn’t think he can with news papers losing money like that. My bet is for some kind of limited subscription model – like the Financial Times where a certain amount of articles are given away (30 a month in the case of the FT) – or a membership club, which is something being looked at with interest by a lot of media firms including the New York Times, The Times and Guardian News & Media.

What I really wouldn’t expect is micropayments. Well not in the short term at least. I’m sure the first step will be a limited pay wall option that could later be extended to something more complex.

It has been a busy week in paid content all round with real stuff happening – in B2B at least. Earlier this week Emap plumped for a £150 charge and now rival Centaur has opted to put more of the content of its digital magazine NMA (already £99-a-year with a subscription) behind a pay wall.

In a statement on its website NMA says the move is part of the “title’s phased strategy to introduce a range of premium content and services to add value to bundled subscriptions”.

“Like all other publishers, we’re experimenting with paid-for models online,” said editor Justin Pearse. “While previously lead stories from the magazine were accessible for free, we’re confident this content, together with the analysis our site provides to the industry, is worth paying for.”

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Mass layoffs begin at Time Inc/Murdoch hires (plans newspaper war)

We’ve already seen big cuts this year at Conde Nast now it is the turn of IPC Media parent Time Inc, which is set to announce as many as 500 job cuts today.

The New York Times reports that the layoffs begun yesterday at Time Inc when 15 to 20 sales and marketing staff were first to hear the bad news largely from Sports Illustrated.

The cuts are part of a plan to save $100m and the NY Times quotes an executive saying that the total number of layoffs as being between 400 and 500 people, which are expected to come from the news division, which includes Time, Fortune and Sports Illustrated.

Details of these job cuts are due today at 10am (3pm UK). Other magazines likely to be hit include People and InStyle and Real Simple and Cooking Light. They come after this morning’s announcement of a 38% drop in third-quarter profits and a 6% fall in revenues to $7.1bn at parent company Time Warner. Revenues at AOL fell 23% ahead of a planned spin-off that is still on the cards.

No word on how this might affect the UK business IPC Media and whether it will be asked to contribute to this cost saving target.

A note of light in this job loss darkness is that few job losses will come from the digital business, according to PaidContent.

While jobs are going at Time Inc, Rupert Murdoch is cooking up a fresh newspaper war. You just can’t keep a good media mogul down. After battling in London and axing TheLondonPaper, Murdoch has decided that New York deserves his attention.

He is planning to hire around a dozen reporters in New York to cover local and state news for the Wall Street Journal in its battle to take on the New York Times and transform itself from a business centric title to one that has more general news.

This sucks if you are former Boston Bureau staffer for the WSJ. That bureau was closed. One the plus side if you are one of the 100 New York Times staffers due to be axed it might suck less presenting a fresh employment opportunity. One question that strikes me is that in its drive to be more like the New York Times, you know but to the right, will this hit its money making online subscription base. The WSJ has grown because it is errrm not a general newspaper. Could someone explain that one to me? Thanks

Elsewhere another barometer for the health of US newspapers has taken a dip. Former New York Times journalist and baseball writer, not to mention pioneer in sports blogging, Murray Chass has noticed a mass fall in US newspaper coverage of this year’s World Series between the best team in baseball, the New York Yankees, who lead the Philadelphia Phillies 3-2.

On his blog he notes that 29 of the 60 newspapers that cover major league teams during the season on the road as well as at home are not at this year’s World Series. That is a huge drop. Last year these papers were all there, but no more.

He quotes Bud Selig, the baseball commissioner, saying: “It’s a manifestation of what’s happening in America. I’m saddened by it. I think newspaper coverage over the years has enabled us to succeed much more than a lot of people understand so for me this is a very, very unhappy development.”

These are big metropolitan newspapers including the likes of the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Detroit Free Press, the Seattle Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, who have made cuts and are no longer covering one of the biggest sporting weeks in the US suggesting more pain to come.

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Decision time in paid content (stuff starts happening)

This week is officially deemed paid content week (again), but yesterday unlike most weeks things happened. The New York Times said it was struggling to decide; Emap came out and (boldly) said it’s charging £150; and a VC guy said newspapers need less than 5% of customers to pay. Bonus.

Venture capitalist Dharmash Mistry, a former MD of Emap Consumer Media and Emap Performance, told MediaGuardian that national papers “need to convert less than 5% of web audience to pay model” for the whole thing to work in a move away from solely relying on advertising revenue.

Dharmash Mistry, who is now at venture capital firm Balderton Capital, said that national newspapers need to get about 3% to 4% of their online audience to pay £3 a month. That would cover the entire annual digital advertising revenue he estimated most groups currently make.

“On a like-for-like basis, if newspapers convert an order of magnitude of 3% to 4% unique users to a pay model – at roughly £3 a month or 10% of the monthly price of buying print editions daily – you could probably generate as much in revenue as is being made from total online ad revenue currently,” Mistry told MediaGuardian.

Now less than 5% seems achievable doesn’t it? Well, I think so, but the question is how is it achievable? What is the system that will most easily deliver you that cash? Is it micropayments, premium content areas, members clubs or subscriptions or, you know, something else entirely.

It is this issue that has the newspaper industry acting like shot putters trying to do the 110 metre hurdles.

No clearer was this illustrated than yesterday when the New York Times took it upon itself to air the internal struggle it has been having with the issue of paid content.

Bill Keller, the executive editor, said yesterday that the issue of charging had proved a much tougher and more complicated decision “than it seems to all the armchair experts”.

“There is no clear consensus on the right way to go,” Kellner said, but added that the paper was “within weeks of a decision”.

The New York Times has been looking at this for many months and it is finding it hard to know which way to jump. Getting it wrong could be a serious setback even for one of the world’s biggest newspapers.

What keeps newspaper executives awake at night is this: if you opt for one system, invest and roll it out and then find it doesn’t work what do you do then? Answers in 140 characters to the usual address please.

While one former Emap director was espousing; one newspaper wringing its hands; the B2B arm of Emap dived off a cliff. This might be for Emap a bold and elegant act, worthy of an Olympic podium place, or it might well be a rash act of folly more akin to tombstoning.

This is what it has done as reported by Media Week: it will start introducing pay walls across its magazine websites, which include Drapers Record, Broadcast, Health Service Journal and Retail Week, within two weeks and will no longer giveaway online content. Wow.

First at the plate is Retail Week. It will introduce a pay wall on November 13 with others likely to follow later.

To be honest my feeling here is, and working for a rival B2B publisher I will try to be careful with my words, good luck with that one. I don’t see a lot of reasons why much of its audience would pay much at all for the news driven content on its websites.

So much of what is in Retail Week, Broadcast and the others exists elsewhere on the web. And while it covers these industries well, that isn’t I think anything like enough to persuade people to pay £150 of thereabouts in this climate. I could, of course, be totally wrong, but it will be interesting to watch all the same.

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Print: kind of like the Titantic says New York Times publisher

It can be horrible getting caught on the hop and you find yourself answering with an off the cuff comment, which is what happened to New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr who came up with this nifty analogy for newspapers and, errrm, the Titanic.

New York Magazine were the guys on the spot. All they were asking was for a few tips for young people who want to go into journalism given the job market?

This apparently first elicited a laugh (I’m guessing a kind of nervous laugh as you might if you were about to make a lot of journalists unemployed).

“Um, what I would tell them is the industry is in the midst of a massive transition. But the core of the fundamental job is critical. We have to re-create ourselves, but the heart of what we’re going to re-create is still journalism. The way people get information is changing, but the need for information will remain constant.”

Then came the stuff about the Titanic. Yes, that’s right the big ship that sank with terrible loss of life (was he thinking of journalists?). To be fair he could have used any ship to power his analogy and, really maybe one of those still floating ones would have been better.

“The best analogy I can think of is — have you ever heard of the Titanic Fallacy? What was the critical flaw to the Titanic?”

Apparently it wasn’t icebergs and being a sinkable kind of unsinkable ship. No it wasn’t any of this it was trying to beat aeroplanes. He explained, carefully it seems, that even if the Titanic had make it to New York it didn’t matter as it was still doomed (but at least floating) as the Wright brothers had taken off 12 years earlier and invented the plane.

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FT: people will pay for general news content

There is a longish piece in the New York Times over the weekend looking at The Financial Times and its paid content strategy. The paper quotes John Ridding, the chief executive of the FT, insisting that people will pay for general news content.

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Webstats and the New York Times homepage

No one wants to be ruled by web statistics, but they are increasingly important. The New York Times, however, says they have no impact on what goes on the front of the home page.

That’s kind of interesting. Anyone who works online looks at web stats and I certainly make some decisions on the back of them. If a story catches fire and is giving Brand Republic really good traffic the editorial team will, as they say, bump it and pump it. Maybe they don’t say that. I mean bump it up the order, of course.

In other instances there will be stories that I personally like a lot, but you (the reader) have apparently no interest in. Why is that?

Sometimes, but not all the time, if it appears to me or one of the Brand Republic team that we are flogging a dead horse and no amount of giddy go girl will set the story a light in the mind of the reader, we will dump it. Yes, that’s right, bump, pump and dump are all options online.

At the New York Times things are different. Jim Roberts, The NY Times’ associate managing editor and’s digital news editor, told the New York Observer earlier this week that web stats have no bearing on what they choose to put on the front page of the newspaper or the home page of the site.

Read more on Webstats and the New York Times homepage…

Twitter and the small business revolution

The New York Times has a piece today about how small businesses are turning to Twitter in growing numbers and how the micro blogging service is helping them.

The Americans call them mom-and-pop shops, they’re small businesses ranging from antique shops, to custom made ice cream operations and neighbourhood restaurants and they’re thriving on social media.

They are becoming as important to Twitter and its growth as the big brand success stories like JetBlue, Starbucks, Comcastcares or Dell.

Why they like it is that it allows them to talk directly to customers and they can use it as a very effective word of mouth marketing tool to further their small businesses.

Anamitra Banerji, who manages commercial products at Twitter said that he thought it was all about big businesses, but to his surprise it is working for business of all kind.

Interestingly, he says Twitter is now working on teaching businesses how they can join and use it. Twitter is planning to publish case studies. He is also developing products that Twitter can sell to businesses (of all sizes). These are going to include features to verify businesses’ accounts and analyse traffic.

The paper has great little anecdotes about how for instance Curtis Kimball in San Francisco who has a crème brûlée cart didn’t really know what Twitter was for until he saw an unfamiliar face among the friends in line for his desserts. The new face in the crowd had heard about Kimball’s treats on Twitter.

Kimball now has more than 5,400 followers checking out where his crème brûlée cart will be turning up next and what the flavours of the day are.

“I would love to say that I just had a really good idea and strategy, but Twitter has been pretty essential to my success,” he told the NY Times.

The success of the crème brûlée cart has allowed him to quit his job to keep up with the demand.

The benefit as the piece points out to these small businesses is that a modern website might cost £3,000 to £5,000, but a Twitter account costs a lot less and better suits their needs.

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New York Times opens up to Mom and Pop advertisers

The New York Times has opened up a self-serve ad platform
for a series of citizen journalism websites which fall under its hyper-local
‘The Local’ domain, covering east coast boroughs from New York to New Jersey.

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Stories from the downturn: ex-newspaper journalists struggle to make a life online

If I had any money here is what I wouldn’t do: put it into a news website, and neither will many people in the US, where former newspaper journalists are struggling to find subscribers for their post print online ventures.

My feeling is that you might as well flush it down the toilet with a smile, which is what is happening in the US as redundant journalists on former daily newspapers pour their hopes, time and some cash into start-up news ventures. These are stories from the downturn and they will not all end well.

The Rocky Mountain News shut in February and former journalists there are already on their second effort to launch an online site to fill the gap left by the paper’s demise and find a life beyond the print graveyard. The paper was one of the first to go, owner EW Scripps decided to cut its loses and close for good. No half way house. No online only product. Simply the end. Done. Kaput.

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