Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

Google makes happy with newspaper publishers (some anyway)

The New York Times has been saying what a great relationship it has with Google as the search giant launches its alternate way to view the news, to see it as a “living story”.

The “living story” project is interesting and all that, and much fun I had looking at the timelines and wealth of content that it is serving up in its testbed with The News York Times and The Washington Post, but I’m slightly under whelmed.

Isn’t it just another way that people can spend time looking at news for free on oh yeah Google? Not sure what the New York Times gets out of it other than more of the same (traffic).

Still Janet Robinson, president and CEO of The New York Times Company and Jim Follo, Vice-President and CFO are happy. They were talking at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference earlier this week and were sharing the love with Google.

“We have a very significant relationship with Google, and a very good relationship with them. A distinctly successful one, unlike some of our competitors’ relationships,” Follo said.

I hope Rupert Murdoch was listening to that? Probably not. No doubt he was off penning another one of his desk banging Wall Street Journal leaders. Is it me or is he at any moment going to start shouting “Rosebud”? No surprise really if your own paper does give Google Eric Schimdt an Op Ed slot to “blame you”.

“With dwindling revenue and diminished resources, frustrated newspaper executives are looking for someone to blame. Much of their anger is currently directed at Google, whom many executives view as getting all the benefit from the business relationship without giving much in return. The facts, I believe, suggest otherwise,” Schimdt wrote.

While Schmidt has been taking part in a spot of reverse blame storming one Josh Cohen, Google News’ senior business project manager, has been telling people that Google News has a great relationship with News Corp (although apparently he hasn’t heard from Murdoch in, you know, like “person”).

“I certainly haven’t heard specifically from Rupert Murdoch-he’s above my pay grade,” Cohen told the New York Observer.

Cohen added that the News Corp and Google row was mostly a media concoction that “makes for a good story”. He forgot to add “free” story.

Meanwhile The New York Times has been taking its good old time getting to grips with its paid content strategy, which is a subject the NY Observer said they dodged at the UBS shindig.

Follo said that the decision wouldn’t be “dragged out very much longer”. An implicit acknowledgement that it has been “dragged out” thus far.

Robinson added that the NY Times had to achieve a “frictionless” reader experience. That sounds good although I’m sure what it means or how they will pull it off. It was going to announce a decision “within week” five weeks ago. Nothing yet. I’m guessing friction is the cause.

You have to wonder if this is this what Murdoch’s Times is going for in London? Frictionless, I mean. PaidContent revealed a few details of what kind of pay wall we can expect when the paper relaunches online next year.

It sounds like everything will be put behind it. Some observers have wondered if there’s more to Times Online’s strategy than meets the eye; perhaps only parts of the site, for particular audiences, will be chargeable… but no, it sounds more like one big wall.

News International’s strategy and product development director Dominic Young told the site that Times Online wants “to innovate…it may be a commercial necessity … we want to find more compelling ways of getting our journalism across. We’re doing so now, in preparation for what’s to come. We will differentiate our product.”

“Pay wall sounds like this prison … undoubtedly, there’s a lot of shades of grey—payment isn’t a barrier to buying things – but the price has got to be right.. you need to create contrast in the market,” Young said.

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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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Economist is a natural for paid content

On hearing the news this morning that The Economist is to charge for news content across its site I was wondering why they waited so long.

The Economist is a natural for paid content in the same way that the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times are. They are likely to end up being select members of a very small paid content club. With the power of the distinctive Economist brand and loyal readership (talking of, which check Campaign’s “How the Economist changed tack to attract new readers”), I think it can successfully leverage the kind of analysis and insight it offers in to a paid content model.

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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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Big and bold Murdoch takes the paid content gamble

Huge sigh of relief has been breathed around the world this morning by newspaper executives everywhere who were all waiting for someone to make the first move and charge for content. Rupert Murdoch has never been a patient man.

Murdoch has made the first move, taken the gamble and the turnpike towards paid content. What is so astounding about today’s news is that he is not testing the waters, not finding little pockets of content to charge for, no. He says he is going to charge for news.

More to the point he says he is going to charge for the content that everyone else says you can’t charge for. This is game changing and huge…either that or it’s a Titanic-sized disaster waiting to happen.

Potentially this means people in the UK will have to pay to get access to The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times (interesting timing with its new standalone website on the way) as well as Sky News. Not to mention all those other properties he owns around the world from The Australian to Fox News.

Murdoch is not simply talking about his newspaper properties online as he clearly realised that if you are going to charge for one type of online news (say The Times) then you can’t very well give away the very good Sky News for nothing. That makes no sense.

Over the past few months Murdoch has been mulling options with his executives. They have been looking at the great success that is the Wall Street Journal and clearly have drawn answers from that. Drawn answers from the WSJ’s one million subscribers.

Maybe it told them that it’s a big number, but more important it is a big number with implications for other big numbers: ie the numbers of users visiting its digital properties around the world.

As that sat around those tables, phrases such as subscription charges, premium content areas, e-readers and e-wallets (I’m sure there are other “e’s”), and micro payments were all bandied around.

In the end, having seen these options, Murdoch and his team have opted not to trial; not to fiddle while Rome burns; but to move forward on all fronts and charge for it all. Maybe Murdoch was looking at other people writing on the wall and he didn’t what he was seeing (Goolge aggregation; Amazon Kindle) as it was all slowly chipping away at his business and the only future that promised was death by a thousand cuts.

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Welcome to planet FT or how you can charge for content like the pink’un

Financial Times editor Lionel Barber has been telling Channel 4 News why news organisations have to act now and charge for online content and how they can do it like the FT. Not sure about that one.

Timing is everything and it’s striking that the Financial Times is talking paid content in the week that Guardian Media Group is openly discussing closing the Observer.

The FT, of course, is in a unique position in British press journalism as it already charges for online content. It has 117,000 paying web subscribers – although only 10% of those registered on FT.com pay (like me). The rest view articles occasionally, but never take it any further nor will they (like me).

To begin, Barber says that the biggest mistake the industry made in the past ten years was not to charge users. He says the media was seduced into believing that information was free. Oh sweet seduction.

“We thought that as news organisations we could put our material out on aggregators like Google, attract a big audience and sell advertising on the back of it. In fact what we should have said is: ‘No, information actually has a price – it’s valuable and therefore we should charge for it.’” he told C4 News.

20:20 vision in hindsight is a godsend, but like the downturn itself no one saw this one coming. At the time free content looked like the logical way forward. The formula of: wide open digital spaces + large audiences = advertising revenues made sense.

Barber justifies his position by pointing to the fact that there are many other sources of free financial news that compete with the FT – such as Bloomberg (you could add Reuters and the BBC). His argument being that despite free content a strong authoritative brand can still win through and establish paid-for barriers.

“In order to adapt to the FT process news organisations will need to have a unique selling proposition – what is it that makes some news organisations special? We think we’ve been a pioneer in the way we’ve established a frequency model charging online [we assume Barber means the limit on the number of articles per month non-paying users can access].”

I think the FT has been (and I’m not knocking it) lucky. It almost reversed out of charging a while back as Rupert Murdoch made noises about making the Wall Street Journal free. Had he done that (more hindsight) then I doubt the FT would be in the position it is now in. Maybe more importantly Barber believes the online “mistake” of free content can be reversed and within the next year many news organisations will be charging.

“I think people are beginning to change but it’s up to us news providers, the content providers, to make that case. I think there is an inexorable momentum behind charging for content.

“For the simple reason, that (1), the advertising that we relied upon isn’t going to come back in the same way, and (2), that everybody is simply just realising this new internet age, that they need to actually charge for content and establish content as something valuable.

“What I would say to the competition and to the rest of the world is that it’s getting late. If we move now we can assure ourselves of a prosperous future.”

Barber is right about some of what he says, but he is wrong about the most important bits.

Yes, there is an inexorable momentum and yes advertising isn’t going to come back, but he is wrong about the FT being a model for anyone else other than the FT, which is itself a weaker model of the Wall Street Journal, which has one million plus subscribers – ten times more than the FT.

Those two papers exist in a subset, in their own self-contained paid content sphere, and their model is just that. Their model does not apply to general interest newspapers such as The Guardian, The Times or for that matter the poor old Observer. There’s no way back. The genie hates the bottle.

We already know people will pay for specialised news (for B2B, financial news) that they can’t necessarily get elsewhere. Bloomberg and Reuters like Barber says do pump out a lot of stories, but that isn’t the FT’s strength, which comes from its authority and its position in the marketplace and its commentary. That’s why people pay. At least that is why I think they pay.

I’m not sure where this “prosperous future” that Barber talks of lies. At the moment it looks like only select parts of the bulk of national newspapers could in anyway be charged for. There is simply too much that is free already.

Barber also talked about micro-payments and I’m sure that people will try this along with various other experiments. It is going to be a case of trial and error.

Read more on Welcome to planet FT or how you can charge for content like the pink’un…

Free content – an accidental historical moment

He’s not the first to say it, but Barry Diller described the moment when news organisations decided to give content away as one of those “accidental historical” moments. He was talking at the time about his support for paid content.

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Google knows when you will quit your job

More scary Google news. It really is watching YOU if you happen to work for it. It has come up with an algorithm that tells it when staff are most likely to quit their jobs.

According to a story in the Wall Street Journal it is worried about the brain drain and how this “could hurt its long-term ability to compete”. Never one to twiddle its thumbs Google got straight to work writing a sneaky little algorithm to analyse data from employee reviews, promotions, peer reviews and pay increases.

This gave it a mathematical formula that it says can identify which of its 20,000 employees are most likely to quit.

Wow. I wonder if this is similar process to what Google does for US intelligence agencies. Remember that story last year about Google working with the National Security Agency and CIA. The agencies apparently bought servers on which Google supplied search technology to process data gathered by spies around the world.

The WSJ quotes Google as saying the algorithm already has identified employees who felt underused, a key complaint among those who contemplate leaving. I guess Google should know it has lost a lot of senior staff recently.

Last week, Ien Cheng director of product management for advertising in Europe went. He had been preceded by senior Google sales executive Tim Armstrong; Jeff Levick, former vice-president of industry development and marketing; Google global display ad boss, David Rosenblatt; and Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, the president of Google’s Asia-Pacific and Latin America operations.

Apparently applying a complex equation to a basic human-resource issue “is pure Google”. That’s what they call it. Pure Google. Using heavy data to drive decision-making is one of its “Ten Golden [Google] Rules”.

Laszlo Bock, who runs human resources for the search giant told the paper that the Quit Me Google algorithm (I made that up) helps the company “get inside people’s heads even before they know they might leave”.

Here’s what I say: get out Google. I want you at the end of my computer not in my head.

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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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