Demonstrating that the very thing that made publishing privileged — presses — are now just a commodity and a cost center, the Telegraph is jobbing its printing out to competitor News Corp. in the UK, improving the quality of its output and reducing its investment. Smart move. Presses aren’t what make you special anymore.
Posts about lastpresses
Here is required reading for every news executive — editorial or business: Colin Crawford, svp of online at IDG, blogs that his company is now over the hump. It’s more an online company than a print company. Sure, I can hear you say, trade and niche are easier than mass. But only by degrees and timing. Says Crawford:
. . . Today the absolute dollar growth of our online revenues now exceeds the decline in our print revenues. This occurred in the US in 2006 and in Europe during the last quarter.
With this change in the revenue mix and the higher margins from our online businesses – the company is more profitabl[e] today than it has been previously. . . .
In the US, our online revenue now accounts for over 35% of our total US publishing revenues. Next year, for many brands online revenues will be greater than print revenues, if fact they already are at some of our key brands and by 2009 – approximately 50% of IDG’s US revenues will come from online.
Let’s write that on the whiteboard: Online will account for more than a third of revenue and for some businesses more than half. Online’s growth is more than making up for print’s decline. And the company is more profitable today.
See, it can be done. It is being done.
To drive this change and to focus on online revenue we’ve changed the business mission of our organization away from print. Going forward IDG Communications will define itself as a web centric information company complemented by expos, events and print publications.
I can hear some crying: That’s cheating. Expos. That’s not publishing. But publishing isn’t publishing anymore. It’s about information and connections, so you need to find many new ways to make them. And, no, it’s not easy. But it’s about reinvention:
The brutal reality that we’re facing today is the costly process of dismantling and replacing legacy operations and cultures and business models with ones with new and yet to be fully proven business models. However, we face greater risks if we don’t transform our organization and take some chances.
In the past media organizations controlled content and pushed it out to subscribers, today’s media has to deal with a world of social connections, networking and collective actions enabled by the Internet.
The more enlightened in our media world will figure how to allow their audiences freedom to create and share their knowledge and content and to mash it up in a way that engages users.
We have to become facilitators as much as content creators – our brands are trusted, they have quality content and loyal audiences – these are our competitive advantages but we’ll only hold onto those assets if we truly listen to our communities and provide appropriate environments for user initiated conversations and user created content
Figuring out the transformation from print to online is only the start. The information we produce, facilitate and aggregate increasingly will be viewed on a number of screens – the Computer, the TV, the smart mobile phone, the iPod and other portable entertainment devices. Many of these screens are more suited to video and audio than text. Even more new skills for our organization to master!
We’re in an exciting growth industry. Let’s shake off the image of being in a beleaguered print industry and seize the opportunities afforded to us by the digital revolution.
Standing O! Shout amen! This is your Moses and that’s the promised land. It is not a land of milking money. It is a kingdom of connections. (Sorry, I’ll stop now.)
This is a most impressive post not just because it encapsulates where (I think) media must go but because it proves that it can work. [via PaidContent]
Moments after posting the news about the the Daily Mail doing without a TV critic (below), I read Lucas Grindley on another paper getting rid of its movie critic and NFL writer, among others, . . . because they are not local and newspapers, at their essence, must be local. Amen to that.
The managing editor for the Winston-Salem Journal was faced with the need to cut his budget. And when looking around the newsroom, he saw the same thing all of us do. Duplication of efforts. So the Journal’s film critic and NFL writer were laid off.
Local film critics for national movies are a vestige of different times. For most markets, there’s no local angle to Mission Impossible 3.
Reassign your reporter now, before it’s too late, to something that might attract new readers. I wonder what the Journal’s managing editor would have covered if he had reassigned that film critic a year ago.
Maybe you’re the film critic. Don’t wait around for this same fate. Convince your editor to use wire copy so you can cover something else. Because when it comes time for the editor to look around the room for cost savings, your beat needs to be local and indispensable.
Sports writers, listen up. If you’re not writing something more than the game story, then you’re next. An editor can get that same gamer from the wire.
Features writers, if what you’re covering is on the wire regularly, then your beat isn’t local enough. Food is a national topic. Travel is a national topic.
Business writers, you’re not immune either. Prominent media types are already advising newspapers to “outsource” all types of coverage.
Death by a thousand cuts. A slow death is happening as newspapers lose writers. Don’t let positions get cut because you didn’t have enough foresight to realize they were being wasted. Maybe circulation declines wouldn’t be so steep today if we’d ensured every beat in the room was local, and couldn’t be replaced by wire copy.
Now read the managing editor of the paper, Ken Otterbourg, writing on his blog about the cutbacks:
We were one of the smallest newspapers to have a full-time film critic, and we enjoyed that distinction. But there’s plenty of excellent film criticism out there that we can use for nationally released movies. We’ll still occasionally review movies with a local tie-in. By contrast, nobody else is covering the local board of education or the city council. It’s unique content. So in making our decisions, we were guided by our belief that what we can do best is cover Winston-Salem, Forsyth County and Northwest North Carolina. That’s where we think our future lies, being a metro paper with a strong community focus.
The Daily Express decides to outsource its business section to the Press Association, the UK wire service (its Associated Press), cutting a tenth of the paper’s 350-strong staff.
It makes sense, as far as it goes. When I was Sunday editor of the New York Daily News, I worked to outsource our TV grids and book. Papers have long since done this with financial tables. Why not whole sections? If I ran a chain like Gannett or McClatchy (no thanks), I’d consolidate or outsource all kinds of editing. Yes, it makes sense on paper.
But what about off paper and online? There, if you don’t want to go to the expense of having a business section, if it’s not core to what you do, then you can link to one. And that forces you to decide what is core. What is it that just you can do and that can’t be outsourced?
When you’ve answered that question, then, finally, you’ve decided what your news organization is really all about.
The troubles hitting big media are hardly restricted to the U.S. In France, media mogul Arnaud LagadÃ¨re warns, “The press has ten years left. Production costs will become unsustainable.” Editors Weblog quotes him saying that the the press has “little future in its present state” and that “we’re moving towards the dismantling of its traditional support structure.” I’m hoping that this quote lost something in the translation, because I sure can’t figure out what he’s saying:
As for new media, LagadÃ¨re said that “Our adaptation will not consist of making a systematic and mechanic transfer of our press to the Internet. That would be a mistake. Our advantage will remain in the richness of our content. We will not submit to the mutation of modes of consumption; on the other hand we will play a part in their evolution.”
A grand experiment in the future of news is succeeding. Pity most of you can’t read it, since it’s in German. But thanks to an accident of school scheduling that plopped me into a German class, I’ve been able to follow Netzeitung.de since it was founded in Berlin in 2000 as a net-only newspaper. It’s not a blog, a search engine or an aggregator. It is a newspaper without the paper, but with 60 journalists reporting the news. Netzeitung has not only survived the internet bubble and a ping-pong game of corporate sales, it has acquired other media properties; it is starting an ambitious effort in networked journalism with citizen reporters; and it is set to be profitable this year. Ausgezeichnet!
Dr Michael Maier, Netzeitung’s editor-in-chief and business head, is an experienced and respected journalist: former editor-in-chief of the Berliner Zeitung, Stern and Vienna’s Presse. No blogger, he. When I met him after he and his partners brought the concept of a netpaper from Norway – where its big sister, Nettavisen.no, is still in business – Maier was adamant that he would have his own staff producing news. I tried to push my populist agenda of interactivity and citizens’ media, but he would have none of it. He was starting a newspaper, dammit, and newspapers have reporters.
In the years since, Netzeitung was bought by Lycos, then by Bertelsmann, then by Maier and a partner, who sold it to Scandinavia’s Orkla, which itself is being acquired by the press baron David Montgomery. Maier says he is glad none of his many masters was a traditional German newspaper, for he doubts he could have developed Netzeitung under its roof. I agree. I got nowhere trying to convince American publishers to try a paperless paper. They are addicted to ink.
Netzeitung remains impressive in the breadth, depth and the timeliness of its reporting. It is among the internet’s most cleanly designed news sites. Maier says the service now serves 1.2 million readers per month. It reportedly will earn â‚¬8m this year. It has acquired other large German sites for technology, health and cars. It recently took over a Berlin radio station, and so the online site produces both radio shows and podcasts (what’s the difference?). And it produces online and videotext news for German TV. This experiment in online news has become a budding media empire.
But what brought me back to revisit Netzeitung is its latest effort: Readers-Edition.de, an online paper by and for das volk. True to form, Maier insists that the people must report: “We don’t publish commentary.” So citizen reporters submit news and photos on politics, sports, technology and business. Netzeitung, the parent, puts the best on its home page and then pays the contributors.
Maier says his online journalists were at first afraid of these interlopers. But he also says his reader/writers are better at working with links than ordinary reporters, are fast (helping him scoop competitors), and are smart (they gave him an exclusive on a revival of the 60s radical group the SDS).
One reason we bloggers like blogging is that we have no editors. But the Readers-Edition contributors do: a team of fellow reader/writers act as volunteer moderators with the help of one Netzeitung journalist. They get together in meetings across Germany to share tricks of the trade. They even share rejected stories so contributors can learn what it takes to make the grade. Now that’s transparency.
I wonder whether this model could work elsewhere. The other citizen-written online newspaper of note, South Korea’s OhmyNews, has had difficulty replicating itself in other countries; its political and media landscape may be unique. And when I ran online sites in the early days, I tried to copy what I saw on German sites by having volunteer moderators keep peace in chatrooms. It worked in Germany, where users respected rank, but not in the US, where moderators got power-mad and users revolted.
I would love to see both Netzeitung and Readers-Edition spread, for we need more answers to questions asked at nearly every journalism conference I attend, namely how will we support journalism in the future? What are the business models for news? How does journalism survive post-press? I hope the answers lie in creating vibrant and successful newspapers that do not depend on paper. I hope the answers lie in creating networks that allow professional and amateur journalists to work together. And I hope the answers are also in English, since I didn’t pay much attention in that German class.
Scott Donaton writes an important column in AdAge — important especially because of his audience: the advertisers who, together with publishers, cling stubbornly to old media and thus hold back the transformation to the new. He takes off on the Wall Street Journal’s strategic planning and asks when — not whether — the print version should die:
But certain forms of media that are currently print-based, particularly daily newspapers, must explore the possibility that there are more reader-friendly and cost-efficient ways to produce and distribute their content.
It’s still surprisingly difficult to get traditional media executives to admit this. But their resistance seems based on an emotional attachment to ink on paper, a deeply held — if largely indefensible — sense that a newspaper’s soul is inextricably linked to its format.
Which is nonsense. Scary as they are, some things must be confronted, including our overly romanticized notions of what a newspaper is.
An update and correction to the post below: I just heard from Ed Roussel, editorial director of the Telegraph group, who says it’s not true that his paper will delay stories until after publication in print. In fact, he said, they have already shifted people to earlier schedules to get news out sooner. They are not trying to put every story online before print (which is where the Guardian is apparently headed) but they are free to put up anything short of a big scoop they want to save (which will be the same for everyone).
How did this meme start? He said at the World Association of Newspapers session in Moscow, there was discussion about content management systems and the ability to schedule publication to the web and it grew out of that. So they’re playing wack-a-mole on the tale now.
While I had him, I asked Ed whether the Telegraph has plans to invade America, like the Guardian and the Times of London. He said no. “The reality is that we want to do the best possible job of writing for our readers and the core of our readership is British people,” which includes expats. He said they already had a third of their online readership is in the U.S. And he said that the track record of British companies making a go of it in America is limited.
: LATER: More from Shane Richmond at the Telegraph about this.