Posts Tagged: newspapers

Metro’s 10 years is a testament to business acumen

Congratulations must go to Associated’s Metro, which celebrates 10 years in circulation today.

The free city-based spoiler to Sweden’s Metro International has defied the critics, and the odds, and managed to carve out a niche for a daily title that encapsulates news-lite, as seen on TV and global wires the night before.

When first launched in London on 16 March 1999, Metro had a print circulation of 85,000, distributed through some 70 underground stations in the heart of the capital.

Ten years on, and the now all too familiar blue masthead boasts a circulation of 1.3 million and more than3.3 million readers.

It is distributed in every major UK city, including London, Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow and Cardiff.

In today’s celebratory issue, the paper proudly lists the stories it has carried over the years under the banner ‘You read it here’ (no sign of the word ‘first’). Included in its array of achievements is last month’s revelation “Feb 2 – Snow covers much of Britain”.

But while its content, buoyed by page 3 staples about giant toads, homes built for smurfs, killer crayfish and things to do with old copies of Metro, may not be award-winning stuff, the deals that have helped propel the titlehave been impressive.

Realising its potential if it moves beyond the capital, Associated embarked on an ambitious expansion strategy. But when faced with the realisation that most pockets of the UK are sown up by strong regional newspaper operations, the group managed to broker a series of innovative partnerships.

It is something Metro International has been trying, and failing, to do in Germany for more than a decade.

Today, the free paper is in bed with Trinity Mirror, Northcliffe Media, Johnson Press and the Guardian Media Group. It also publishes in Dublin through a joint venture with Irish Times and is part of a European sell through a deal with Metro International.

With its network of eyeballs in place, Metro was able to double its ad rates by the middle of the decade,claimingunprecedented access to the elusive, young professionals.

Its commercial drive has also resulted in some genuine market-leading solutions, including Metro’s ‘Brand to Hand’ sampling business (Yorkie, 2002); the Metro Rough Guide partnership (Post Office, 2004); wraps on high grade glossy paper (BA, 2005); and even wraps incorporating lenticular holographic images (Sony Ericsson, 2008).

Managing director Steve Auckland rightly acknowledges that Metro has become an “invaluable part of the journey for commuters in the UK”, and is now the fourth largest national newspaper in the country, “with over 3.3m readers daily”.

But to survive the next 10, the papercan’t affordfor its achievements to end there. The well publicised profitability it reached in 2003, is now under serious threat following double-digit declines in advertising, while a revitalised Evening Standard, under new Russian rule, will also be hoping to make a sizeable dent in its London operations. The next round begins with a public fight to retain its TfL contract.

Happy Birthday Metro, here’s to those teenage years.

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Murdoch, I-Level and… Claudine dominate media in 2010

Vince Cable pictured in The Independent


In terms of
commercial media, 2010 was always going to be dominated by one man and one
company: Rupert Murdoch, News Corporation.

From the
outset we expected paywalls and bundled content offerings (Alesia) to be the
order of the day, but no one could have foreseen just where we find ourselves
today.

Read more on Murdoch, I-Level and… Claudine dominate media in 2010…

Do advertisers want to be in Times paywall club?

Hollywood’s take on the relentless rise of Facebook in The Social
Network is set to pass a milestone of its own this week, when UK box office
takings top £10 million.

It’s still got some way to go to push 2009 blockbuster Avatar (£90m), but
double-digit millions is good going for any film in little old Blighty.

Fiction or not, the fact that David Fincher’s simple and rather contrived plot
makes a plausible story says something about the value people place – or at
least imagine others place – on being seen to be in the right club.
The desire to be part of the right crowd is presented as the driving force
behind Facebook’s real-life founder Mark Zuckerberg, and it got me thinking
about News International’s paywall experiment.

It’s been less than three weeks since News
International offered the first hint as to the impact its online subscription
strategy is having on sites for the Times and Sunday Times
, and plenty of
questions remain.

Understandably there’s been frustration at the lack of transparency regarding
the actual number of paying subscribers.

Read more on Do advertisers want to be in Times paywall club?…

News Int paywall creates around 200,000 digital sales

After
months of speculation, News International has finally unveiled figures for its
paywall experiment at The Times and the Sunday Times websites;
it has generated
105,000 digital-only sales and a further 100,000 print subscribers have activated
their digital accounts, since July.

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WAN’s Balding exits as newspapers embrace digital future

So goodbye
then Timothy Balding, the venerable leader of the international press body WAN,
who leaves his industry advocate role after 25 years.

Based in Paris, the leader of the World
Association of Newspapers was a well-respected figure and admired ambassador
for newspapers, but in recent years his stance on the impact of digital upon
newspapers had placed him at odds with many commentators, myself included.

Read more on WAN’s Balding exits as newspapers embrace digital future…

Why News Corp really pulled the plug on Project Alesia

News Corporation has been
forced to abandon plans for its eagerly anticipated digital news platform, part
of the company’s so called ‘Project Alesia’ initiative, citing runaway costs.

As we revealed this morning, bean-counters at Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate
have decided to pull the plug on the year-long activity when it was
expected to be finalised.

The decision is said to be
absolute: this is not a delay, or grand standing or being placed on hold; this
an entire, dedicated News Corp UK
operation being dismantled just days before a product was due to go to market.

So what’s going on at
the media conglomerate?

Read more on Why News Corp really pulled the plug on Project Alesia…

Publishing failures unite at AOP 2010

Attending
the 9th annual AOP Digital Publishing Summit in Westminster
today proved to be something of a milestone for the UK’s media industry.

Unlike many
in the room, I remember the association’s first outing back in 2002. The dotcom
bubble had just bust and its messy entrails were still being discovered. The
room of mostly traditional newspaper and magazine publishers were still
understandably nervous about the implications of the web on their businesses.

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Newspapers benefit from the death of God

Saturday is fast becoming the new Sunday as far as newspapers are concerned, as talk of Christ is swapped for the lure of the high street.

I was reminded about the
strength of the Saturday newspaper during an enlightening interview with the
Guardian’s Tim Brooks earlier this month
.

GNM’s affable managing
director admitted that while consumers are losing the habit of buying
newspapers in the week, many Saturday editions are more than holding their
own, both in terms of advertising and circulation.

Over the last 10 years, the once awkward Saturday editions have
filled out to now rival the long-time bloated Sunday stalwarts.

Brooks explained the key
driver has been the rise of Sunday as the big shopping day on the high street, second now only to Saturday.

And while Church attendence continues to fall (5 years of decline charted by CofE alone), marketers have switched on to the fact that they can advertise in a paper
on a Saturday and capture people before they hit the high streets on both
Saturday and Sunday.

“You have to keep your eye
firmly on what the consumer is doing,” says Brooks. “And what the consumer is
doing increasingly Monday to Friday, is losing the habit of buying a newspaper.
The reasons for that are many, and they are not reversible, certainly not by an
individual publisher.

“Weekends are different.
People view newspaper reading at the weekend, partly at least as a reward to
themselves at the end of a busy week, and they enjoy the amplitude of print at
the weekend.”

Read more on Newspapers benefit from the death of God…

Are we all in the brown stuff if Times paywall fails?

For a media
hack like me, it’s had more twists and turns and dragged out longer than
the final series of Lost; and the budget-busting climax is still yet to come.

This week’s launch of the repurposed
websites for The Times and now standalone Sunday Times are nothing short of a
landmark in the evolution of the British Press industry.

It is the first major step on the
path to News International’s phased introduction of online paywalls. The idea of charging people to
access content online was first aired by Rupert Murdoch last summer, and the
debate over the viability of the model has been raging ever since.

Erecting paywalls around daily
news may yet prove to be “completely antithetical” to the way the web works, as eloquently expressed by The Guardian’s editor Alan Rusbridger.

His position appeared to be bolstered by research published this week which found that most consumers (91%) would be
unwilling to pay £1 a day or £2 a week to access the Times Online. Only 5% said they would pay £2 for a week’s digital
subscription, although a further
4% said they would pay £1 for a day’s access.

And it was not just The Times that the public would be unwilling
to pay for. Give or take
one or two percentage points, the proportion unwilling to pay was the same for
The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Independent.

Meanwhile, speaking at last month’s PPA Magazine Conference, Stevie Spring, the chief
executive of Future, noted that Murdoch’s paywalls “break the basic rules of
marketing”.

Her basic premise
is that the world is moving towards two types of content-led product – ‘access-only’ and
what she termed “collectable artefacts” (like printed magazines) – with the web largely falling into the access-only camp, meaning people
will view the content if they can but rarely find it unique enough, or essential enough, to
pay for.

News International’s
management team are acutely aware of the very real dangers of slipping into a
“vault of darkness”
once payment is required, but are ploughing on
regardless.

“If it doesn’t work
than I’m in the sh*t,” joked News
Int’s commercial chief Paul Hayes
at a Brand Media event last week.
Reminding me of the old adage ‘many a true word spoken in jest’.

But the buck doesn’t stop
with Hayes, or even News International.

It’s hold your breath time for thousands working in the news business, and the many more studying on the many
oversubscribed journalism courses across the country.

Just yesterday outgoing chief executive Carolyn McCann warned of pre-tax losses at Guardian Media Group for the 12 months to March will be larger than the £90m plummet a year earlier.

Quality journalism
costs
money and it is significant that Guardian
News & Media’s MD Tim Brooks refused to rule out following Murdoch

if it proves successful.

I’m mindful that by the time the main protagonists finally realised how Lost was to going to play out, they discovered they were already dead. Let’s hope the press industry doesn’t leave it so long.

Read more on Are we all in the brown stuff if Times paywall fails?…

Murdoch forces Sorrell to make U-turn over paid-content

SorrellandMurdoch

Martin
Sorrell, chief executive of WPP and one of adland’s best known soothsayers, has
dramatically revised his stance on the viability of publishers charging for
content online following comments from the quintessential newspaper man, Rupert
Murdoch.

Speaking at an industry event
in Greece last week
, The Daily Telegraph reports an irrepressible Sorrell,
as saying: “[Rupert] Murdoch is absolutely correct to try and get people
paying for content – it is critical for traditional media businesses as there
is not enough advertising to support these models anymore.

“Getting consumers to pay for content they value is key. We have to find
those areas.”

Such sentiments will be music to the ears of those operating in the embattled
newspaper sector, which according to Sorrell’s own media investment arm GroupM
is expected to see advertising revenue plummet 26% in the UK
this year.

But such apparent support for online pay-walls flies in the face of Sorrell’s
own vision of the future, announced less than 10 months earlier.

Addressing an international
advertising event in January
, there could be no mistaking what the WPP
leader thought about the position traditional publishers now find themselves
in, or his reservations about charging for web content.

“Some of the structural changes we’re seeing taking place in the
[newspaper] industry, particularly in America, the failure and bankruptcy and
reorganisation of these [publishing] companies is going to continue. And
there’s no way of stopping it, because we’ve given it away for free,” he
said.

“The seeds of this problem were sown when the people who created the new
media industry, probably in the early nineties, decided – rightly from the
consumers point of view I have to say – to give it away for nothing.

“It’s impossible actually now to take it up. You can start up here [high]
and take your pricing down, but you can’t start there [free] and start moving
it up.”

It appears News Corp’s
venerable leader’s commitment to “charge for all our news websites”
,
buoyed by thriving online subs at the Wall Street Journal, has led Sorrell to
change his mind.

It marks the latest backtrack in what has been a tricky year for WPP’s famous
crystal ball-gazer, who, lest we forget, is responsible for group billings of
more than $80 billion, or around a third of all the world’s measured media
buying.

At the same event in January, Sorrell predicted “a flat year” for the
global ad market in 2009, adding reassuringly: “We’re not looking at the
Armageddon or the Apocalypse Now that analysts and media followers are
forecasting.

“We don’t see it as bad as Goldman and others who talk about -5, I see -10
from [some quarters] which seems somewhat strange.”

Nine long months, a series of forecast revisions, and thousands of redundancies
later, and Sorrell now accepts a drop of 5.5% is the most likely outcome.

But then it’s been one of those years; also at the IAA event in January, media
execs were expressing incredulity at the suggestion a former Russian spy was
being bandied around as a potential buyer for London’s
Evening Standard.

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