Posts Tagged ‘Financial Times’

The Future Can’t Come Fast Enough for the News Industry and It’s Looking a Little Brighter

Friday, May 28th, 2010
Image Courtesy of DC Comics

Image Courtesy of DC Comics

It would be hard to imagine the fictional newspaper men (and women) of the past like Perry White of the “Daily Planet” (Superman) hollering for their first quarter numbers of “unique visitors per month” or boasting about their ranking for “most-linked-to-news-outlets” or even deliberating about putting their content behind a “pay-wall.” Today these are just some of the relatively new terms being used to describe the various metrics and business models newspapers are exploring during this transitional period in which the entire industry finds itself. 

For the last several years the forecasts for news organizations have been filled with doom and gloom. However the news about the news industry has been much rosier as of late. For starters, newspaper website’s traffic continues to grow. As highlighted in this Media Post article, online newspaper operations from the top 25 media outlets reached 83.7 million unique visitors in April, up 10 percent from March, 12 percent from February and 15 percent from January of this year, according to comscore figures released by the Newspaper National Network. And according to Nielsen, 74.4 million unique visitors per month in the first quarter of 2010 were a record – up from 72 million from the first quarter of 2009. These increases were actually higher than competitors like CNN and The Huffington post who came in at 43.4 million (flat) and 22.2 million (a 3 percent drop) respectively.

(For a list of the top 100 daily newspapers, 25 consumer magazines, 25 blogs, and the 20 social networks in the U.S., check out the updated 2010 Top Media List from BurrellesLuce.)

It is obvious from these figures that, as Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt was recently quoted as saying, “Newspapers don’t have a demand problem they have a business model problem.”

As various business models continue to be tested, measured and debated within the industry, a silver bullet has yet to emerge. So far, it appears that several viable solutions are taking shape and depending on who you ask you’ll get a justification for each of them. According to this article on, “Last year Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of The Wall Street Journal’s parent company News Corp., said ‘The current free access business model favored by most content providers was flawed and contributed to a fall in newspapers’ revenues.’” The WSJ is currently behind a pay-wall and “he also claimed the Wall Street Journal had proved that charging for content could be made to work pointing out that 360,000 people had downloaded an iPhone WSJ application in three weeks and that users would soon be made to pay “handsomely” for accessing WSJ content.”

Alternatively, The New Times plans to use a metered system (EZ Pass approach) starting January 2011, where a certain number of articles would be free before demanding payment (similar to what Financial Times is currently using). This may solve their monetization challenge, but it will no doubt affect their “most-linked-to-news-outlets” rank, a measure used to track the amount of people who actually clicked-through to the original news organizations website via a blog or third party source. This could significantly impact results, with 99 percent of the stories bloggers include as links coming from traditional mainstream media sources. Interestingly enough, 80 percent of the stories linked to in online and social media come from only four news outlets: The New York Times (20 percent), BBC news (23 percent), (21 percent), and the Washington Post (16 percent). The Wall Street Journal has twice the print circulation as the New York Times, but  is not on this short list. 

Some pay-wall advocates would argue that the majority of these visitors are merely “drive by users” who come in once through an aggregator and don’t really engage with the product. The counter argument claims more traffic directed to a newspaper’s online site would ultimately translate into higher advertising dollars.

If the numbers prove the demand for news content is there, let’s hope for the news industry’s sake the revenue will follow. In my opinion credible news journalism still trumps all. As long as it’s being distributed through the device of choice, engaged by the readers, and monetized in a way that generates revenue without isolating readers – it doesn’t matter whether it’s done through pay-walls, online advertising, or possibly something we haven’t thought of yet. (After all necessity is the mother of all inventions.) A tall order for the news industry for sure, but the future suddenly looks a whole lot brighter. There’s no doubt the identity of the news industry will change, but a reinvented news organization is still better than none at all.

When It Comes to Online Media, Just The Facts Are Free . . .

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual report is once again upon us. As in the past, it confirms that the majority of us get our information online and that we do not want to pay for it, subscribe to it, or pay-per-click for an article.

The facts may be free, but getting them collected, edited, checked, and delivered to you online or otherwise still costs money. Like almost every else When It Comes to Online Media, Just the Facts Are Freeyou do in this life, you do get what you pay for. The old joke of “hiring’em young while they still got all the answers” may work fine for opining in the blogosphere, but may not cut it in the “knock three times and tell’em Dan sent you” world of investigative journalism.

Then there is this little issue of legality. At the recent OnCopyright 2010 conference put together by the Copyright Clearance Center in New York City, a self-proclaimed investigative blogger lamented the chilling effect of the many defensive lawsuits filed against him. While we may be prejudiced against the larger media organizations at times, they can stand up to this type of intimidation. To preempt the criticism they vet their sources and data prior to publishing and if that’s not enough they have financial resources to support their position.

Back to free; the cry is that everything should be free on the Internet . . . Well it never has been and never will be. The content and information you get every day on the web is being paid for by somebody, usually advertisers. For lots of reasons we can look at later, this subsidy is just not cutting it.

So if we want reliable, vetted information we have to support its creation. In other words, we have to pay for it. The organizations that are creating vetted content are searching for a way to do this. There are a number of models being tried currently.

  1. The pay-wall which is in place at a number of sites and variations are being implemented by the Financial Times and the New York Times.
  2. The pay-by-article model for which you pay only for what you read á la iTunes.
  3. A central subscription service for many participating providers.

I believe all of these are doomed to fail. However, I do believe there is a fourth solution that could prove viable and consumer-friendly. It would be a hybrid of the pay-by-article model and the aggregated subscription combined with some as of yet unreleased technology.

Over the coming weeks, I look forward to examining more closely some of these monetization options and having a bit of discourse on the topic. In the interim, I strongly recommend that anyone whose livelihood, especially journalists and public relations professionals, is tied to media read the Pew Report. And share their thoughts with myself and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.

Comparison: What’s Missing from Your Web Content?

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
Flickr Image: Laura Burlton

Flickr Image: Laura Burlton

by Stephen Lawrence*
In previous postings, I’ve discussed the disparity between newspapers and their web equivalents.  We’ve learned that one-to-one equivalency rarely occurs and that loss of valuable content accompanies such instances when the digital doesn’t equal the print.  This posting covers some of those examples where printed photos don’t make it to the web.

First, I must note, that while we are supplying the URLs to the online articles, we are unable to reproduce the original printed pages for comparison and posting to Fresh Ideas due to copyright restrictions. (For a more in-depth discussion on copyright, check out this BurrellesLuce white paper.)

If you manage public relations for authors, restaurants or fashion clients I promise you’ll find these examples very interesting:

Book Reviews
One of my guilty pleasures, back in the days when I was a reader (that’s a “fancy” term for someone on our production team who searches for articles relevant to a clients reading instructions), was perusing the book review sections of various newspaper as I read them for our clients.  Shots of the book’s cover running alongside the printed article were always handy in capturing my attention and helped make finding the relevant material all the easier. 

When conducting some quality assurance recently, I was reminded of this and found a few examples where the print and online editions of book review images don’t match up: (more…)

Text Analytics – It Takes Time

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Flickr Image: El Ray

by Jeffrey Barrett*
Last week I got to listen to a quick presentation, Mining Emotion From Data: Sentiment Analysis Meets Faceted Research, sponsored by Endeca. The focus: how Financial Times’ Newssift and a Thomson Reuters trading support product line – two financial news products – leverage generic and specialized text analytics tools, such as sentiment analysis and geographic mappings.

At the end of the presentations a rather open dialog took place between Rich Brown of Thomson Reuters and Robin Johnson of Newssift. Some interesting questions were raised concerning the use of and implications of these new “real-time” text analytics based systems. During the discussion, Johnson displayed, with humor and grace, a level of honesty regarding some technical aspects of Newssift.

 For me, the main take away from the discussion was that these systems take time (as in years) to build out and careful attention to the business and technical implementation is required. I also found it interesting that the current data set for Newssift is still relatively small at about six million documents with roughly 100,000 new documents a day – pushing their current implementation rather hard; I look forward to seeing its evolution and expansion.

It was also great to hear from Jeff Catlin, CEO of Lexalytics, who commented on some of the often subtle aspects of the industry, from ROI to technical concerns.

While the Thomson product is only available to those that pay up some big money, is free. If you give either a spin, let us, here at BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas, know how navigating structured search worked for you.

*Bio: Currently I am the chief architect of BurrellesLuce 2.0, the portal used by thousands of PR professionals to monitor, share, organize, and measure online and print news. I started as a web developer for Merck & Company and I am an accomplished technologist with a focus on large scale system architecture and implementation. With over ten years of experience designing and deploying technical solutions for a wide range of companies, I most recently managed web projects for NBC Universal, where I delivered social networking applications and supported high traffic applications. Prior to that, I served as director of technology for Silver Carrot, a marketing firm, creating and delivering the technology that powered high-performance online campaigns. In my spare time, I enjoy reading about economics and anything that has to do with modeling social interaction and social media. LinkedIn: Jeffrey Barrett; Twitter: @BurrellesLuce; Facebook: BurrellesLuce

The Changing World of News: How to Thrive and Survive During a Meltdown

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Steve Shannon

MeltdownThis past Thursday evening I attended a special event at the Paley Center for Media, The Changing World of News: How to Thrive and Survive During a Meltdown. When the invite arrived, in my BurrellesLuce email box, the title almost automatically demanded that I attend.

The program was co-presented by the Financial Times (FT) and introduced by J. Max Robins, Paley’s vice president and executive director of Industry Programs. Paul Murphy, the editor of the blog FT  Alphaville moderated. On the panel were Stacey-Marie Ishmael, reporter for FT Alphaville, Robert Passarella of Dow Jones, and Rick Bookstaber, an author and former managing director at Salomon Brothers.

As might be expected, the evening’s discussion centered around the recent turmoil in the markets and the role media played, as well as how media is evolving and affecting PRs (what the Brits succinctly call PR professionals), news, and the companies being covered.

PDA Delivery
Murphy is one of two FT journalists who comment live on market activity via FT Alphaville. Posting from London, their comments overlap with the opening of the U.S. markets. Murphy notes that consumers of news trend more towards summaries of news delivered via PDAs, rather than desktop or printed formats. I’ve sure heard a lot at PR conferences about how to effectively take advantage of social media, but I’ve heard nothing about how to leverage the format of the small PDA screen.

Vetting Third-Party Content …for a Fee
Another interesting concept Murphy highlighted was “The Long Room,” a section on Alphaville that for a fee, and vetted by the FT, third parties offer their opinions and expertise on financial matters of the day. I think we’ll see more of this interesting use of journalism/credibility of media, and the monetization of content. Ishmael, a London FT reporter now based in NYC, underscores this point by stating she now spends half her day reading and researching the comments section on Alphaville as they yield excellent sources for future reporting.

Passarella noted many newly unemployed Wall Streeter analysts are hanging out their own shingle and leveraging the web and social media to showcase their expertise and land clients. He foresees value in the aggregation of sector-specific news, as it would provide a broader landscape for organizations to cover financial news, but is unsure what the monetization of that model will be. For PRs, it means the same: even more voices to track in an ever-faster and more competitive information marketplace.

An Unpredictable Game of Dominos
The evening also included a presentation by Bookstaber who stated the recent market turmoil was a leveraged crises cycle. Bookstaber illustrated this by pointing out that when certain entities have large leveraged positions in an area heading south, they must sell other assets in large quantities to cover their losses. You can’t predict what markets will be affected as it is unknown who holds what. Case in point: the Hunt brothers tried to corner the silver market in the 1980s. When that collapsed, the Hunts covered their losses by selling their biggest holdings, cattle. The Hunt’s large sales of cattle trigged price drops in that market.

Bookstaber showed other instances similar to the silver-cattle model. He believes government regulation has a role here – identifying unknown positions and using that knowledge to perhaps head off future market meltdowns. For PRs, this should sound a familiar theme of transparency, and if Bookstaber’s model comes to be, another interesting communications challenge on both the buy and sell sides of the market.