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A guest blog by Robin Pembrooke, Managing Director online and on demand at ITV
A little over a year ago we kicked off the design process for our project to re-conceive and launch a brand new ITV News offering online. I'm writing on budget day 2012 and as we speak the product is up and running http://www.itv.com/news/, and being used by journalists around the country as the nation discovers what’s in store for the financial year ahead.
A combined team has delivered the project from Made by Many, ITV and ITN. Before we began there was much discussion internally about how much effort we should be putting into news online. Given the dominance of the BBC in the UK, the massive resources that the newspaper groups throw at it, and the general difficulty that everyone has in making money from online news, why would we bother?
On the left, a shot taken from the Home Page; on the right, the simple drag-and-drop Admin tool that was created for the newsroom.
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The Financial Times closed FT Tilt on 13 October which was a big surprise and a bigger disappointment because it bore so many of the hallmarks of a successful web media product: it was niche, it was a rich source of hard-to-get information, it aggregated content and viewpoints, it filtered information really well, it was aimed at a wealthy, professional and highly interested target market who might be expected to participate and even shell-out to cross a paywall.
Tilt was an emerging markets news service created by Paul Murphy, an editor with a successful track record in product innovation with the markets blog FT Alphaville. The powerful idea underlying Tilt was that the source of global market influence was tilting (their pun) to the BRICs and that you couldn’t rely on reporters in London, New York or Tokyo to get the best information about what was happening in Shanghai, Sao Paulo or Mumbai, you had to go to the source. Tilt was all about creating a network of organisations and individuals in situ in emerging markets and aggregating and distributing their intelligence to a community of market analysts and investors in global financial markets around the world, people who are part of the FT’s natural constituency.
So why did it fail? Almost certainly not because it wasn’t a good idea. Felix Salmon in his blog at Reuters argued that
“I don’t think that FT Tilt failed, in terms of its core journalistic output. I think that the FT got greedy for subscription revenues from day one, and never let Tilt grow and thrive as it could and should have done”
That must be true but I don’t think it’s anywhere near the whole story...
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On Thursday I took part in The Media Briefing’s debut event, Paywall Strategies 2011. The day was dedicated to exploring a variety of different approached to paid digital content and assessing the merits, weaknesses and underlying principles of each.
This wasn’t the first such event I’ve been to, and in fact I had heard several of the speakers address the topic before. But this is a fast-moving challenge, and I found that the publishing landscape – and, critically, publishers’ attitudes– had changed a lot since the last time I parachuted in
Here's some evidence (if anecdotal) of an interplay between digital, print and live events.
The Atlantic hasn't been in profit in, like, forever. Yet the decidedly niche, highbrow publication turned a profit in the fourth quarter of 2010 – and a multifaceted profit at that. Digital revenue was up 70%, events revenue was up 37%, and print revenue(!!) was up 27%. Overall advertising revenue grew at 37%. This means more people are experiencing The Atlantic in more ways, more often. That's a huge win.
What I find most interesting is Atlantic Media president's Justin Smith's assessment of how these results were achieved:
creating a solid brand identity
a digital-first strategy
increased marketing activity
expanding the live events offering
"maintaining a relentless focus on hiring top talent"
Interesting that a Times-style paywall and endless slashing of the editorial budget don't make the list. What's that? People will actively seek out quality content and pay for different kinds of access to it? ... surely you jest!
Sincere congratulations to The Atlantic. Inspiring stuff.
Here's an interesting blog post from Nick Jungman, Editor at the Columbian Missourian, a newspaper directed by professional editors and produced by Missouri School of Journalism students.
It covers an experiment they've been carrying out to make "web first" more than just a slogan. Essentially, this has involved completely segregating the print production team from the rest of the newsroom and refocusing resource, in particular copy editors, entirely on the web edition.
Instead, they’d become “interactive copy editors.” They would focus on getting stories to our website quickly and accurately, on finding ways to increase reader engagement with our work online, and on making sure the website is always putting its best possible foot forward. The work of a copy editor would be just beginning when an article published.
These new breed of copy editors encompass far more than the traditional job description: part aggregator, part editor, part news barometer, part community manager.
I found this interesting as it's yet another example of how shifting the primary focus of a news publisher from print to web doesn't necessarily mean that there is less work to be done. What it does mean is that job roles need to be redefined and in all likelihood realigned.
I just watched the newly released video on the Bonnier News+ concept which claims to be the future of news.
Now, forgive me if I'm being too harsh, but I really don't see how this offers anything new to the digital news experience.
In sum, here's what News+ promises for you:
news updates throughout the day
save articles to read for later
conversations via social networks
new ad formats (though they doesn't really explain in what way)
updates on particular topics you follow
syncs across screens
interactive news - data vis, video etc.
and wait for it, best of all, subscribers get to give feedback directly to journalists and, gasp, might even get their comment featured in an article!
I just don't see what this has to offer which isn't already encapsulated by online news sites, Twitter, Instapaper and other apps.
Ok, perhaps that's unfair, it is beautifully done and would be very convenient, if convenience is your bag. When they say News+ will "filter out the din of the web", I think that will be the real key to its appeal. Curating and managing your own personal news stream can take time.
Let's face it this concept is not going to wow your standard web savant, however for the people out there who still think Twitter is there to let people know what you had for breakfast, this could be an attractive and appealing proposition. Just don't call it the future.
News+ concept live from Bonnier from Bonnier on Vimeo.
There's an interesting, although ultimately inconclusive article at the Guardian today on the secret of MailOnline's success. A couple of standout quotes:
"You either go free and big or pay and go niche," says one [Mail executive]. "We think the sums add up better to go free and big."
"Daily Mail readers who use the website buy twice as many papers," the Mail executive says. "If you have a strong website and a strong paper people will consume both."
A growing number of consumers get their news and information from social media sites such as Facebook, which now accounts for one in every six page visits in the UK. When Facebook went down for two hours recently, MailOnline's traffic increased by 25%.
Ross Dawson has created this infographic predicting when printed news as we know it will cease to exist. Ross himself is the first to admit that this is no hard and fast prognosis, rather a set of considered estimates based on current trends. These are outlined in the second infographic below. Ross has also written a follow up post about the reactions to the visualisation.
Clay Shirky has been one of the most astute and intelligent commentators on the future of news, newspapers and journalism. Here he posits that what Murdoch is doing with the Times and Sunday Times paywall is to create a kind of Newsletter strategy for Tories.
It is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
In early July, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation placed its two London-based “quality” dailies, the Times and Sunday Times, behind a paywall, charging £1 for 24 hours access, or £2 a week (after an introductory £1 for the first month.*) At the same time, News Corp also forbad the UK’s Audit Bureau of Circulations from reporting site traffic*, so that no meaningful measure of the paywall’s effect was available.
Ex-Guardian editor Peter Preston reckons that niche news sites, with partial paywalls, like Politico are part of the future of news:
Early on Wednesday morning, I did what all modern American election obsessives do naturally. I didn't turn on the radio. I couldn't be bothered with TV. I just went downstairs and logged on to Politico.com. In short, I chose the future.
According to its managing editor, Bill Nichols, you will find "no Tiger Woods, Lindsay Lohan or World Cup results" at Politico. Crucially, they make most of their money out of a small print run in Washington, DC.
Preston quotes Larry Kramer, who says that there will be "a patchwork of partial solutions… improvised arrangements based on lucky alignments of buyers' and sellers' needs".