A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

Posts tagged national newspapers

Things I didn’t know:

News UK moved to VIP last summer, becoming the fastest growing newspaper site in the UK, with well over 20 million monthly unique visitors, and tens of millions of page views every week. They recently added Scottish and Irish editions within a WordPress multisite configuration, all managed using the same innovative extension to the WordPress Customiser. WordPress is fast becoming an important part of News Corp’s worldwide publishing infrastructure, powering more and more sites in the US, India and Australia, as well as in the UK.

It’s a smart move – I’ve been a huge advocate of using off-the-shelf blogging platforms for mainstream news sites for over a decade, and it’s nice to see it becoming increasingly established as a mainstream approach.

It’s really cost-effective compared to many other approaches – and The Sun could do with some cost-savings right now

For years, those of us who have been thinking deeply about the digital translation have been asking the same question:

What happens when one of our national newspapers closes – or goes online only?

Anyone who didn’t know that day was coming has either been sticking their head in the sand about the changing economics of print newspapers in the digital age, or fundamentally believes that nostalgia is a business model.

As print sales have declined across the board – an inevitable consequence of the massive battle for attention being waged now that everyone has access to connected devices – it was inevitable that there would not be enough readers and advertisers to keep the same number of titles around we had 30 years ago. And so it has been proved.

The only question was: who and when?

An Independent transition – to online only

A death of print is announced

And now the question has been answered. The tiny (just over 40k paid copies a day), loss-making Independent is closing its print edition, and going online-only. There’s part of me that’s deeply sad about this. I remember the launch of The Independent, and was a loyal reader for years, valuing both its exceptional photography and independent stance. And its lack of royalty coverage. But that Indy is long gone. Today’s notice of the killing of the print edition is more like seeing an old friend’s suffering finally end.

Come March, The Independent will be an online-only national news site. And now the conversation changes.

New questions for a new age

This shift raises a whole bunch of new questions, like:

Who is next?

Folks on Twitter have been suggesting answers:

If I had to put money on it, I’d choose one of the tabloids. I think the remaining “qualities’ all have things going for them, but the sort of content the red-tops (and even the Express) peddle is so abundant and free online that the print edition is only valuable through convenience and nostalgia.

The Independent in intensive care

Equally important is:

Will The Independent survive the transition?

That’s an interesting question. With my “digital journalist” head on, there are some deeply fundamental weaknesses to the site. The staff show a lack of awareness of some crucial digital skills, and much of their copy could be run in print, with no modifications. If they’re to survive as a digital business, they need to get more digitally savvy. There’s also the problem that we’re deeply over-supplied online with both general news and opinion pieces. Trading off just those is no recipe for success. Selling a commodity product is a hard enterprise.

The online-only Independent needs to be as innovative and distinctive as the print Independent was back in the 80s.

Today’s news marks a turning of the wheel. Before, the majority of the public conversations were about running print and digital in parallel. (The ones behind closed doors were somewhat different in tone.).

  • The first epoch was digital as an adjunct or marketing tool for print.
  • The second was print and digital as equal partners.

We’re now starting the transition into the their epoch: the age of print decline. We don’t know how deep it will go – and I don’t think it’ll die completely – but once you start accepting that, the whole economics of the news business change.

As the cliché goes – fasten your seatbelt. It’s going to be a bumpy few years for these former icons of the industry. And not all of them will survive the flight…

Stealing the punchline from Peter Yeung’s interview with Malcolm Coles of The Telegraph:

There’s no way I’d have predicted the end of 2015 at the beginning of the year, so I’ve no bloody idea what’s going to happen in 2025. But I’m sure cat GIFs will still be important.

Not the most profound insight from an interview full of them – but certainly the most amusing.

(This year’s Interhacktives have really hit the ground running with the site this year – check it out.)

Douglas Boulton, one of this academic year’s crop of Interactive Journalism students at City, has just finished a couple of weeks as Ben Whitelaw’s personal coffee table doing shifts on The Times‘s community desk, and he’s shared his experiences:

I’m well aware of the bile that comments sections online are often dripping with, and honestly I was expecting my two weeks of moderating to be a fairly harrowing experience. Fortunately, you guys are alright, really. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the fact that The Times is a paywalled site, but by and large, 95% of you are respectful, rule-abiding, and most importantly, interesting in what you comment.

Not quite what I expected, either. One of the interesting things about The Times right now is that it’s one of the biggest experiments in building community behind a paywall, and that leads to some interesting side-effects. Maybe people won’t pay for the privilege of being arseholes online?

So please, when I give you a warning because you’ve libelled someone with your comment, relax for a minute and think of me sitting in a lonely office half way through a nightshift and a bit sweaty from my fifth cup of coffee, before you send me a furious email in which you call me a “jumped-up little c***.” Cheers.

Well, OK, apparently some of them will…

I don’t really have much to add to the story about the sudden departure of The Telegraph‘s editor Tony Gallagher. Roy Greenslade has the fullest account of Gallagher’s firing – from a very Greensladian perspective… Given that there’s an announcement of digital changes to the paper scheduled for today, this story looks set to run for a while yet.

I’m tracking the story as it develops, though, collecting an annotating pages in a new tool called Roojoom (of which, more in the next couple of days).

You can see the stories and my commentary by clicking below…

The Times Gin

Since this press release arrived, I’ve been struggling to find the words to blog about it:

For immediate release

December 18, The Times newspaper has today launched a new premium London Dry Gin, called The Times London Dry Gin.

Made in very small batches to a unique recipe, this is the newspaper’s first foray into an exclusive own-label drinks offering, backed by News UK. It coincides with a revival in gin as the drink of choice, with a growing awareness of the importance of high-quality ingredients and craft distillation.

And then, my problem was solved. Hogarth did a cartoon about it in 1751:

William Hogarth: Gin Lane

Apparently, the current state of the news business has driven at least one newspaper to drink…

Newspapers by household penetrationA just over three year old device (the tablet in its current form) is found in nearly as many households and the daily paper – and as the rest of Alan D. Mutter’s piece makes clear, the trajectories of those two numbers are in opposite directions. 

If I may be permitted a small spoiler by giving away his closing paragraph:

With aggregate revenues this year likely to remain comfortably north of $20 billion, the newspaper industry remains a substantial business. But it is less than half as substantial as it was a scant seven years ago.

The whole analysis of as to the validity of the claim that newspapers are still a mass media is well worth your time.

The internet buys a venerable news institution…

The Washington Post Co. has agreed to sell its flagship newspaper to founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, ending the Graham family’s stewardship of one of America’s leading news organizations after four generations.

Bezos, whose entrepreneurship has made him one of the world’s richest men, will pay $250 million in cash for The Post and affiliated publications to the Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses.

If you ask me, Bezos is just too old to play the 12th Doctor. Uh, no, Peter Capaldi is the wrong man to own such an institution. Uh, no…

Joking aside, this, I think , is going to be a fun ride. Vanity project or a change for a radical reinvention of an old institution?

Update 1: Lovely tweet from Dan Barker:

Update 2: From a letter to Washington Post staff by Bezos:

There will of course be change at The Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership. The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.

That’s the approach too few people have taken: start with reader need and work backwards, rather than trying to figure out how to make the kind of news you want to do become profitable. Like I said, interesting ride ahead…