Study: Consumers find branded content less valuable than other types


Consumers trust “articles from credible journalists” more than branded content and user reviews when making purchase decisions, a study released today says. Nielsen conducted the study, which was commissioned by a company called inPowered.

It’s important to stipulate up front that inPowered is a business that “distributes content like an ad,” as Robb Henshaw, inPowered’s head of communications, explained to Poynter in a phone call. As David Taintor described inPowered’s ads last year, the company places “a snapshot of an article about that product—and it links to an actual story, not ad copy.” Read more


Russian spies take over New York Times website

An unusual ad greets visitors to The New York Times homepage Wednesday morning: Headlines with Cyrillic text descend from the top of the page, then jumble into Cold War-era “news” in English:

It is, of course, an ad for the FX show “The Americans,” which returns tonight.

“The Americans” used a similar-style ad last year, Times spokesperson Linda Zebian tells Poynter in an email. And an ad promoting the National Geographic show “Killing Lincoln” went back farther than the ’80s, using a Times front from 1865. Read more

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In this July 14, 2010 file photo, the sign for Gannett headquarters is displayed in McLean, Va. Gannett said Thursday, June 13, 2013, it reached a deal to buy TV station owner Belo for about $1.5 billion in cash, significantly boosting its presence in broadcasting. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, file)

Gannett earnings report hints at a coming problem with paywalls

By virtue of tough expense control and the acquisition of Belo Corp. TV stations, Gannett reported decent fourth quarter and full-year financial results yesterday. Its share price was off .06 percent for the day.

But the report included some dicey details for the company’s newspaper operations, suggesting challenges ahead for Gannett and the industry in 2014.

Circulation revenues were up for the year (1.1 percent) but down for the fourth quarter (-1.6 percent) compared to the same period in 2012. CEO Gracia Martore explained in a conference call to analysts that the company has now “cycled through” the lucrative introduction of paywalls together with bundled print + digital subscriptions at its 80 community newspapers.

This raises the concern that capturing revenue from new digital subscribers and pairing “all access” print/digital bundles with a big price increase could be a one-time revenue event. Gannett not only failed to continue gaining circulation revenue at the end of the last year, it lost a little, as these subscriptions came up for renewal.

Gannett does have a strategy to get the figure headed back up this year, said Martore and Bob Dickey, head of community publishing. The company has begun including a section of USA Today news as an enhancement at four of its papers and plans to roll that out to most of the rest in 2014. By the middle of the year, Martore said, the expanded content could provide the rationale for another round of price increases.

But even if further improvement is not forthcoming, Gannett counts the paywall initiative as a success. Martore said the company had made good its promise that the move would increase operating income by $100 million.

As I reported in October, 2013 turned into yet another year of big print advertising losses and small digital ad gains at Gannett and the rest of the industry. The fourth quarter was even worse.

Gannett said that overall publishing ad revenue was down more than 10 percent year-to-year compared to the same period in 2012. While the shortened holiday shopping season may have been a factor, Martore said she sensed that economic optimism among advertisers building in the middle of the year “kind of petered out” by the last quarter. Companies were skittish about expanding and adding new employees, she said.

The miserable weather so far this year is not helping. “If there is two feet of snow, or three inches of ice on the ground,” she said, “you can’t get to the dealership to buy a car,” so dealers have pulled back advertising.

Gannett continues to show healthy growth in digital advertising at its newspaper organizations and at its independent digital operations. But for the newspapers, the gains continue not to offset the losses.

This led an analyst to ask whether Gannett might follow the lead of News Corp and Tribune and spin off its newspaper operations, becoming a television and digital company. In essence, Martore’s answer was not now, but maybe later. She said the company would have its hands full this year completing the integration of Belo’s TV stations with its own and could not take on another strategic initiative as big as splitting the company.

More news on second generation paywall challenges and the temperature of the print advertising business can be expected when the New York Times Co. reports results Thursday and McClatchy follows on Thursday, Feb. 13.

The Times and privately held Morris Communications are now headed into their fourth year with paywalls. McClatchy and Scripps, among others, were still adding them through 2013. So Gannett faces the transition challenge at its toughest. Read more

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Magazines, including a Rolling Stone issue featuring president-elect Barack Obama, are displayed at a newsstand Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Magazine industry ad decline slowing, but 4th quarter not good

The final tally came in this week for print magazine advertising in 2013. It is the typical good news/bad news scenario.

Ad pages — the industry’s traditional measure — were down 4.1 percent for the year. That could be read as a step forward from 2012 when the decline was 8.2 percent.

Quarterly year-to-year comparisons had improved through the year, with the third quarter off just 1.8 percent compared to a year earlier, the best performance in two years. But the fourth quarter headed back the wrong way, off 4.8 percent, indicating marketing budget cuts at year’s end and perhaps a below par holiday season.

The weak fourth quarter at magazines suggests that newspaper ad results for the period, which will be reported by public companies in February and for the industry in March will probably soften too.

We will return to the overall measures in a minute, but here is a tasty tidbit.  Can you guess which category of magazines did best, bucking the negative trend and finishing up 11.2 percent in pages for the year? (I couldn’t).

The winner, according to a compilation by Media Life Magazine was men’s titles. Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness were both up by more than a quarter for 2013. Details, Esquire and GQ, all had gains of 10 percent or better. Maxim (-16.8 percent)  and Playboy (-5.4 percent) were down, reflecting declining circulation as their genre of photo offerings are now readily available online, in varying degrees of raunch, for free.

Among the weakest performers were the three surviving newsweeklies — Time (-11.4 percent), The Economist (-16.1 percent), and The Week (-19.7 percent).

So among print magazine readers, at least, abs and prostates are hot, news not so much.

The Media Life list is detailed and can be scanned to see how your favorite titles or categories did last year.  Entertainment and celebrity magazines were strong; high-end general titles like The New Yorker, New York and The Atlantic were off.

A few notable growth categories of the last decade — like food and shelter — have now leveled off and saw a small decline in ad pages

Media Life is directed at media buyers. That group includes young professionals at ad agencies and specialized boutique firms. The buyers are notorious for moving as a herd, so being a hot title begets still more business and comparatively weak performers are scorned.

The Publishers Information Bureau, source of the statistics, also now provides an estimate of revenues. They were better than the ad page counts for almost every title and came out even or just up for the industry compared to 2012.

This measure also does not include digital advertising. That’s not an area of strength for magazines, which even more than newspapers continue to lose ad share to the digital giants and other digital-only offerings.

Tablet editions, though a small contributor to magazine finances as yet, continue to grow both audience and advertising. A separate study commissioned by the bureau’s parent association, MPA, found that the 69 magazines that measure iPad ad units increased the units by 16 percent in 2013.

The limitations of considering just ad pages as a measure of financial health disadvantage organizations furthest up the curve in digital transformation. For instance, The Atlantic’s traditional monthly print magazine was down in pages 16.8 percent for the year. But the company’s broader portfolio includes a hugely successful conference business and the strong launch of the digital-only Quartz business news site.

Especially if the tablet use is included, magazine audience is stable or up slightly for the year.  However, as numerous reports including Pew’s State of the News Media 2013 have noted, single copy sales, the highest margin circulation revenue, have crashed.

Travelers, especially those looking for something to watch or read on a plane, are increasingly choosing digital alternatives, rather than the old routine of buying a handful of magazines before they board.

Curiously, the print revenues of all magazines — $19.7 billion for the Publisher Information Bureau titles — is just ahead of those of daily newspapers. Those were $18.9 billion in 2012 but sure to decline more when 2013 full-year results are compiled. Read more

chat green glossy icon on white background

Understanding opportunities and challenges in sponsored content (Replay chat)

Shane Snow, cofounder with two friends of Contently, manages a network of 25,000 freelancers. According to Contently’s website, the sweet spot where these freelancers thrive is creating content for “brands, nonprofits, and lean new media companies.”

Snow and his team, described as a mashup of journalists and nerds, are on the front edge of branded content or native advertising.

Forbes, a Contently client, recognized Snow this month in “30 under 30: These People are Building the Media Companies of Tomorrow.”

Snow joined us for a live chat on the opportunities, challenges and values of sponsored content.

Participants asked Snow about the ins and outs of branded content.

Twitter users can participate in any Poynter live chat using the hashtag #poynterchats. You can revisit this page at any time to replay the chat after it has ended. You can find the archive of all past chats at

Read more

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Newspapers will lose a half of their share of digital advertising in the next five years, Borrell Associates forecasts. (Depositphotos)

Forecast: Papers will lose more than half their share of digital ads in next 5 years

With all the talk of newspapers as dinosaurs, you might be surprised to know that they will close 2013 retaining their position as the leader among legacy platforms in share of digital advertising revenue, according to Borrell Associates’ annual review and forecast.

But as Borrell looks ahead, the industry’s digital ad prospects are alarmingly weak. By 2018, the consulting firm predicts, newspapers share of all digital advertising will fall by more than half — from 7.1 percent in 2013 to 3.3 percent in 2018. Read more

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Federal Trade Commission will put native advertising under the microscope Wednesday

I am wondering these days whether native advertising is truly a breakthrough format and has financial legs to underwrite a volume of quality digital journalism. But the Federal Trade Commission has a narrower focus for its one-day workshop in Washington Wednesday: are consumers being confused and potentially misled?

This is a staff-led information gathering session. FTC commissioners may attend but most likely will not. There will be no on-the-spot action or even findings. Read more


Front page ads aren’t new at the Los Angeles Times

I hope the LA Times was well compensated for this,” Nieman Lab director Joshua Benton tweeted about the Los Angeles Times’ front page ad Wednesday.

Image courtesy the Newseum

The paper has “had a number of innovative campaigns on A1,” L.A. Times spokesperson Nancy Sullivan told Poynter in an email. Read more


Mayoral candidate endorses himself in ad on alt-weekly’s cover

Cleveland Magazine

This week’s Cleveland Scene carries a wraparound ad for mayoral candidate Ken Lanci. The four-page ad goes over the Scene’s actual cover and includes an endorsement of Lanci — who has said he’d consider buying the Scene — from “The Lanci Tribune.”

In Cleveland Magazine, Erick Trickey wonders “shouldn’t a rebellious alt-weekly avoid a sleight-of-hand that suggests a millionaire political candidate can buy its endorsement?

What sort of political coverage of the mayor’s race will Scene offer up now? “Premiere edition,” declares the “Lanci Tribune.” Will the paper bite the hand that feeds in the next issue? Or keep quiet about the mayor’s race?

Trickey’s criticism is “pretty boring,” Scene Editor Vince Grzegorek says in an email to Poynter. Read more

From left, Doug Jackson of Shared Vision Marketing, Jeremy Caplan from the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, and Harry Lin with IMDb, give advice on startups,

Media entrepreneurs: Five myths can stop you before you start up

Let’s begin with this sobering statistic: nine out of 10 startups that get funded will fail.

Reliable and comparable numbers for news-related startups aren’t available, but it’s a good guess that any journalist thinking of venturing out on his or her own faces huge odds.

Three experts urged attendees at an Online News Association session Thursday to avoid five myths that can derail any news enterprise before it gains traction.

Myth #1: I’ll make money through advertising!

Harry Lin, head of business development for the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), an Amazon subsidiary, said the amount of traffic required for a website to pay the bills through advertising is “ridiculous.” More often than not, he said, startup sites end up running network ads, and after the network and ad agencies take their cuts, the sites are left with 25 cents per 1,000 page views.

“Which is why major media are in big, big trouble,” Lin said.

But some sponsorship models work, said Jeremy Caplan, Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism director of education. One example, the New Haven Independent, draws sponsors for its hometown news because people believe in what the website is doing, he said.

News entrepreneurs can also barter or sell services to small businesses that may need better content, video or photos for their own sites. Another approach is native advertising, which Lin noted is actually a form of advertorial. (This method has been used successfully by BuzzFeed.)

Myth #2: People want what I’m selling!

Doug Jackson, principal at Shared Vision Marketing, said what entrepreneurs believe is irrelevant and they owe it to themselves to test whether a demand exists for their business.

“Do your research on the front end and it will save you a lot of pain on the back end,” Jackson said.

Myth #3: People will work for free!

Your supporters may start out working without pay, only to turn out to be unreliable and fail to meet deadlines.

“What are you going to do — fire them?” Lin asked.

There are sites that offer free content, but the quality is sketchy, Lin warned. Sites such as Crowdspring offer another approach, Caplan said: An entrepreneur can name his or her price for design or writing services, get back completed work and then choose the professional to work with.

Myth #4: No one has ever done this before!

Lin said it’s been his experience that someone — and sometimes many someones — has thought of your idea first.

But competitors can also serve as potential partners, said Caplan. And, he added, it’s useful to know that competitors have validated a concept’s viability.

Quora, a community site for sharing knowledge, offers examples of startup founders recounting how they approached their businesses and discussing their successes and failures, Caplan said, adding that media entrepreneurs can learn which pitfalls to avoid by checking out Quora’s many discussion topics.

Myth #5: This’ll be fun! I’ll balance work and life!

The reality is entrepreneurs can expect to work all day and all week, Lin said, and the financial rewards may be long in coming.

“If you are going to do your own startup, be prepared to be very poor for seven years,” he said, suggesting that journalists uncomfortable with that “go work for the man.”

Jackson agreed. “I think the reality is you work all the time,” he said, but added that while that may be the worst of times, it can also be the best of times as entrepreneurs pursue their passion.

Caplan said starting a new enterprise needn’t be an all-or-nothing pursuit. Some journalists work at a job and build their enterprise on the side. “Yes, it is hard,” he said, but building a successful startup is a credential no one can take away from you.

The ONA session is a part of the NewsU Startup Loft, a series of workshops aimed at journalists planning the jump into entrepreneurship.

Related: 13 ways to get your journalism project crowdfunded | Six business lessons from TMD’s early demise | Debunking 5 Myths of Entrepreneurial Journalism Read more


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