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Look to the past for lessons on the news industry showdown with Facebook

News and commentary this week that leading news organizations are close to striking a deal to publish directly to Facebook’s platform reminds me, and others, of an industry faceoff six years ago with Google.

As you may recall, Rupert Murdoch had denounced Google for “stealing” content in its news summaries.  William Dean Singleton, chairman of MediaNews and the Associated Press board, threatened a war to protect newspapers’ copyright at AP’s and NAA’s 2009 conferences in San Diego. Google’s Eric Schmidt spoke to the NAA and faced a number of hostile questions.

We all know how that turned out.  Google won.  They continue publishing Google news summaries and referring traffic via search. Except to the AP itself, Google generally hasn’t paid for news it borrows. An AP-led effort to organize a licensing collective (NewsRight), never found its legs.  Read more

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Ken Doctor: News sites looking for new readers focus on millennials, mobile, and social

Media analyst Ken Doctor was at Poynter this week to speak to our international media tour group and do a webinar. Doctor, who writes for his own Newsonomics site as well as Capital New York and Nieman Lab, focused on building digital audience and ties to communities. I asked him to elaborate on a comment he made to the tour group that now we may be entering a period of several years in which digital audiences are up for grabs:

I also asked for Doctor’s thoughts on the many changes in newspaper ownership with spin-off public companies, private venture funds and local billionaires among the new owners. What are the implications for journalists and the future of journalism?

For more, watch Ken Doctor’s Poynter NewsU Webinar on Building Strong, Profitable Relationships with Digital Audiences. Read more

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Gigaom’s Mathew Ingram: “I don’t think anyone expected this”

At 5:57 Pacific Standard Time yesterday evening, the managers of Gigaom posted one last news story: it was shutting down.

Gigaom, the business and technology news site that was widely regarded as one of the world’s most crucial sources of industry news, shocked that very industry by shutting down last evening, laying off all of its employees, and offering nothing more than a cryptic item on its Web site: “Gigaom recently became unable to pay its creditors in full at this time. As a result, the company is working with its creditors that have rights to all of the company’s assets as their collateral. All operations have ceased.”

Phone calls to the company’s West Coast office were met with this equally mysterious notice: “Hello. We are not available now. Read more

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Ken Doctor: Newspaper companies should focus on news apps

kendoctor150Ken Doctor, media analyst and President at Newsonomics recommends that publishers continue to develop reader revenue while print advertising continues to fade. He spoke during a session at the Media Innovation Tour seminar held at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg on March 9.

Reader revenue is the new source of revenue for most newspaper companies, but the boost from paywalls has now hit a bump. Newsrooms, he said, now need to “earn their way back to the community.”

The particular focus should be on the number of loyal customers who are paying for subscriptions or news apps for access, Doctor said.  The future of news business lies in “relationships with community,” so news organizations should focus their attention converting their readership from “users – to readers – to subscribers – to members.”

That requires reconnecting with the community and becoming part of their news. Read more

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Stock market darling New Media Investment keeps growing, books small profit

Acquisitive New Media Investment Group reported its fourth quarter results today and tallied the score on $538 million spent buying newspapers over the last year and a half.

The company’s business plan calls for $1 billion in acquisitions over three years, so more of the same is on the way.

New Media also increased its quarterly dividend which yields investors 4 to 5 percent annually. And the company’s shares were up more 6 percent for the day and nearly 50 percent in the last six months.

Besides offering the generous dividend, New Media targets smaller papers that have been less affected by digital competition than metros.  After the acquisition of Stephens Media, announced a week ago, is completed in March, the largest circulation titles in its roster of 125 dailies will be the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Providence Journal. Read more

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5 Ways McClatchy is a model for a new breed of stand-alone newspaper companies

McClatchy has been a steady presence in the 15 years I’ve been writing about media business with a commitment to serious journalism even while shrinking newsrooms, aggressive digital expansion and continuity of leadership.

Looking at the company’s fourth quarter results Wednesday and listening to CEO Pat Talamantes describe 2015 plans, it occurred to me that McClatchy could now also be a bell-cow for the new generation of spun-off, newspaper only companies.  That group includes Tribune Publishing, early into life on its own after a split from parent Tribune late last year. Later in 2015 Gannett’s publishing division and the merged publishing operations of Journal Communications and Scripps will go that route too.

Here are five ways, McClatchy may be providing a preview:

  1. Revenue replacement race: Like other companies reporting in recent weeks, McClatchy had even worse print advertising results than expected, could not make them up with other mostly digital ventures and thus continues to shrink. 
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Digital video arms race continues — and little guys can play too

I wasn’t sticking my neck out far in a late December post predicting a boom year for non-broadcast video. Six weeks into 2015 plenty is happening:

*Publications of all kinds (Fortune for instance) are announcing new services and upgrades.

*Reuters, traditionally a business-to-business provider, has made good on promises to launch a daring gamble — Reuters TV, a direct- to-consumer video app, targeting millennials and their smart phones and programmable into a customized 5 to 30 minute show.

*My friends at the American Press Institute published a good report last week on best practices in video production and revenue.  Serial entrepreneur David Cohn, who recently passed through Poynter, has a good riff today on avoiding tired broadcast conventions.

But I also stand corrected on one bit of common wisdom — that video only works for big organizations and that even they are challenged to scale sufficiently. Read more

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Analyst Gordon Borrell sees local digital ads soaring in 2015, but not for newspapers

Gordon Borrell, among the best known of digital advertising analysts, was predicting two years ago that the newspaper business would stabilize, with some companies growing their digital revenues 30 percent a year.

Now he has reversed course, predicting another boom year for local digital advertising in 2015, but with newspapers and other legacy media badly trailing “pure plays” like Trulia, Angie’s List and Yelp in capturing a share of that.

Based on surveys of local advertiser plans, Borrell said in September:

They’ve changed their story on me…The storm for newspapers isn’t over, though I’ve been predicting for two years that things are about to get calmer. Turns out, the shift to digital is accelerating.

The future isn’t bright for print and broadcast media, I’m sad to say.

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Capital flows like water to media companies (of a certain kind)

December has started with a bang-up ten days financially for some leading American media companies.

Vox announced it has raised another $46.5 million in a new round of venture capital bringing its total valuation to $385 million. CEO Jim Bankoff, in a internal memo he made public, announced ambitious expansion plans for 2015.

Outbrain, a content recommendation/native advertising company, indicated it is tentatively planing an initial public offering early next year, with a target valuation of $1 billion.  (Outbrain, like its biggest competitor Taboola, is Israeli in origin but has moved headquarters to New York and plans to be listed on NASDAQ).

Meanwhile expanding Buzzfeed’s growth continues and its investor valuation stands at $850 million.  Editor Ben Smith was lecturing in Australia late last week as the site announced it has hired a star from Wired to be its Silicon Valley bureau chief and is forming a health and science desk. Read more

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Time-Picayune reporter Ramon Vargas, left, pats the back of movie critic Mike Scott as they walk into the newspaper's offices after learning learning their fate by the company in New Orleans, Tuesday, June 12, 2012. The Times-Picayune is laying off 200 employees as one of the nation's oldest daily newspapers prepares to print just three days a week. The layoffs amount to about half of the newsroom's 169 employees. Advertising, circulation and other departments also were affected at the 175-year-old newspaper. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Cutting print is a money-loser for Times-Picayune, but cutting staff makes changes slightly profitable

The events of the last two weeks show that Times-Picayune readers and employees are fighting-mad at absentee owner Advance Publications for deciding to eliminate their print newspaper four days a week.

Management’s reply, as articulated by Times-Picayune Editor Jim Amoss, has been, sorry, but “we can’t sustain the old business model in the face of irreversible print advertising and readership trends.” That was echoed by Ricky Mathews, president of NOLA Media Group, who wrote Sunday, “Before we faced economic doomsday, we decided to build a new model, a combination of print and online that gives us a chance to achieve a sustainable business and content model.”

So does that mean the savings clearly outweigh the losses in this transition to digital? My math suggests not necessarily, and not right away. Read more

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