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December 10, 2008


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Adrian Monck

"It is more than possible that in the UK (and the US and elsewhere) we will soon see major cities without a newspaper. And however good, local radio cannot perform as detailed or local a function. What would happen?"

I was talking the the boss of one of the bigger local BBC newsrooms recently. Lamenting the further decline of newspapers on his patch, he said: "Nobody covers the councils, nobody covers the courts."

So, in the UK, I'd say that we're already there.

But local government and the judiciary haven't seen the need to make more information more available.

Jan Simmonds

I'm not in any sense suggesting that newspapers are irrelevant or not still fundamental for those you describe. I am suggesting that unless they hedge against the downturn in print ad revenues by properly monetising their online versions, they risk ending up going the way of the Tribune. The audience for quality journalism hasn't gone away, it's just migrating relatively quickly to a different place! If they can't transfer their advertising Clients to new products then they only have themselves to blame.


Richard S

Thanks - what about those people who either don't have broadband access or don't have the skill or inclination to work their way through rss feeds, aggregation etc? A declining group maybe, but still sizable at the moment.

Jan Simmonds

...Following on from the previous post, I feel compelled to mention the crass stupidity of newspapers in the way that they have handled/ are handling their progression online.

Just as a pure case in point, I have this moment checked several of the Tribune publications online and discovered, by way of highlighting my sheer disbelief, that on the front page of the Chicago Tribune and The LA Times, they have a 240 x 240 animated Tiffany Banner visible on every single page load of the homepage. Further down and not instantly visible I noticed an advert from Amazon and one from ING. These ads are served I think by Doubleclick on a CPM based metric and the two latter brands are amongst the most popular across the affiliate brand agents and therefore generating minimal income streams.

I don't think that Tiffany today would be enjoying the association with the Tribune brand however cheap they got the space, but in any event, what the hell are Tiffany & Co doing buying inelegant pay per click advertising through a mass media buyer anyway?

So what's the point...well take a paper like the Financial Times, or even the WSJ and visit their homepage. These are the guys that can run weekend magazines and secure tens of thousands of dollars ad revenue for a single page, not to mention thousands from brokers, hedge funds etc. within the papers themselves. Finance is their 'niche/ focus' and their traditional advertising Clients are RELEVANT to that sell. Now maybe I'm naive, but the fact that the WSJ has just a pay per click Dell advert on its front homepage and the FT has NO ADS at all, says to me that someone at those offices is really losing the plot. Any sales person worth their salt, could sell several banner slots directly to financial institutions or luxury providers/ travel etc. for that privelege. Now is it sheer laziness or are the ad agencies themselves robbing Peter to pay Paul and leaving the Clients hanging in the middle? Hrmm..

Either newspapers don't have faith in their own online brands or they haven't wound up and pointed their sales people in the right direction, because there can't be any excuse for the above and unchecked, the aesthetically disatrous affect it will have on relationships with existing print/ potential future online advertisers will be ireversible.

The homepage of the FT or WSJ or sponsorship thereof, is not worth a percentage of how many clicks some twat tells them it is. It's worth what someone is prepared to pay for it. If they just speak to the brands themselves and ask the question, therein could lie the holy grail. Stuff the remora middlemen; just sustain the value of their quality and content and re-align the revenue sources and all will be well.

That's my view anyway...

Jan Simmonds CEO at www.famebook.com


Thought provoking idea not to have newspapers, even in the 21st century.

What would be lost is the authoritative brands for mainstream journalism and the financing structure that supports mainstream newspapers. At the same time you'd loose the filtering by the mainstream media, made infamous by Noam Chomsky, and which could be a good thing.

All those unemployed journalists would probably mean a huge boost for the blogosphere. And no doubt an increase for the influence of TV and radio.

I don't think that the mere fact of not having newspapers means it would schock our democratic system. Even less in this day and age where so much information is available to those seeking it. No doubt though that this is a scary thought for those who want to keep the status quo, like the political establishments :-)

It's the high quality reporting that is at stake. Whether this can be kept by the blogosphere at the same level remains to be seen. But with the right technology (rss feeds, search engines and ratings) I think it might even get better.

No doubt though that we're living in times where we leave our comfort zone and into some sort of chaos. It will take a while before we find back our balance.

Jan Simmonds

Dear Richard,

I wish I were two years further down my current path and might have been privy to what must have been interesting dialogue.

In terms of the discussion invited by this article, I think it highlights the very cause of the problems which I suspect were still overlooked at the weekend. Local, national and international 'news/ opinion' is now not only being sourced, shared and challenged in a way that has caught rather complacent media barons with their pants down, but it is also now almost cleansed by social networking and blogging in that it is instantly canvassed across hundreds of millions of people potentially; all who have the ability to 'correct' or 'embellish' it. When it reaches yours' or my chosen window, we can draw better than ever conclusions as to the truth of that particular matter and in most cases get a whole perspective! The lack of a print newspaper would only in my opinion precipitate the inevitable emergence of an online resource to take its place which would probably in that instance be better run and more relevant. (If it were well run it would not in my view need to fail!)

I'm sure a large number of those newspapers who are still suffering from illusions of themselves competing with the new online landlords, will fall, but great journalists will still be writing great content and people like me are working hard to define new ways of generating the revenues to pay for it so that anyday now we can open the doors to all that talent and put them in comfortable new homes. Sure they won't be able to push comments like these selectively to the Letters Pages anymore, but that will probably make them write better anyway and certainly more widely read!

I'll write a separate post on the matter of the crass stupidity surrounding monetisation by these newspapers of their online environments!

In the meantime thanks for the great blog!

Jan Simmonds CEO at www.famebook.com

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