SXSW – The Future of The New York Times

12 03 2012

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It didn’t take long for the Texas Tribune editor Evan Smith to get to the heart of the matter in his interview with New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Is the metered model really working for the New York Times? Abramson was unequivocal, at 390,000 at the last count, subscribers are a key revenue stream.

So does that mean that we can envisage a time when the print version will go altogether? “I don’t think we’re going to get there any time zoom” said Abramson and with 850,000 print copies still being delivered it is difficult to disagree.

Unsuprisingly Evan Smith is a great interviewer. The post Murdoch Wall Street Journal comes under fire, but Abramson isn’t drawn into criticising the direction the journal has taken under News Corp. “It’s still a major competitor”.

Despite, or maybe because of the paywall, The New York Times has embraced social media both as a way of gathering news and promoting their content “400 reporters are on twitter” says Abramson. Tweetdeck is used as part of the news gathering process.

The New York Times makes the metered model work because it is a powerful brand with loyal readers. Social media is an increasingly important part of the mix and inevitably, in the medium term, that will place pressure on the paywall. Abramson concedes “The free model works in terms of scale in certain ways”.





How Twitter Fuelled the Glitter Fake

21 01 2012

The fake Gary Glitter debacle only just failed to eclipse the weirdness of discovering in the very early hours of New Year’s day that Rupert Murdoch had joined Twitter.

Something happened between those two events that helped the OfficialGlitter account to appear to be really run by the shamed popstar and garner over 15,000 followers.  What happened was that  Twitter suspended official verification, which meant that there was no real way of knowing whether the account was real or not.   Actually twitter has turned verification into a money-making exercise, available only to advertisers and partners.

The Daily Mail, ITN and The Sun all added fuel to the fire with articles about the supposed social media comeback.  Column inches were even devoted to the announcement of a tour and new album.  This would surely not have happened if the official process was still in place.

If you search OfficialGlitter on twitter you’ll see that a huge amount of unnecessary upset was caused by the so-called social media experiment.  The idea that social networks fuel child abuse is arrant nonsense. Parents do need to be vigilant about who their kids associate with, on the wed as elsewhere but this isn’t about government regulation.  It was Gary Glitter’s infamy linked to the notion that it could actually be him that  created the problem here.

Twitter should bring back official verification.  #verifyback





10 other reasons for ‘The News of the World’ closure

12 07 2011

Although the hacking scandal was the catalyst for the closure of the News of the World, it was far from the only reason.  Here are 10 other factors that probably played a part in the News Corporation decision to the stop the presses.

1. They had been planning a 7 day a week tabloid anyway and The Sun is a more powerful brand than The News of The World.  A managing editor for the 7 day combined paper was already in place before the scandal broke.

2. To reduce claims about competition and help the BSkyB bid.  Even just a week ago the most likely barrier to the bid for full control of BSkyB was one of media plurality.  By ditching a huge circulation title they provided a counter to the claim that they controlled too much of the UK news media.

3. Money The title paid half a million in compensation and costs in the Max Moseley case.  There have also been a series of out of court payments over hacking and other matters in recent months and there’s little doubt these were escalating.  Perhaps there was a fear that the paper despite its circulation would make ever-increasing losses.

4. News Corporation is a global concern and its global reputation is more important than the fortunes of one British newspaper.

5. To deflect attention from the embattled Chief Executive on News International, Rebekah Brooks. It may have been a motive but it didn’t work.

6. Showing muscle. Murdoch is ruthless and wanted to seize the agenda and demonstrate that he was in control.  It showed they were capable of changing the game.

7. It was no longer the UK’s biggest selling newspaper. It’s circulation had fallen below 3 million and for the first time in decades The Sun was on average outselling the NOTW.

8. To protect friends in high places Andy Coulson’s associations with convicted criminals was already on record.  Further discussion would be uncomfortable for the prime minister and the Murdochs.

9. It’s over for newspapers.  An exaggeration maybe but consolidation of UK newspapers was long overdue.  Media experts have been predicting that titles will go for years.  News Corporation is a bigger company.

10. They know there were far worse transgressions and the brand was toxic. Now we know that too.





Murdoch and the News agenda

7 07 2011

The shock closure of the ‘News of the World’ might be seen as a major PR offensive designed to bring the debate on the phone hacking scandal to a close but it could well be an opportunity for Murdoch junior to kill several birds with a single stone.

Those that think that twitter is one of the birds in question would be guilty of an oversimplification.

The closure certainly seizes the news agenda at least for a time.  It changes the direction of the media storm and perhaps is intended to give Rebekah Brooks some breathing space but dig a little deeper and there’s another angle.

It was reported well before the latest storm broke that the were management mergers at the top of the Times and the Sunday Times but also at The Sun and the News of the World.  Rebekah Brooks was on record saying “We will take a comprehensive look at where there is common ground across our titles …where there is common ground we will find ways of implementing efficiencies to editorial systems and processes and, where appropriate, we will find ways of introducing seven day working.”

Tellingly the web addresses sunonsunday.co.uk and .com were both registered two days ago by a UK individual using the name Mediaspring and who opted to have their address omitted from the registration.  Would it be too cynical to imagine that Murdoch has used the situation to cut costs at Wapping and retain an integrated Sunday red top tabloid using the Sun brand?





Twitsophrenia – Split Personality Online

23 06 2011

Split Personality Cowboy and Indian CostumeIt began with a conversation in the Blackdog Ballroom with Dom Burch.  He is about to take a six month sabbatical from his role as Head of Corporate Communications at ASDA and he has a new twitter profile to mark the occasion.  I then saw on twitter that the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg is moving to ITV and will therefore cease to be @BBCLauraK; re-emerging in the autumn as @ITVLauraK.

The border lines in social networks are commonly understood if sometimes blurry.  Facebook for friends and frivolity,  LinkedIn for work and Twitter…well for either, or a bit of both, or neither.  Twitter is nothing if not versatile but if you tie your twitter account to one aspect of your life, in this case your working life, then you may find yourself in need of multiple on-line personalities.   The other downside is that if your circumstances change you’ll lose the network of followers that you have lovingly built.

For journalists, their personal following online is becoming more and more important.  Speaking in Cannes this week Piers Morgan claimed that a single tweet added up to half a million viewers to an interview he conducted with Charlie Sheen on CNN.  The value of a personal online network is not solely the preserve of the press.   So I guess we have to decide.  We can have different accounts for the different aspects of our lives or we can have an account that reflects the varied aspects of who we are and what we do but isn’t tied to any of them.  The choice as they say, is yours.





Don’t Let Blue Monday Get You Down

17 01 2011

Bliue Monday coverI’ve been left in no doubt that today is the blue-est of the calendar year.  It’s in the papers, on the radio, I’ve been told on email and twitter is awash with tales of woe.

So where did this notion come from?  It’s medically proven, there is even a formula.  Well no, the truth is it was a PR stunt for a now defunct travel company that has in just a few short years seeped into our national consciousness.   The idea, I imagine was to stimulate holiday bookings just when we have the post-Christmas blues.

As PR stunts go it has been pretty effective in gaining media attention, although the brand it set out to promote has fared less well.  This evidence for the date being the most depressing day of the year was first published in 2005 in a press release for the Sky Travel Channel under the name of Cliff Arnall of Cardiff University.  Well sort of… Cliff was at the time a part-time tutor at  a Further Education centre attached to the University.  There is even a scientific formula:  ([W + (D-d)] x TQ) ÷ (M x Na)  where weather is W, D is the ability to pay, debt=d, time since Christmas=T, time since failing our new year’s resolutions is Q, motivational levels are defined as M and the feeling of a need to take action is Na.   Clearly cod science.

Over the years commentators like Petra Boynton and Dr Ben Goldacre have got hot under the collar about Blue Monday and have given a red flag to the daft mathematical formula.  It has however has morphed into a bit of media fun that we needn’t get down about.  The fact that the formula predicted that the saddest day of the year was a Monday was claimed as a coincidence by Cliff Arnall in 2005 but the Blue Monday moniker it too tempting to resist and a Monday it has been for seven consecutive years.

The appetite for the story is apparent enough; January is a gloomy month and we all want confirmation that we’ve passed the nadir and are back on the way up.  Moreover with the demise of Sky Travel it has been used on successive occasions to promote awareness of mental health issues.  That’s not such a bad thing.  So chin up, it might never happen.





Will the Last Newspaper Proprietor to Back a Party in the General Election Please Turn Out the Lights

23 04 2010

I posted a few months ago saying that The Sun can’t win elections any more or even influence them in the same way they once did.

This election is proving that to be the case.  Yesterday after the press rounded on Nick Clegg after his success in the first TV debate and on the cusp of the second TV hustings, the twittering classes hit back.  The hashtag #nickcleggsfault was essentially a crowd sourced piss-take that said we don’t have to take whatever politically motivated guff you throw at us and the choice is ours not yours.

The Murdoch media are however hanging on to the old ideas of influence and boy have they had a concerted go in the last 24 hours pushing a YouGov poll on Sky News that was out of step with all others and that the pollsters have admitted today that they used a flawed process. The Sun has even been accused of suppressing polls that are out of step with their support for the Tories.

However we are now facing the absolute racing certainty of  hung/balanced parliament, so the only party guaranteed to be part of the next administration is the Liberal Democrat party.  When media owners realise that they can’t be certain of backing the winner they will back off from nailing their colours to the mast.   The backlash begins.





BBC Radio 4 The Media Show – Rentokil

17 03 2010

I’ll be appearing on The Media Show today at 1.30pm on BBC Radio 4.  It’s a discussion involving Ben Goldacre who has condemned Rentokil’s PR in the light of a story about bugs and public transport that they put out last week. 

I will be defending the PR industry in general and talking about how social media is making the world a better and more transparent place and how PR people will need to sharpen their game. 

I will also point the finger at certain sectors of the media, the journalists who have an unholy alliance with the likes of Max Clifford and who are complicit in reporting inaccurate stories.





All the Buzz of a Google Press Launch

9 02 2010

The press conference has changing.  It has become a form of ‘event marketing’ and it is no longer restricted to selected journalists (and bloggers).  They have to be invited of course otherwise it wouldn’t be a press conference but they are no longer the exclusive channel for the launch message.  We can all attend the launch.

This change has already taken place in the technology sector with two major examples in the past week.  Apple, who have mastered the craft of the press conference event, launched the iPad, and today Google launched its new killer social networking application Google Buzz.

For me what was extraordinary about the launch of Buzz was that this morning I didn’t know it was about to happen.  I picked up the buzz around ‘Buzz’ on twitter.  I saw that the press conference was going to be channelled live on YouTube so I joined Jeremiah Owyang and the select few who were actually there and tuned in.  I realised immediately that Buzz would be big so I ‘live blogged’ over at PR Media Blog whilst the conference was still on, screen grabbed an image from the YouTube feed and posted my take a couple of minutes before the conference ended.

I subsequently discovered via @scobliezer that meant I had broken the embargo that the journalists attending had signed up to.  Surely, they broke their own embargo?





The Sun Won’t Win it

30 09 2009

File:It's The Sun Wot Won It.jpgThe Murdoch owned tabloid came out last night in favour of the Cameron led Conservative party.  It did so whilst trumpeting the claim that it always picks the winner in the UK general election.

There was more than a nod to the headline “It’s The Sun Wot Won It” printed after the 1992 vote when they backed John Major. In the confident proclamations of George Pascoe-Watson, the paper’s political editor, do we detect the hint of a suggestion that Britain’s biggest daily dose of dead wood and ink actually decides the outcome of the poll?

There is no question that Gordon Brown’s popularity is at the lowest of ebbs but there is plenty of evidence around the social networks that the Sun’s decision has actually brought people out in support of Gordon.  National papers simply do not carry the same political influence when the ordinary voter can cry ‘foul’ and then publish their own views.  With the opinion polls so solidly predicting a Conservative coup, Murdoch and his red top flagship might even be accused of bandwagon jumping.

We also now live in an era where the people talk back and are far less likely than ever before to be told by the media how to vote.  Labour’s chances don’t look good but The Sun may have given the divided activists something to rally around.  Former prime minister Harold Wilson said “a week is a long time in politics” and there are still quite a few weeks to go.








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