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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”.

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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.





Superinjunctions and the Social Web

21 04 2011

It began in earnest with Trafigura but the freedom to publish now means that the superinjuction, a form of gagging order in which the press is prohibited from reporting even the existence of the injunction, or any details of it, is now almost impossible to enforce.

In the case of Trafigura The Guardian reported that it had been prevented from covering remarks made in Parliament by a superinjunction from libel lawyers Carter Ruck.   The Guido Fawkes blog identified that the question related to the allegations of waste dumping in the Ivory Coast by oil trader Trafigura.  Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian tweeted about it and Stephen Fry played a key role in spreading the story via twitter.

In recent weeks superinjunctions have been used by actors, TV presenters, bankers and footballers to prevent papers from revealing stories about their private lives.  A quick search for the word superinjuction on Twitter or using Google Realtime search and you will see the names of many of the alleged protagonists.   When I began my career in PR you needed to have good contact in a national newsroom to get the sort of information that never made it into print, now you just need a rudimentary knowledge of how to use a search engine.





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.





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.





Desmond Libel Case Bites The Dust

23 07 2009

Richard Desmond proprietor of Express Newspapers lost his libel case against author and journalist Tom Bower today.  The result was not the most fascinating aspect of the trial, it was hardly an open and shut case.  What was more interesting was the outpouring of opinion on-line within minutes of the outcome.

The jury at the London’s high court returned a majority verdict rejecting Desmond’s claim against the allegation, made by Bower in his book about publisher and tycoon Conrad Black, that Desmond had been “ground into the dust” by Black when forced into apologising  for articles in the Sunday Express in 2002.  Desmond believed the allegation damaged his business reputation.  However this is a reputation that is far from unsullied, in fact the Guardian’s Janine Gibson opined “It may not be possible to defame him…..” 

One of the first to comment was journalist George Dearsley who tweeted “People like Desmond have helped to kill responsible journalism and made many journalists’ lives a total misery”. “How do you libel a porn baron exactly?” added Leeds based PR about town Debbie Hastie.  The comments came thick and fast sharing dsatisfaction, joy and amusement at the result.

The comments may not have the grace and consideration of a national newspaper leader but they are quicker and a welcome adjuct to free speech …and they do a pretty good job of telling it like it is.








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