Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Tribune reorganizing publishing, will cut 700 jobs

The Tribune Company announce in a memo to employees that it will be restructuring its publishing division to focus on digital operations and "streamlining" operations (which usually means centralizing jobs that had been done independently at its 8 daily newspapers).
"The new operational plan is going to change the company into one company with eight locations, as opposed to how we operate now which is eight individual and separate businesses," (Tribune Co. President and CEO Peter) Liguori said. 
The company hopes the move will trim costs to match the publishing division's declining revenues as it seeks to spin the publishing division into a separate company.  While remaining profitable, the publishing division's ad revenues fell by $84 million last year, and are already down another $62 million in the first nine months of this year.

The publishing division has already cut its expenses by 13% so far this year, primarily by reducing compensation costs through job cuts.  About 340 positions have already been eliminated in the division,  and the memo anticipates job cuts will double to around 700 by the end of the year.  Last year, the Tribune Co. eliminated about 800 jobs in its publishing division.

The strategy of using job eliminations to offset declining revenues, however, can only be effective if the revenue shortfalls don't continue.  In the face of continuing, industry-wide, long-term print advertising revenue declines (that aren't being replaced in full by digital revenue growth), cutting positions can only be seen as a stopgap measure.  And a risky one if the job cuts impact news content production and quality.

Source -  Tribune Co. reorganizes publishing unit, cutting nearly 700 jobsChicago Tribune

Monday, November 18, 2013

Forbes for sale; Is digital success fluke or future?

Forbes Media has announced that it is up for sale.  The move was first announced in a memo to employees last Friday.  Forbes CEO and President Mike Perlis said the decision to pursue a sale came after several initial "serious" offers had been made.
Forbes magazine has seen the same downturn in print advertising as its competitors, with a 12.3% decline in the number of ad pages over the first three quarters of 2013.  However, it's been more successful than most of its print competition in growing its digital side. Digital circulation at has more than doubled over the last three years, and digital earnings currently account for about half of total revenues for the parent firm.
One analyst indicated that potential buyers needed to ask 2 basic questions.  First, was the rapid growth in digital revenues driven by its aggressive branded-content emphasis in combination with its unpaid-blogger strategy? Second, if that's the case, why is Forbes up for sale?

Print media has been losing value in recent years, and increasing distribution costs and declining ad print ad sales have imperiled traditional print business models.  Many recent print sales (Washington Post, Boston Globe, Newsweek, Maxim) were at levels 80-90% below peak valuation.  In contrast, some of the early numbers suggest Forbes could go for only 20-25% below peak valuation.  That does suggest that Forbes Media may have been more successful in developing its digital side and business model.  That includes cost savings by ditching professional journalists in favor of unpaid bloggers (the Huffington Post model), and their pioneering "native advertising" Brandvoice program.  Native advertising is a bit controversial for its combination of interactive targeting and using ad content that mimics their editorial content.  The combination makes the more of a bazaar than a traditional journalistic outlet.
One critic suggests that the noise and choice of the bazaar will start to wear on the traditional passive news consumer and thus will be, in the long term, unsustainable.  And knowing that, current Forbes leadership is looking to exploit their short term success.  On the other hand, perhaps the bazaar is a much more comfortable venue for the younger Internet generations - after all, its really not that different from the Wild West of the Web.  Younger Internet users are used to having access to an abundance of content, interactivity and targeting, evaluating the value of content, and even seeking to place their own content for wider access.  If that's the case, Forbes Media may be positioning itself to take advantage of the changing audience interests and behaviors of younger media consumers.

Sources -  'Forbes' Placed On The Auction Block,  MediaDailyNews
Running For The Exit,  Garfield at Large blog,

Al Jazeera America ratings continue fall

Last month, cable news network Al Jazeera America earned abysmal ratings from Nielsen. 
Then, as now, the numbers of estimated viewers fell below the threshold Nielsen has established for its main ratings service for overall network ratings.  Still, the latest numbers suggest the network has averaged only 13,000 viewers a day since the news service launched on Aug. 20, 2013 (and only 5,000 viewers in the coveted 25-54 demographic sought by news organizations).  That puts it's viewership less than half of the failed network it purchased (Current TV, at 31,000).

In contrast, average daily viewing for Fox News Channel was 353,000; CNN 174,000, and MSNBC 121,000.

Source -  Al Jazeera America fails to attract US audience,  NY Post

Friday, November 15, 2013

What's up at NYTimes? Staffers continue to jump ship.

Yesterday, three more high-profile editors and writers quit the New York Times.  Sunday Magazine Editor-in-Chief Hugo Lindgren, Chief Political Correspondent Matt Bai, and media columnist Brian Stelter joined the procession of senior staff leaving the New York Times in recent months.
In the words of one former Times journalist, the paper doesn't have the cachet or perks it once did -
“Nearly everyone who gets a lucrative offer will leave,” (a former Times) journalist said. “The era of the lifelong Timesman -- or lifelong Timeswoman -- is over.” 
Times executive editor Jill Abramson tried to put a positive spin on things while acknowledging the large number of departures -
"Retention is becoming a challenge," Abramson told New York magazine. "The economy has improved, whether it's Bloomberg or The Huffington Post, I can feel on any given week that I'm playing whack-a-mole keeping our most talented people."
Perhaps referring to your top talent as "whack-a-moles" is not the best phrasing for a news organization that still likes to think of itself as elite (joining the Times' recently offered replacements for "repeatedly and consistently lying" - "misspoke" & "factually incorrect statement").  It should be no surprise that staffers in the newsroom are growing concerned about managements ability to retain and nurture talent.

It should be noted that the departure frenzy was initially bolstered by the Times' multiple offers over the last five years of buy-outs to dozens senior news staffers as cost-savings measures, and continued concerns over newsroom costs.

Source -  New York Times Departures Heighten Concerns About Staff Retention,  Huffington Post

Pew Research Graphic- Crossover among social media sources for news.

Part of a larger general report on how US Internet users use social media sites for news, this is a visually interesting illustration of how people use multiple sites.

Source -  News Use Across Social Media,  PewResearch Journalism Project research report.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

UK Govt vs Press - Actions and Updates

The last week or two have seen several actions in the continuing government intrusion into UK's press system.

At the beginning of the month, the UK government finalized the establishment of a new press regulatory authority in the form of a Privy Council.  The use of the Privy Council form was ostensibly selected to remove elected officials from the oversight process, but the industry fears that it will be still be strongly influenced by the government.  Unlike the previous Press Complaints Commission, the Privy Council will have no press representatives, and only limits currently-serving politicians and government civil servants from serving.  There is no prohibition on "retired" political or government figures, their friends and supporters, or representative of pressure groups from serving.

While those behind the plan claim "near universal support" from publishers, there has been very little public support, and very vocal concerns and objections presented by major news organizations.  In addition, several international groups concerned with the state of press freedom around the world have expressed their reservations and concerns to the UK government.

This week it was time for another shot across the bow for media in the UK. UK Home Secretary Theresa May told a meeting of the Society of Editors that the BBC was competing unfairly with local newspapers by using their Broadcast License fee revenues to subsidize its Internet operations.
"If the BBC can, as they do, provide all the locally significant news, what is left to motivate the local community to buy a paper? It's destroying local newspapers and could eventually happen to national newspapers as well."
She expressed concern that a dominant or monopoly news provider would be far too easily captured by special interests - perhaps forgetting that the BBC was the monopoly broadcast news provider for the UK for almost all of the 20th century.

In another speech to the Society of Editors, former BBC Chairman Lord Grade lambasted the new authority.
“The trouble is, that as soon as the politicians became involved, they did what politicians always do: they reached for the statute book — always the wrong answer where press regulation is concerned.”
“That final session, where politicians of three main parties huddled in secret over pizza with (activist group) Hacked Off to agree the final draft of the royal charter, while the industry directly affected was unrepresented — that session was, to say the very least, counter-productive”.
Even this early, it certainly looks like the British government's seeking to influence press operations and coverage.  It will be interesting to see whether the government chooses control over freedom as these new UK press oversight and regulation efforts get established and implemented.

Sources -  Britain approves new press regulation system, newspapers cry foul,  Reuters UK
Home Secretary warns BBC's internet dominance damages local media, The Drum
Lord Grade hits out at 'bonkers' press regulation charter,

If the BBC can, as they do, provide all the locally significant news, what is left to motivate the local community to buy a paper?
“It’s destroying local newspapers and could eventually happen to national newspapers as well.”

If the BBC can, as they do, provide all the locally significant news, what is left to motivate the local community to buy a paper?
“It’s destroying local newspapers and could eventually happen to national newspapers as well.”

If the BBC can, as they do, provide all the locally significant news, what is left to motivate the local community to buy a paper?
“It’s destroying local newspapers and could eventually happen to national newspapers as well.”


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The importance of copy proofing...

From our local newspaper, the Knoxville News Sentinal

Transforming Media Habits- Kids vs. "Live"

An interesting piece in the New York Times takes a look at the changing nature of kids' TV viewing habits.  In brief, this generation of youngsters are growing up in an era of instant-access, on-demand, viewing that matches their viewing preferences much more than traditional television ever has. 
   Decades of research have shown that young kids are drawn more to characters than plots, and are comfortable with the familiar.  And anyone with regular exposure to young kids knows that they prefer being read the same story, or watching the same cartoon, time after time after time - well past adults' comfort levels.  In the traditional media era, that mean reading and re-reading favorite books and book series, and watching favorite programs (whether Sesame Street or My Little Pony) that keep recycling characters, scenes, and episodes.  With the rise of home video, this transferred to tapes and DVDs, which also allowed kids more control over when to watch, as well as control over program flow (using fast forward and reverse to focus on favorite scenes).  Disney, which initially sued to stop consumer use of videotapes, eventually found they made a mint from families regularly buying new copies to replace worn out children's videotapes.
When children are enamored of a show (or, more specifically, a character) they want to watch the same episode over and over and learn every detail. Instead of binge viewing as their parents do, they déjà view.

In the new digital entertainment marketplace, technology has expanded the user's ability to control viewing, and it is becoming increasingly driven by "on-demand" rather than traditional live schedules.  Between DVRs, On-Demand access through multichannel providers, and online streaming services, users can control their viewing to meet their needs and preferences.  Broadcast networks are finding that half or more of current prime-time series viewing is done outside of the "live" scheduled broadcast.  And that's with adults, who like original programming.

  For kids, though, traditional "live" TV is a step backwards, a relinquishing of control, a subjugation of their wants and preferences for those of another.  As the Times' lede suggests,
When Eric Nelson’s 6-year-old daughter, Charlotte, and 10-year-old son, Asa, discover that they cannot rewind or fast-forward a TV show, they are perplexed — and their father is, too. It is hard to explain the limitations of live television to children who have grown up in an on-demand world.
Add to that the expansion of personal video devices - bypassing the historical squabbling among kids over what to watch on the family TV, and you have the basis of a major transformation in viewing habits - where young viewers can finally fulfill their viewing preferences instead of settling for what others choose to make available.

These changes are showing up in the TV's industry numbers, although not so much in the regular TV ratings numbers (although it could account for Nickelodeon's recent fall in traditional ratings numbers.  A recent study by Common Sense Media found that kids' TV viewing on mobile devices has tripled since 2011 while viewing on traditional TV sets is falling.  Amazon reports that 65% of the most-replayed content on its streaming service is children's programming.  Amazon's created a special subscription streaming service for 3-8 year olds, and says that more than half of its viewing is from kids watching shows a second, third (or more) time.  Netflix is finding that most re-viewing for preschoolers is tied to learning, while older kids focus on the humor in specific episodes.  That's shown up in their programming strategy - they know they don't need all episodes of a kids program (unlike for most adult series) - just enough of the favorites to satisfy kids' interests.  (And Hulu+ insistence on ads is hindering their ability to attract kids' viewing, and their parent's willingness to subscribe).  Furthermore, traditional kids' channels like Disney, Nickelodeon are pushing access to network streams and program archives through smartphone and tablet apps, and even making new shows available online before their network premiere.
  And while the kids' share of audience and advertising may be small, they've got a strong, almost insatiable, demand for content. 
“Popular children’s programs can be a really big driver of use,” and can keep parents paying for the services, said David Tice, a GFK media analyst.
As a result, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are working on creating their own original children's programming.  Netflix has contracted with DreamWorks for 300 hours of original children's animations, and Amazon has three new children's series scheduled for next year.

It will be interesting to see how much kids' preference for controlling access and timing of their TV viewing will carry through their adult years.  While content preferences will change as cognitive skills improve and interests shift, I think most will find giving up the control over viewing difficult - at least for most entertainment programs, movies, and short video content.  The value of live for some things (sports, etc.) may continue to overcome the loss in value resulting from the passive nature of "live" viewing - but when competition provides options and opportunity to personalize and control the media experience, it will be increasingly difficult to return to old couch potato habits.

Source -  Same Time, Same Channel? TV Woos Kids Who Can't Wait,  New York Times

History of Market Research

Online research firm Vision Critical has produced an  interesting moving graphic - "Evolution of Insight" - that tracks key events in the developing of marketing research since the 1890s.

It's worth a look.

Source -  Evolution of Insight,  Vision Critical moving graphic

Friday, November 8, 2013

CNN to refocus away from news

After a year of falling ratings culminating in last week's foray into 5th place among cable news networks, CNN has announced another programming shift.  CNN, rather than ditching the programming guru responsible for the precipitous fall (Jeff Zucker) , is telling analysts and investors that it is committed to Zucker for the long-term and is committed to shift programming investments towards "unscripted" shows from outside producers (e.g., travel, food), panel talk programs, and what it's billing as "immersive nonfiction programs."
  Instead of the recent promises of "record profits" that never seemed to be realized, CNN and top Time Warner execs (corporate owners of CNN) are now talking about "programming investments" and warning that CNN isn't likely to see any income growth for years to come.
“Financially, we don't break out network by network, but I will tell you directionally, CNN’s operating income this year is down, and that is because of proactive decisions by [CNN president] Jeff Zucker and the new team there to try and invest in the programming in many, many dayparts,” (Time Warner C.F.O. John) Martin said.
The executives gave the traditional nod to what had been CNN's core focus - breaking news, but also gave no commitments on maintaining the staffing and scheduling necessary to be competitive in that area.  CNN's last major breaking news performance (election coverage last Tuesday) was a distant third behind Fox (which pulled more viewers than all of the other cable news networks combined) and MSNBC.
  Time Warner seems to be signalling that CNN will try to follow CNBC's shift to more of an entertainment focus in search of an audience.  As such, CNN, the first full-time news network, may well become the first of the cable news networks to abandon an emphasis on news programming.

Sources -  CNN on spending spree to rebuild channel; Zucker gets 'multi-year' runway to growth,  Capital New York

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Reading in the Digital Age

A recent presentation posted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project has some interesting slides on ways that ebooks and readers are having on book reading.  E-reader capabilities have dramatically improved in the last few years, as prices have fallen, and the e-book market once dominated  by Amazon is facing increased competition from Apple's iBooks and Google Play.  And major publishers have expanded their ebook offerings.  Ebook adoption exploded in each of the last two holiday seasons through gift-giving and purchasing, and seems poised for another big jump this year.

One of the interesting aspects of ebooks is that adoption and use hasn't been dominated by young males.  Ebook reading in the U.S., at least, is fairly widespread, with a small peak in the 30-49 age group.  Where age does matter is with regard to which devices are used for reading ebooks. Those under 30 are much heavier users of smartphones, laptops, and desktops for reading (mobile phones 41% v. 25%; PCs 55% v. 38%), while those 30 or older are heavier users of Ereaders (46% v. 23%) and tablets (26% v. 16%).

As we're also starting to see with online video usage across devices, people are starting to develop preferred practices.  People overwhelmingly prefer reading print books when sharing (81% feel printed books are best when reading to a child),  Ebook advantages seem to be tied to practicality: 83% prefer ebooks for getting books quickly; 73% prefer ebooks for reading while traveling; and 53% note the wide selection available.  (I'll personally attest to the advantage of ereaders and ebooks when engaged in lengthy travels and semesters abroad).
Previous studies have also shown that ebook adoption and use is highest among heavy readers, and particularly among genre-fiction readers.  (I ran a used paperback store for a while, and our best customers would show up weekly with a grocery bag of genre fiction, and leave with another (romance, mystery, science fiction were top genres).

Another Pew study found that leading-edge librarians report that the rise of ebooks has induced a major shift in book searching and borrowing at their libraries.  Avid readers are using branch libraries less, shifting their borrowing to downloads from the main library website.  Browsing and searching for titles has similarly shifted from catalogs to websites.  Many of the librarians report that they're excited about the role ebooks are playing for their patrons, and for the future of reading and libraries.  On the other hand, ebooks have joined other media in competing for limited acquisition funds.  They're also finding that librarians find themselves providing "tech support" more than traditional reference services.

The Book Industry Research Group has released findings from its recent study of the impact of ebooks.  The key result is the conclusion that ebooks are now considered a normal means of consuming written content, accounting for roughly 30% of the market.  Some of the results suggest continuing industry transformations, however.
  The study found that readers don't differentiate between traditional big publishing houses and self-publishing alternatives when purchasing books. Content, author reputation, and user reviews on ebook sales sites is replacing the gatekeeping and brand functions that book publishers have relied on.  This could create problems for traditional publishers who can't adapt to a shifting market.  A number of small publishers have gone under as their authors discover that self-publishing can be much more rewarding to authors than traditional contract splits.  Others, such as HarperCollins, are experimenting with direct sales models for prominent authors' lists (and saving themselves the retailers' cut).
  The BISG study also found considerable and continuing interest in print books as well.  Almost a third of their sample indicated that they purchase print and ebooks interchangeably.  Consumers also expressed strong interest in bundling print and digital versions of books, and almost half indicated a willingness to pay a bit more for the bundle.  (Amazon's starting an experimental program offering access to ebook versions of books purchased through their site).  They also found that more than half of their sample expressed a willingness to pay more for ebooks with traditional print attributes of being able to resell or give away the digital versions.

All told, it seems that like digital audio and digital video, digital books have become a permanent part of the market for content.  The distinctive attributes of digital are transforming how consumers access, purchase, and use content.  The fact that digital distribution offers significant cost reductions, and opens up new ways of marketing content, are having their impact on traditional content industries as well.  The good news for traditional formats is that consumers see the advantage in all of the various form factors, and if traditional outlets can adapt their traditional models to become competitive with the new, they're likely to find ways to survive and possibly even thrive.

Sources -  Reading, writing, and research in the digital age,  research presentation, Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Libraries, patrons, and e-books,  Pew Internet & American Life Project research report
Study: E-books Settle In,  Publishers Weekly
Ebooks and discounts drive 98 publishers out of business,  The Guardian

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Newspapers see digital traffic growth

Online metrics provider comScore has reported that last September set new records for online traffic to newspapers' digital sites.  The tracking numbers showed that 141 million U.S. adults visited a newspaper's web site or used a newspaper mobile app.  That's 71% of online adults, and more than half of all U.S. adults.

Growth in newspaper traffic is up across all devices, with some of the most rapid growth occurring in the use of mobile devices for news.  And in what is a measure of good news for newspapers, mobile seems to be driving new readers to newspapers' digital outlets, and encouraging new patterns of online news reading.  The comScore report indicated that the number of US online adults who report using only mobile devices to get news has jumped 22% in the last three months, and now accounts for 23% of newspapers' total digital audience.  When you add in those using mobile as well desktops and laptops, 55% of total newspaper readership used newspapers' digital content.

These results support some of the findings reported by the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.  They found that half of American adults cite the Internet as a main source for national and international news, and that 23% of adults report getting news on at least two mobile devices.   Mobile devices, particularly tablets, also seem to be impacting news consumption.  Since getting tablets, 31% report spending more time with news, 31% are turning to new sources for news, and 43% are adding to their news consumption.

Sources -  Newspapers Set Digital Traffic Record,  MediaDailyNews
Reading, writing, and research in the digital age, research presentation, Pew Internet & American Life Project

CNN's slide continues; Fox News dominates

The original cable news network isn't faring all that well against competition, pulling in the lowest primetime average viewing in the last year.  For the Oct. 28 - Nov. 1 week, CNN averaged just 385,000 viewers for its prime time block, and only 95,000 in the prime news demographic of 25-54 year-olds.  Putting that into context, Fox News Channel averaged nearly 2 million more viewers in primetime (2,367,000), and pulled almost as many viewers in the prime demo (377,000) as CNN had in total.  MSNBC was a distant second in the ratings, averaging 683,000 viewers in primetime, and 150,000 in the key demo.  To make things worse for CNN's Jeff Zucker, CNN managed to just bet CNN's Headline News in weekly average audience (by some 6,000 viewers), and actually came in 5th on Wednesday for the key demo group, trailing both Headline News and CNBC.  The 25-54 daily ratings for Oct. 30th: FOXN 396,000; MSNBC 127,000; HLN 93,000; CNBC 79,000; CNN 67,000; Fox Business 4,000 (Al Jazeera America still doesn't pull enough viewers to make the daily Nielsen ratings).

Fox News' revamped evening news line-up powered its dominance in the monthly primetime ratings.  Newcomer The Kelly File soared to the number 2 show on cable news.  Audience numbers for Fox are up more than 20% in both total audience and in the key 25-54 demo following the launch of the new primetime schedule in early October. In fact, Fox News primetime's line-up were 9 of the top 10 shows on cable news, and its 2.12 million average primetime viewers made Fox News the third-most watched cable network in October, trailing only ESPN and TBS (which benefited from carrying MLB baseball playoffs).  Coming in tops isn't new for Fox, October marks the 141st straight month topping primetime cable news ratings (despite regular predictions of FNC's imminent collapse among more liberal news outlets).  But October's numbers also reveal its growing dominance - Fox News averaged more viewers for its 7-11 PM primetime than did CNN, MSNBC, and HLN combined.

Maybe there's something more to that "Fair and Balanced" idea than Fox's critics have been willing to credit.  That, or Zucker's revamp of CNN isn't working at all and its corporate owners will be looking for a new President for CNN.  (MSNBC is posting higher growth rates, but that's partly a result of it's ratings collapse after the 2012 elections).

Sources -  TV Ratings: CNN Suffers Worst Week Under Jeff Zucker,  Hollywood Reporter
Fox Tops October Cable News Ratings with Revamped Primetime; 'The Kelly File' Ends First Month in No. 2 Spot Behind O'Reilly,  Deadline Hollywood