Writing in TechCentralStation: Europe, Sandy Starr reminds that, “… October 2003 is the deadline for implementing the European Commission’s Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications, which dictates that ‘member states shall take appropriate measures to ensure that…unsolicited communications for purposes of direct marketing…are not allowed either without the consent of the subscribers concerned or in respect of subscribers who do not wish to receive these communications'”.
Several UK and Scandinavian publishers have allied to set standards for European online classified ads in regional newspapers. Called FinnTech, the alliance includes Schibsted of Norway and the UK publishing groups Associated New Media, Guardian Media, Newsquest Media, Northcliffe Newspapers, and Trinity Mirror. Together these groups have a print circulation of more than 9 million daily. According to Online Publishing News in London, the alliances’s technology is already being used at sites in the UK, Belgium, Sweden, and Norway. FinnTech builds atop the Adexalliance alliance in 2001 of online classified services owned by regional newspaper groups in Belgium, Finland, Norway, The Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK.
Is the newspaper industry determined to convince itself that charging for access to its online content is a good idea? To reach that conclusion, it seems determined to overlook all facts, data, and logic about the subject.
For example, here is the schedule for the panels on the paid content subject at the World Association of Newspapers‘ annual forum, which will be held next week in Dublin:
Fifth Session: Content and Business Development on the Internet
Chairman: Andrew Nachison, Director, The Media Center, American Press Institute, USA
Charging for online news, selling news on mobile devices, making the most out of both static and dynamic content — these are some of the issues that will be discussed, through case studies, in this forward looking session
The Jerusalem Post: going for online subscriptions without going for broke
Alan Abbey, Vice President of Electronic Publishing, Jerusalem Post, Israel
FT.com: drawing the line between free content and subscription
Tracy Corrigan, Editor, FT.com, United Kingdom
It’s all about value
Donn Friedman, Assistant Managing Editor, Albuquerque Journal, USA
See anyone on that panel from a newspaper that hasn’t switched to paid access and whose career doesn’t have a vested interest in saying that charging for online content is a good idea? Shouldn’t a panel on this subject be objective or have at least one panelists who is against the issue?
Last thatI knew, the Jerusalem Post had only 1,000 paying subscribers. Published reports say that the Albuquerque Journal has less than 1,600 after years of charging online. JPost charges $9.95 per month and Albuquerque $5 per month for access. Thus those site are making a whopping $120K to $96K annually, which certainly doesn’t cover the costs of running those sites. As for FT.com, most of its reportedly 44,000 paying subscribers aren’t paying for the newspaper site’s general-interest news pages, which are free, but for access to company information (i.e., the FT, like the WSJ, isn’t a general-interest newspaper but a daily business journal).
Borrell Associates‘ research has detailed how none of the 15 U.S. dailies that have been charging for content have been able to generate online paid subscriber numbers equal to more than 2.6% of their print circulation or convert more than 1% of their sites’ unique users into paying subscribers. My own research involve El Pais, El Mundo, South China Morning Post, FT, Le Monde, and Ireland.com shows that none of those major newspaper sites have been able to convert more than 1% of their unique users.
In no case has a general-interest newspaper Web site’s conversion to paid access ever resulted in that revenue paying for the operation of the site.
If WSJ.com Founder Neil Budde were a panelist, he’d tell you that paid subscriptions account for only 60% of WSJ.com revenues and that WSJ.com has never been profitable, even with all its sources of revenue. In March, Neil told the JupiterMedia’s Content conference that it was a bad idea for a general-interest newspaper to switch from free to paid access. Paul Maidment, founding editor of FT.com and now executive editor of Forbes magazine and editor of Forbes.com, told that same conference that he was glad to leave FT.com before its “dumb’ switch to paid.
PEPCWorldwide, whose satellite-connected vending boxes can on-demand print any of 119 daily newspapers from 48 countries, is rebranding itself as Satellite Newspapers. Steve Mannen, CEO of the Dutch company, explains, “This new easy-to-remember name reflects our company’s focus on the seamless distribution of digital newspaper editions through multicast satellite transmission. To secure a uniform and consistent market approach we decided to simultaneously link the name of the newspaper-vending machine directly to the company.”
Furthering the convergence of mobile phones and PDAs into single devices for multiple purposes, Nokia’s Bejing research laboratory has developed a phone that recognizes inputs in Chinese language pen strokes. The Nokia 6108 apparently recognizes all or most of the 2,000 characters in the simplified version of the Chinese language alphabet. It also recognizes Latin alphabetical characters and includes a Chinese-English-Chinese translation dictionary. A user can input and send notes in either (or both) languages. It also features a contact manager, MMS, e-mail software, and a Lunar Calendar.
According to a story in the bulletin of the Nihon Shinbun Kyokai (The Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association), few Japanese online publications are charging for content or have had success doing that.
For instance, Asahi Shimbum on March 3rd began charging for access to a subsection of its Web site but has gained only 2,000 subscriptions. That might seem like a lot to U.S. online publishers, but remember that Asahi Shimbum‘s daily print circulation is 12.5 million! Moreover, that subsection has 230,000 registered users. So, Asahi Shimbum‘s paid online access conversion rate for that subsection after two months is only 16/1000th of its print circulation and less than one percent of unique users. Despite Asahi Shimbum‘s premier brand name marketing muscle within its home market, its results at this are are no better than any other online newspaper in any other country.
Congratulations to Monique van Dusseldorp, founder and CEO of Van Dusseldorp & Partners in Amsterdam, and co-founder of Europemedia, who has won a Vosko Award for her long service to the digital media industry in the Netherlands.
A veteran Internet consultant and analyst, Monique previously worked for the publishing and media company Wegener Arcade in Amsterdam and for the European Institute for the Media in Dusseldorf, Germany, and has been listed by Online Journalism Review as the “50 international names to know on the Internet”. She co-founded Europemedia five years with Robin Hunt and Norbert Specker, who initiated the idea; however, Van Dusseldorp & Partners now solely operates Europemedia.
A U.S. District Court judge yesterday ruled that file-swapping software company Kazaa, which is based in Australia and incorporated in the island republic of Vanuatu, can be sued in U.S. courts for copyright infringement. Federal Judge Stephen Wilson ruled that because Kazaa does substantial business in the U.S. and is alleged to engage in copyright infringement, it is subject to U.S. copyright law.
During the previous two months, Judge Wilson in Los Angeles heard evidence and testimony from Kazaa and from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Kazaa claims that, unlike Napster, it doesn’t operate a central search engine that lists downloadable files that might infringe copyright and so it isn’t responsible for how individual consumers use its file-sharing software, which allows those consumers to share files directly among themselves. But the MPAA and RIAA claimed that Kazaa is in constant touch with those consumers, using them as an advertising audience.
The ruling is a major legal victory for MPAA and RIAA, which have sought to include Kazaa in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against a number of file-swapping companies.
Are you shopping for the best country in which to sue for libel in print?
In public hearings in Brussels last week, the European Association of Magazine Publishers and the British Periodical Publishers Association protested a European Commission proposal, known as Rome II, that would allow libel plaintiffs to choose the laws of their country of residence rather than the laws of the publication’s country. Last year, the European Publishers Council, the UK’s Advertising Association, and the American Media Law Center (PDF) had protested the EC proposal.
Although the Internet publishing community was rocked last month by an Australian decision that allowed a plaintiff to sue in his home country rather than the country of the publication, the Rome II proposal only pertains to print publications because the EC in 2000 adopted a law, called the e-commerce directive, which says that the laws of the country where the website is situated should apply in disputes involving online marketing, publishing, and sales.
While researching international online privacy issues for a client today, I happened across the Center for Democracy & Technology‘s fairly comprehensive Guide to Online Privacy. I initially came across it while looking for any updates to the U.S. Commerce Department’s ‘Safe Harbor’ consumer privacy agreement with the European Union. The CDT site had no such updates but contains a wealth of hyperlinks to information about the ‘Safe Harbor’ treaty, about P3P, wireless device location privacy, and other online privacy issues.
Many of my conservative friends in the publishing industry might carp at the CDT’s liberal tone, but I believe that online businesses have to be actively pro-privacy to profit. For example, eMarketer today reports that concerns about online privacy was the reason why 82% of US consumers online refused to give information to a Web site
Despite rocketing use of the Internet in Germany, consumer use of television, newspaper, magazine, and book use remained constant, and radio use in that country increased slightly. For figures and rankings, see the story in Europemedia.