Tag Archives: WAN

Accounting for Time

The more business we do, the less time we have to post our views. That’s one of three reasons for the scarcity of recent postings to the business blog section of this website.

The second reason is that I’m drafting a long article about the root of why American newspaper circulation has declined during the past 30 years, why that industry’s efforts to transplant its existing business from print to online won’t save it, what should have been done, and what might still be done in the ruins. I intend this article to go beyond What Newspapers and Their Websites Must Do to Survive, my essay published three years ago this month in Online Journalism Review. I think almost everyone has overlooked the major cause of why newspapers have lost circulation and readership during the past 20 years (which is also a major the reason why most newspapers’ websites after ten years are still read by fewer people and less frequently than the printed editions).

What’s the major cause? Sorry, but I’ll spotlight that in my article, which I hope to publish either late this month or early next month. As food for thought, meanwhile, allow me to list what the major problem is not:

  • The major problem isn’t ownership of newspapers by publicly traded corporations. Wall Street isn’t the problem. Newspaper readership has been steadily declining since the 1960s, well before most American newspapers were became owned by publicly traded companies. The layoffs and cutbacks that such companies are now making wouldn’t be made if readership and circulation were increasing. In other words, the layoffs and cutbacks are in reaction to the problem, not the cause of the problem. Yes, cutting newsroom staff doesn’t help increase readership and circulation, but it isn’t the cause of the decreases in readership and circulation.
  • The major problem isn’t lack of ‘Citizen Journalism.’ It is true that most American newspapers lost touch with their readers and many also ‘talk down’ to the readers who remain. There are many worthwhile ‘citizen journalism’ experiments underway at some American newspapers, and the tools those use can be widely applied throughout the industry. However, American newspapers thrived for centuries without ‘citizen journalism’ and advocates of it should why and what changed.
  • The major problem isn’t print’s lack of interactivity or multimedia. American newspapers thrived for centuries without interactivity or multimedia. Why and what changed?
  • Nor is the major problem newsprint itself. People today aren’t forsaking paper, just what newspaper companies print on it.

I hope my coming article will answer those questions, plus show how American newspapers need to return to what made them thrive for centuries, things the newspapers can do even better now with the new technologies.

Finally, the third reason for the scarcity of recent postings here is that any time my business partner or I blog is unpaid time for us. Unlike many other bloggers elsewhere, neither of us has had a paycheck or salary during the past ten years. We live solely from the net profits of our companies. An hour or so blogging is an hour or so of lost income to us, which can be a costly distraction.

Nevertheless, many people have asked us to continue blogging. So, we’ll continue to try whenever spare moments between business and other writing permits. Here’s what caught our attention online today:

National Journal magazine columnist William Powers believes that, “What the newspaper industry needs right now is a good publicist. Not a ‘vice president for public relations’ or a ‘spokesperson’ who puts out press releases and waits for phone calls. I mean a hard-core, hard-charging publicist like the ones celebrities employ to craft the image and keep the ‘brand’ humming.” Yes, that’s what he thinks it needs. He apparently thinks readership and circulation has been declining because newspapers don’t get enough publicity and need brands that ‘hum’ more. I’m glad he didn’t suggest Tupperware parties, too.

Jack Klunder, the circulation chief of the Los Angeles Times has sent a memo to the newspapers’ employees, “The fact remains there are too many of us with too many reasons for not subscribing. Is it because you don’t care? Is it because you get it at the office? Price? Latimes.com? Regardless of your lame excuse, all of us should be subscribing to our great paper. Why we don’t escapes me.” Perhaps, because they read it at the office?

The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that its advertising revenues slid ten percent last month, largely because of “weakness in technology, financial, general and classified advertising categories.”

Meanwhile, the Tribune Company, which earlier this month sold its two smallest newspapers (the joint operation of The Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time), announced that, ” we have no current plans to sell additional newspapers.” So said Scott Smith, president of the publishing division of the Chicago-based parent company, in a brief statement. Considering that nobody responded when Tribune put its other newspapers out to bid, Tribune’s plan is no surprise.

I live in Greenwich and know some Greenwich Time staffers socially. They were happy that Tribune sold their newspaper to Gannett Company, which publishes neighboring newspapers. That is, they were happy until Gannett asked all Greenwich Time and Stamford Advocate employees to apply for their own jobs. Apparently, Gannett bought the assets of those newspapers, not the company or its employment.

Just as Tribune was selling its smallest newspapers, the Washington Post reported what many of us who have published small newspapers know: “If there’s any good news about the businesses of newspapering these days, it can be found at the industry’s littlest papers, which are doing well even as their bigger brothers founder.”

I may need to hike my consulting fees. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that it’s hired one of my acquaintances, 36 year-old Eric Grilly, as the new president of Philly.com, that newspaper’s online operation. Eric’s departure from the MediaNews Group newspaper chain, where he recently was given a seat on the executive committee and where his father retired as chief operating officer eight months ago, has surprised a lot people in American online news publishing community. More surprising to people was his compensation at MediaNews Group, which Philly.com reported as $346,050 in salary and bonus during 2006.

eMarketer.com is predicting that American online advertisement revenues will increase only 18.9 percent this year, compared to increases of more than 30 percent during each of the past three years. eMarketer predicts it will rebound to 22.1 percent during 2008, but then begin shrinking to to 13 percent annual growth in 2011. MediaPost reports that five other analysis firms (Borrell, Forrester Research, JupiterResearch, Oppenheimer and PricewaterhouseCoopers) predict annual growth slipping into the single digits in the next couple of years, for the first time since the start of the commercial Internet. I keep that in mind whenever I read newspaper trade journal predictions that at the ‘current rate of growth’ online revenues will be able to save the declining print operations. What makes those journals think that the 30 percent growth will continue?

I would have liked to attend the UK Online Publishers Association meeting in London or the World Association of Newspaper’s Digital Winners conference in Oslo this week, but was preparing for a business trip to Central America (which became postponed yesterday).

When Trade Associations Do Dumb Things

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Night Safari, Singapore, July 2006  – © Vin Crosbie

When the newspaper industry is already limping, why do some of its major trade association further shoot it in the feet?

That’s what the World Association of Newspapers, the Federation of International Periodical Press, and Ifra have done. I won’t directly tell you which of these associations is to blame, but you’ll probably be able to deduce which from this posting.

For years, WAN, Ifra (whose name I’ll explain beneath this posting), and FIPP have together organized Beyond the Printed Word, an annual conference about publishing on more than paper. It’s held in the autumn in a European city (Prague in 2004 and Madrid last year). Attendence at last year’s was sold out. This year’s Beyond the Printed Word will be held November 9-10 in Vienna.

Ifra, which has been the general organizer of the conference, recruited me in April to be this year’s co-chair/co-moderator (the other is Annelies van den Belt, the new media director of the Telegraph Group Limited of the UK). This year’s conference venue was set; the conference program outlined; and invitations were sent to proposed speakers (almost all of whom accepted).

But WAN and FIPP then decided to split from Ifra, hold their own new media conference — the World Digital Publishing Conferenc and Expo — and scheduled it in another European city two weeks before Beyond the Printed Word.

I don’t know about you, but I see no reason for the newspaper industry to hold two similar conferences at approximately the same time in two different cities. It’s counter-productive and will dilute or muddy either conference or probably both. It’s a lame idea for this limping industry.

Because I’m a co-chairman of this year’s Beyond the Printed Word, you might think that I know a lot about why the split occured. But in fact I don’t. I found out about the split weeks after it had occured, and only then because I’d read WAN’s announcement of its World Digital Publishing Conference and Expo and asked WAN why they and FIPP were announcing their own digital publishing conference a fortnight before the conference that I had thought I was co-chairing in Vienna for their organizations plus Ifra.

One reason why most trade conferences are so expensive to attend is that the associations use them as a revenue generators. Attendee registration fees can rage anywhere from $500 and $3,000. Attending Beyond the Printed Word will cost you between €850 and €1,290 or the World Digital Publishing Conference and Expo €980 and €1,450.

I suspect that WAN and FIPP (which generally goes along with WAN) didn’t like the revenue split they’d been getting from the Beyond the Printed World conferences. Deciding to hold their own conference, they intentionally scheduled it right before Beyond the Printed Word to preëmpt as much of the latter attendence as possible.

Too bad. If WAN wanted to pull out of Beyond the Printed Word and run its own digital publishing conference, it should have scheduled its conference at an antipodal date — such as in the spring — rather than attempt to preëmpt the annual Beyond the Printed Word conference it, FIPP, and Ifra had spent years promoting and developing. That would have better served the newspaper industry than holding two similar conferences at approximately the same time.

I personally regret the split because I like the staffs of both WAN and Ifra. But because I now find myself to be co-chairman of a conference organized only by Ifra and WAN wants to compete with it, I’ve got a duty to make sure that Ifra’s Beyond the Printed Word is a better conference than WAN & FIPP’s World Digital Publishing Conference and Expo. I regret that my friends at WAN have put me involuntarily into that position. I wish it wasn’t so.

[By the way, Ifra was originally named the INCA-FIEJ Research Association. INCA meant International Newspaper Colour Association and FIEJ meant Fédération Internationale des Editeurs de Journaux.]

Beyond the Printed Word 2006

I thank the International Federation of the Periodical Press and Ifra for naming Annelies van den Belt, the New Media Director of London’s the Telegraph Group Limited, and me as the two chairpeople for those trade organization’s annual Beyond the Printed Word digital publishing conference. The conference will be held November 9-10 in Vienna.

Attendence at the 2005 Beyond the Printed Word sold out. We hope to do the same this year. We’ll be focusing on four themes: Empowering the community, ‘Search-mania,’ Online advertising, and New news formats.

Among the confirmed speakers are Naples Daily News Director New Media & Convergence Rob Curley, MSNBC Vice President of Sales Kyoo Kim, Speurders Managing Director Michiel van der Meer, Fairfax Digital Managing Editor Mike van Niekerk, Sesam Managing DirectorMikal Rohde, and Guardian Unlimited Digital Director Simon Waldman.

Raise a Web Banner for World Press Freedom Day (May 3)

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I call for each newspaper website worldwide to create and display a banner ad on May 3rd for World Press Freedom Day.

During the past seven years, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has freely provided printed newspapers with photos, graphics, and texts about jailed or killed journalists, including essays by world notables denouncing the jailings or killings of journalists, that newspapers can publish on May 3rd.

Why shouldn’t newspapers’ online editions also campaign for world press freedom?

Online editions get their news from the same journalists. Plus, if online editions are to succeed print and become the dominant source of news during this century, then online editions must raise the banner for world press freedom. Let’s start now!

WAN has no World Press Freedom Day campaign materials specifically for online editions, a forgivable oversight. Moreover, my guess is that WAN might not have staff time or budget to create such materials between today and May 3rd.

Yet, online newspaper staffs are creative. I propose that online newspapers editions adapt the World Press Freedom Day infographics, photos, and texts that WAN offers online for printed edition use. Shrink the printed banners to banner ad size, etc.

Can your online newspaper afford to give one banner ad space on its home page?

It’s only for one day. If you don’t want to give us that advertising space, then just add another space for this campaign. (Or perhaps create a separate web page about World Press Freedom.) Can’t your online edition do that as a public service in honor of the thousands of journalists who risk their lives each day, some of whose work you might be publishing? Or for the more than 500 journalists who have been arrested and imprisoned this year? Or for the more than 50 who have been murdered this year?

What should news sites not operated by newspapers do?

WAN offers these campaign materials specifically to newspapers for use on May 3rd. I believe that prohibits use by other types of media organizations. However, this shouldn’t mean that other types of organizations can’t craft from their own campaign materials from other sources, notably from news stories about imprisoned or killed journalists. Do so!

Many newspaper publishers this year have declared that online is no longer subsidiary but core to their news efforts. Let’s make World Press Freedom Day core online, too!

eMarketer Backs My Paris Speech

On Friday, eMarketer cited my speech last month to the World Association of Newspaper’s Advertising conference and verified what I said:

    eMarketer’s own projections confirm fears that online classified ad spending does not measure up to other, more vibrant online ad spending formats such as rich media and sponsorships. Although total spending on online classified advertising will continue to grow for several years, it is likely to do no more than match the growth in total spending.

I’m glad eMarketer’s figures agree with Borrell Associates‘ figures, which I cited. eMarketer’s report also provided a useful chart (the Borrell research provides many others).

Continue reading eMarketer Backs My Paris Speech

WAN Paris Report: American Newspaper Revenues Online


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My speech last week for Borrell Associates to the World Association of Newspapers Advertising Conference in Paris received good play in The Guardian of London, MarketWatch in the U.S., PaidContent.org, and from WAN itself. Yet, most of the news stories focused on a comparison I made between the values of print edition readers and online edition readers.

That was a good ‘take-out’ quote for those stories to use. However, I made that comparison towards the end of my speech just to show the newspaper advertising executives that they must greatly increase their online revenues, particularly if their readerships continue shifting from print to online.

Other points I made were that American newspapers are earning significant revenues online, particularly now that local advertisers are going online. However, newspapers are in danger of losing local online advertising revenues, not to TV or radio stations but to ‘pure-play’ Internet competitors such as Google and Yahoo. And that newspapers must their expand their online advertising focus well beyond just the traditional classified advertising categories of jobs, properties, and automotive, because those three categories account for just a fraction of the monies advertisers are spending online.

So, for the record, here’s the text of that speech:

Continue reading WAN Paris Report: American Newspaper Revenues Online

A WAN Attempt to Turn Back Time


In 1994, I was doing some consulting to The New York Times Information Services Group (NYTISG), which had put that newspaper’s content onto America Online’s proprietary online service. It had recently launched a website containing New York Times Syndicate stories, which were taken from the front sections of the newspaper, and NYTISG was deliberating whether to launch a website for the newspaper itself.

But first it wanted to promote the NYT Syndicate stories’ website. Its staff had noticed from usage logs that one person in particular was accessing the syndicate site many times each day. So, they asked me track down that person and ask him if he’d be willing to be part of a promotional ad for the website.

Running that person’s IP address through a WHOIS engine, I it resolved to filo.stanford.edu. I phoned Stanford University’s IT Department and I learned that filo.stanford.edu wasn’t one person, but a computer server operating a Web indexing spider under the direction of two doctoral candidates, Jerry Yang and David Filo.

I reported this the vice president in charge of NYTISG. I explained what a Web indexing spider was; how the basics of that technology were in the public domain; and suggested that The New York Times Company should operate one. That way, I said, the Times’ site would offer online users not only ‘All the News that’s Fit to Print’ but also a searchable index of everything that is online.

The vice president (who now publishes a newspaper in the state of Washington) looked at me as if I was daft and he replied, “No, we’re a newspaper, not some sort of online encyclopedia or phone book.“

Of all the consulting advice that I’ve given clients during the past dozen years, it was the one bit that I wish had been followed.

The New York Times Company and most every other newspaper in the world nowadays wishes it had the online traffic, gross revenues, and market capitalization of Yahoo! — the Web indexing company that Jerry Yang and David Filo built from that spider.

I mention this because last week the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), the trade organization representing 18,000 of the world’s newspapers, announced that it had joined other traditional publishers organizations in efforts to determine if can they legally charge the search engines that index their news.

The other publishers organizations involved are the International Publishers Association (IPA), International Federation of the Periodical Press (FIPP), European Federation of Magazine Publishers (ENPA), European Publishers Council (EPC), European Magazine Publishers Association (FAEP), French association for magazine publishers (SPMI), association of French national newspapers (SPP), and the French regional daily newspaper association (SPQR), plus the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP). Some online groups that are dominated by subsidiaries of print publishers, such as the Online Publishers Association of the UK, have given the endeavor a “cautious welcome.

Don’t be fooled by this initiative. Rather than catch up by doing what they should have done long ago, these publishers are searching for legal ways to tax the railroad because the gravy train has left them behind.

The publishers organizations acknowledge that search engines “provide a valuable service to publishers in terms of traffic generation” but claim that the search engines “have built their business models in large part on taking content for free.”

Let’s consider that phrase “taking content for free,” but first look at this:

Did I now just take WAN’s content? Was that citation comprehensible? From it, would you know what WAN and those publishers are doing?

I ask because I’ve just cited WAN’s online content exactly the same way, word for word, that Google News’ automatically did. Neither that eight-word abstract headline nor its 25-word abstract text even explains what WAN and the other publishers’ organizations are doing.

Look at Google News or Yahoo! News and see for yourself how the search engines briefly abstract news organizations’ headlines and texts. Whether or not a gist of a news story, nonetheless its content, as cited by the search engines is comprehensible depends entirely upon if that news organization’s headline writer and text author were pithy and cogent enough. Does the publishers’ content really consist of a (often incomplete) headline of less than ten words and an incomplete text of less than two dozen words?

No. I think the publishers’ claim that the search engines are taking their content is absurd. The search engines are merely pointing people to the content on the news organizations’ own sites. Indeed, the search engines’ citations towards the publishers’ news is even less than academic abstracts or business abstracts. Ask a librarian or professor.

However, WAN President (and Group COO of newspaper publishing company Independent News & Media PLC) Gavin O’Reilly told the Financial Times “That’s often enough” for readers browsing the top stories and “the fact here is that we’re dealing with basic theft.”

If you accept Mr. O’Reilly’s logic, then don’t be surprised if the restaurant industry sues the newspaper industry for providing capsule listings and reviews that point potential diners to restaurants. The newspaper industry could defend itself by claiming that it doesn’t actually provide the food content to restaurant’s potential patrons (at best, the reviews might provide a bit of the restaurants’ flavors) and that the reviews are simply pointing potential patrons to those restaurants and thereby increasing those restaurants’ traffic. However, the restaurant owners might claim ‘That’s often enough’ to prevent people from coming onsite and browsing.

Is “theft” what the search engines are doing? Is theft pointing to something that is being given away for free? The news organizations aren’t charging anyone for accessing their news online.

If the newspaper industry wants to claim that citing its headlines online is “theft”, then it might first pursue the other daily newspapers that are doing it (such as this or this regular example) Publishers should pursue their direct competitors who are doing it, before claiming that the search engines are competitors.

Mr. ‘’Reilly also said, “The irony is that these search engines exist, largely, because of the traditional news and content aggregators and profit at their expense.”

That statement is both patently and historically false. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo! existed for many years before indexing the news organizations’ websites. During that time the search engines, without pointing to those organizations’ news, grew to dwarf those organization in terms of online traffic, asset value, and market capitalization. News has never accounted for a significant fraction of these search engines traffic or revenues.

The only basis for theft that Mr. O’Reilly might legitimately claim is that the search engines have ‘stolen’ advertisers and consumers from using those publishers’ websites more often or more fully. Google and Yahoo! now have more online advertisers than those publishers because these search engines attract more consumers than any of those publishers’ sites do. And the search engines attract more consumers than the publishers’ sites do because the search engines provide a service that those publishers long ago failed to provide but could have.

Indeed, the organizations announced their legal initiative eight days after Google announced that it was removing the ‘Beta’ from Google News. I don’t think that timing was random.

In the WAN announcement, Mr. O’Reilly referred to the’ Napsterisation’ of content, hoping to lend credence to his industry’s claim that search engines are stealing its content.

However, what the search engines are actually doing has nothing to do with ‘napsterizing content or stealing content. What the search engines provide to consumers is a package of pointers to where information — including now news — from all sources is located online. As I’d mentioned from my New York Times experience, the newspaper industry could have done that a dozen years ago. Or five years ago. Or now.

The newspaper industry didn’t and doesn’t. Five years ago, did attempt to create what it called Internet ‘portals’, but those website contained only the content from that newspaper company and its affiliates. A portal just to them.

I don’t wish this WAN endeavor well. I think it’s a waste of time and money that the newspaper industry could better be spending on providing the types of services that it should have done long ago or those that it needs to now. Perhaps it is too late for The New York Times or other newspaper companies to become Googles or Yahoos (or Ebays or MySpaces), yet there are still plenty of new services to be developed online.

Don’t try to tax a gravy train that you’ve missed. Start another one.

WAN-IFRA Merger Off

Merger talks between two of the world’s largest newspaper associations have broke off. For the past months, the World Association of Newspapers and Ifra had been discussing merger, but this morning WAN announced that talks had ceased, at least for the foreseeable future. Neither WAN nor Ifra said why. “Both associations agreed to continue close cooperation and expressed the hope that circumstances would allow them to re-open discussions on a merger at a future date,” wrote WAN spokesman Larry Kilman.

WAN, based in Paris, represents 72 national newspaper associations, plus 13 national news agencies, nine regional press organizations, individual newspaper executives from 102 nations. IFRA, based in Darmstadt, Germany, represents more than 3,000 publishing companies and suppliers worldwide. .

In November, I’d written that a WAN/IFRA merger would have greatly benefited the newspaper industry and have brought greater coordination new media efforts worldwide. WAN’s “Shaping the Newspaper of the Future” project is among the world’s most conceptually advanced about what newspapers must do to survive in the 21st Century. IFRA is the world’s leader at newspaper printing technologies and has been pioneering the multimedia newsroom of the future at its Newsplex research facility in South Carolina.

Excellent Overviews of Challenges Facing Newspapers in the 21st Century

We’re big fans of Jim Chisholm who is the strategy advisor to the World Association of Newspapers and the director of its Shaping the Future of the Newspaper project.

But only today did we discover online his presentation (1.5-megabyte PowerPoint download) to last year’s WAN Congress in Dublin. It’s an excellent overview of the challenges facing the newspaper industry (for both newsprint and online editions). So, too is his presentation (2.3-megabyte PowerPoint download) to the Newspaper Association of America’s Connections conference last year. In each, please note the data that he presents about the importance of mobile content (SMS, etc.) in the newspaper industry’s future.

These should be required reading for anyone in newspaper board rooms.