Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Top reason globally for paying for news? Mobile access

Richard Fletcher of the Reuters Institute has produced an in-depth analysis of the latest trends in paying for news online, and the U.S. had some of the biggest changes in the past year.

The Digital News Report 2017  included interviews of more than 70,000 adults in 36 countries. 



Among Fletcher's observations: in the U.S., the percentage paying for online news jumped from 9% to 16% in just one year. The reasons? Fletcher suggested "a political shock." The data showed that much of that growth came from the young and those leaning left on the political spectrum. When asked to give their reasons for paying for news, the U.S. had the most respondents (29%) of all 36 countries who selected the option "I want to help fund journalism".

Even Spain's tightfisted news consumers are paying (in Spanish)


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When they trust media less, they're willing to pay more

Alfonso Vara-Miguel
A new study of internet users in Spain shows that those who trust "the media" less are more willing to pay for news online. 

The explanation for this counterintuitive behavior is that those distrustful folks "are willing to pay for those specific media that they trust", according to the researchers, Alfonso Vara-Miguel of the  Universidad de Navarra and Manuel Goyanes of the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid.  

(The full text of their article is in Spanish:  "The probability of paying for digital news in Spain," in El Profesional de la Información.)

In other words, trust and confidence have an economic value that media organizations can monetize


Manuel Goyanes
Getting people to pay

Media economists like to say that the Spanish are legendary cheapskates when it comes to paying for any form of media. But the researchers believe they have identified some of the market segments most likely to pay for news

They base their conclusions on the Digital news report 2016, which came from a survey of a representative sample of 2,100 Spanish adults, executed by YouGov and coordinated by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University. The most relevant findings follow.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Why digital networks are ruling the world

For the last few years, the name Manuel Castells kept popping up in things I read about digital media, social networks, and mass communications. He is a Spanish sociologist who spent much of his career at UC Berkeley.

Recently I have been reading his "The Rise of the Network Society," the first of three volumes in a series "The Information Age." He wrote them two decades ago, but he seems to have predicted many of the trends we are living through now.

The free flow of money, information, and power through global networks means those networks, not nations, are the source of power, he wrote. Institutions, societies, and ethnic groups with rigid structures that cannot take advantage of these flows will be left behind.

He wrote a new preface for the 2010 edition, before the Arab Spring, before the Syrian civil war, before Brexit, before Trump. He pointed out that structural changes were taking place in society because large sections of the world's population were being exluded from the global networks that accumulate knowledge and wealth.

Highly educated elites from financial and technological centers were profiting from the flow of money and power, while the rest of the world was being left behind.

Email bulletins help news media beat the duopoly

We talk too much about the New York Times when the crisis of journalism is also about saving local news operations and digital entrepreneurs.

But the latest news about how the Times is using email newsletters can be applied to all news organizations. Digiday reported that the Times has 13 million subscribers to more than 50 email newsletters.

What this means is that the Times has a direct communications channel with its users in a walled garden that Facebook and Google, the giants of digital advertising revenue, cannot touch.

When users get an email and click on a link, they go right to the Times website and the newspaper's own advertisers.

It also means that the people who subscribe to the free newsletters by registering have a more intimate relationship with the publication.

Versión en español

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Slovakia is latest to prove subscription model online

Home page of Dennik N
Contrary to all the predictions about the public's unwillingness to pay for news when it is freely available online, more publishers of high-quality, in-depth reporting are making money.

The latest example comes from Slovakia, as recounted by Rob Sharp in Nieman Lab. The editors of a popular national newspaper there discovered that a news organization tainted by corruption accusations was about to buy a significant stake in their paper.

Versión en español

Anticipating restrictions on their work, the editor, Matus Kostolny, and a team of his lieutenants decided to start an independent online news publication, Dennik N.

As Sharp describes:

The outlet attracted €1 million of private investment and advanced subscriptions of around €300,000. They launched their daily website in January 2015, and a printed paper shortly afterward. Now, just over two years later, they are among the top five quality newspaper websites in Slovakia. In a country of 5.4 million people, the paper has 23,000 paying digital subscribers, the most nationally, and 110,000 registered readers.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

'Know your clients, give them what they need'

Ingelmo: "Clients don't want to wait three hours for a graphic."
Manuel Benito Ingelmo has blended his knowledge of data, technology, and journalism to establish a news service with some of the biggest media in Spain as his clients.

His data-visualization service, Porcentual.es, just finished its most successful year, and Ingelmo continues to innovate and improve his products.

He and a team of two programmers have developed software that pulls data from public databases and produces graphics in minutes for media organizations to embed in their web pages. They can also customize the data geographically so that a newspaper in the city of Seville, for example, can get the latest unemployment figures for its area.

"We're very fast," Ingelmo says. "Speed matters. Our clients don't want to wait three hours for a graphic. They want it right now," he told me recently in a Skype interview from his home in Vitoria, northern Spain.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The day Maureen Dowd wrote f--- news and a revered political commentator didn't get the joke

Amid all the debate about what is true and what is f--- news, I am reminded of a remarkable journalistic moment that showed how hard it is to know when someone is kidding or serious. And how you can be sincere but spread false information.

Dowd (Fred R. Conrad photo, New York Times)
It was early in 2009, the first months of the Obama presidency, and Maureen Dowd, the sly and witty New York Times columnist, put tongue in cheek to describe how she had gained exclusive access to classified testimony of a supposedly secret meeting of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In the scene created by Dowd, Democrats on the committee, led by Dianne Feinstein, are grilling former Vice President Dick Cheney about the torture methods he and President George W. Bush approved to interrogate terrorism suspects.

Dowd dropped hints all through the column that it was a put-on. The first clue should have been that a columnist was playing the uncharacteristic role of an investigative reporter writing about leaked information.

Monday, March 20, 2017

How quality content can win in the long run

Digital advertising is broken for many publications.
Back in the days when my job was persuading advertisers to spend money with our business publication, I would talk about the importance of a client's ad appearing next to credible, high-quality content. Editorial environment matters, was the argument.

Google, Facebook, and Yahoo pretty much destroyed that business model. They promised advertisers to deliver their ads to specific demographic groups with little waste -- for example, female executives in Baltimore who have searched for information about luxury automobiles in the past year. And their prices were much lower. 

But the importance of high-quality, credible content has just resurfaced in a big way. Some major advertisers in England pulled their ads from Google and YouTube because their ads were placed next to content of extremist organizations promoting hate speech.

Among those pulling ads were French advertising giant Havas, the BBC, the UK government, and The Guardian newspaper. The Times of London first broke the story (paywall). 

What this means is that digital publications can compete with Google, Facebook, YouTube and the rest by relying on a relationship of trust and confidence rather than scale -- totals of eyeballs. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Winning digital strategy: Think first of the community you serve, not the audience you sell to

You already know the story well -- how the business model for traditional media collapsed in the U.S. (Pew: State of the News Media 2016).

And how digital advertising's market share surpassed print and will overtake television this year.

And how media organizations have responded by cutting staff and weakening their products in order to keep profit margins high -- newspapers eliminated 20,000 jobs in 20 years, a 39% decline in employment.

All of this has been done to serve advertisers and investors at the expense of the most important people in the media equation -- the public, the readers, the users. But now publishers are rediscovering the importance of focusing on serving readers.

Readers, viewers rule

Now that digital media have broken up that arranged marriage of advertising and news content, publishers are realizing once again that their business is a public service and that the most important people in the equation are not the investors and the advertisers but the public.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Investor sees 'great returns' from new digital media

Vucinic, photo by Ted.com
Many media investors see disaster everywhere they look, as traditional media lose audience, revenues, and relevance.

Sasa Vucinic, co-founder and co-managing director of North Base Media, sees great investment opportunities, especially in developing markets, such as Central Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America.

"We invest in serious digital-only media oriented toward the younger audience that can disrupt their markets. And we think it’s a phenomenal business that will bring great financial returns."

Vucinic, who began his journalism career in Serbia, has been a crusader for media organizations that tell the truth about corrupt, oppressive regimes. I reached him via Skype in South Korea, where he was looking at investment opportunities. I wanted to ask him about social purpose investing, where investors direct their money toward organizations that not only give a financial return but also have a positive impact on society. 

Versión en español

Vucinic said he no longer talks about social impact with investors. "I spent 16 years trying to prove to investors that a media company has a two pronged nature: It is a business that will be sustainable and profitable, if possible, and at the same time it provides an incredibly important role in the society," he told me. "I actually think that if you do not understand that media plays an important role in society, you're not very likely to invest in it anyway."

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A voice for free speech in a free world

Marty Baron, center, with U. of Navarra faculty and students. Photo by Manuel Castells

Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post, came to speak at University of Navarra events in Madrid and Pamplona last week.

Baron's message made me proud to be an American and a journalist. The whole world looks to the U.S. for leadership. Here is an excerpt from his speech in Madrid.

"At the center of our mission is journalism that holds powerful institutions and individuals accountable. We have an obligation to speak truth to power. And the powerful in our world should never be allowed to suppress it.
For all the challenges we face in the media today, this is the greatest. It is why we as journalists must stay faithful to our central purpose. Someone must still tell things as they really are.
No government power, no powerful institution, and no powerful individual should have the right to stop us. And we in the press should not stop ourselves because of fear or self-censorship. These are times to remind ourselves what it means to be a free people, times to think hard about what is required of us if we wish to hold on to the freedoms that we value.
In too many countries, in too many ways, our liberties are being placed at risk. Among those most in jeopardy are free expression, including a free press. For those of us who work in the press, and for all who cherish the free expression that gives meaning and life to our democracies, the quality we now need most, is courage."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

How digital media monetize their social capital

From GDJ's Clipart, Openclipart.org
Lately I have been reading a lot about a new way of valuing media that would benefit entrepreneurial journalism ventures, which nearly always lack capital to launch and sustain themselves.

Sociologists and economists have been writing about it for years -- social capital -- and I am embarrassed to say that I have just started learning about it. 

Social capital is a value that media entrepreneurs possess through their ethnic, social, professional, and business networks. It is also a value that they create through their work's impact on societyBelow I will show how three entrepreneurs are making it work, in FranceHolland, and Spain.

Versión en español

Hard to value

Investors, the public, and the media entrepreneurs themselves have tended to undervalue their work because it is hard to place a value on their social capital. By contrast, it is easy to value a publication through the advertising and subscription revenue it generates and the capital assets it owns.