Could newsprint see a revival to match vinyl records?

Newspaper publishers and lovers of tangible reading material will no doubt be following the news about vinyl records outselling digital downloads and hoping for a similar resurgence in their fortunes. However, if the newspaper industry believes a return to getting ink on their readers’ fingers is on the horizon – they’ve really misjudged the difference between music lovers and news followers.

Newspapers are a throwaway product – which is why they are printed on relatively cheap newsprint and also why digital (virtually free) distribution makes so much sense. A daily newspaper has a lifespan of day (or less). Most people do not keep newspapers beyond their intended period of consumption and many are abandoned within minutes. As the old saying goes, yesterday’s news is tomorrow’s fish and chip paper (it’s not even that anymore).

Music on the other hand is something that is cherished and played time and time again. I’m still listening to music from my student days. Hell, I’m still listening to some music that was made before I was born.

Music is something that can be shared across generations and nothing helps cement that bond more than the ceremony of carefully placing a needle on the spiral groove on a piece of vinyl.

How many family memories or lasting friendships are created over a newspaper? Sure they are useful, informative and entertaining – but they are certainly not something that most young people connect with their parents over. If anything, (terminally uncool) parents used newspapers to physically hide from their children.

The Independent has already proven that a digital only newspaper can work and return a profit. I’m sure there will be no demands for a return to the halcyon (loss-making) days of print there.

So no, newspapers will find very little comfort in the resurgence of analogue music formats – but book publishers – well that’s a different story.

Could shorter working hours lead to greater creativity?

We PR professionals are famed for our dedication to our craft. Often found burning the candle at both ends, attending client events, industry parties and generally hobnobbing with the great and the good until all hours and still managing to haul ourselves back into the office at the crack of dawn. Don’t give me that work/life balance nonsense – work is life.

But could too many hours in the office (or on the town) be impacting on our creative talents?

Chris Lewis, founder and chief executive of Lewis, the PR, marketing and digital agency, certainly thinks so.

In his book, Too Fast to Think, Lewis asks a number of professionals about how and where they get their creative inspiration.

The three most common responses were when they are:

  1. Away from work
  2. On their own
  3. Not trying

Lewis argues that interruptions in the workplace and the pressure to keep up with constant social media and email activities can overload the creative side of our brains and create a blockage. He warns, if we remain in a constant state of overload – we may never regain our creative abilities.

I don’t disagree with him.

My best ideas rarely come to me when I am sat across a desk from a client or staring blankly into a computer screen. Creativity cannot be forced or created in a vacuum. It needs inspiration and space to grow.

Alongside squeezing all those extra hours into the working day to keep clients, managers and our friends in the media happy, we need to find the time to relax, dream, read and go to that “special place” were inspiration finds us.

Where do you find the time and space to break free from the constant pressures of work in the PR industry get creative? Share your comments below

Regional titles receive financial support to continue covering cricket

With football often dominating the back pages of the UK press, it’s easy for smaller (but nonetheless popular) sports clubs to feel slightly disenfranchised by the media.

But as the commercial pressures of running a newspaper continue to squeeze editorial budgets, editors need to make tough decisions. Football sells papers, and while readers may also be interested in athletics, cycling or tennis, it makes little financial sense to invest in coverage that won’t drive circulation (or page impressions).

Many sports journalists won’t like their craft to be talked about in such cold business terms but minority sports coverage doesn’t deliver a ROI.

Sports teams know that a lack of media coverage makes it harder for them to get new people involved in their sport. The less people get involved, the less the media are interested. It’s very much a case of ever decreasing circles.

This is why a scheme run by The England and Wales Cricket Board known as The Cricket Writers’ Club, which has recently awarded financial assistance to a number of regional titles for their coverage of professional cricket, makes so much sense.

Mark Baldwin, chairman of the Cricket Writers’ Club, told journalists: “The Cricket Writers’ Club’s continued support for ECB’s initiative in running these awards now includes offering prize monies in the Regional Newspaper of the Year category, precisely because the club wants to do what it can to support hard-pressed cricket writers in the regional press and also to underline its belief in the value to the game of coverage of county cricket in this area.

John Collings, editor of the Sunday Independent who received a £2,500 financial reward from the Cricket Writers Club said: “We’re honoured to win this award because its values share our values: a passion for and commitment to sport all levels, particularly grass-roots sport which these days too often struggles for the comprehensive coverage it deserves.”

PR has always been about earned media over paid media but when titles have to make editorial decisions based on cold economic facts, perhaps it’s time this line become a little more blurred.

How long before The Guardian follow The Independent’s profitable lead?

The Independent has made its first profit in 23 years after abandoning print and focusing 100% on digital channels.

The Independent’s owner, Evgeny Lebedeb told journalists: “By going online-only we freed ourselves from the unwieldy infrastructure of print, and allowed ourselves to be far more flexible.

“It is still early days, but the first six months have shown that by being more nimble and digitally focused we can better serve our new, much bigger online audience.”

Highlighting a bright future at The Independent, Lebedeb added: “We are profitable for the first time in 23 years, which brings with it new opportunities.”

And it’s not just revenues that are on the up at newly digital Indy.

ABC figures in September showed a 17 percent year-on-year increase to 3,253,850 daily unique browsers.

Justin Byam Shaw, chairman of The Independent echoed Lebedeb’s comments by saying: “This historic return to profitability demonstrates the opportunities our move to digital brings.

“This puts The Independent in a strong position and with a sustainable long-term future, as we continue to grow our audiences globally and serve our readers and commercial partners with reliability and flair.”

The Independent made a brave move abandoning its print edition earlier this year.

Rivals at The Guardian even mourned the loss of the print edition of The Independent with an editorial in the paper’s Comment Is Free section stating: “Great newspapers which have survived for centuries find their business models challenged as never before. So no one will celebrate the end of the Independent in print. It was. Are you… next?”

Well, I imagine both Evgeny Lebedeb and the many journalists and editors whose futures are so much more secure now that The Independent is in profit will disagree and definitely by celebrating.

The question is, how much longer with The Guardian, The Telegraph, The FT, etc., etc. continue to be burdened by the high costs of print and distribution? If I was a journalist (or a shareholder) in any of these companies, I would personally be lobbying them to follow the Independent’s brave move online.

The Independent is profitable.

It is. Are You?

ITV blames Brexit for 120 Job Losses

ITV is looking to make £25 million in savings next year to counterbalance a decline in advertising revenues which the broadcaster is blaming on “political and economic uncertainty”.

According to media reports, TV advertising is facing its worst year since 2009 with revenues set to decline by 2 percent.

As part of the savings process, ITV is planning to reduce its workforce by 120 people. The broadcaster currently employs 3,000 staff in the UK.

Speaking about the job losses, an ITV spokesperson told journalists: “At a time of political and economic uncertainty in our key markets, it’s important that we are in the strongest possible position to continue to invest in our strategy, and to meet any challenges and opportunities ahead, as we continue to grow a successful business.”

Because of continuing political uncertainty in the UK market and the financial impact it has on advertising market, the ITV is looking bolster its overseas operations.

The UK market currently accounts for 85 percent of the broadcasters revenues. However, recently the company has spent hundreds of millions of pounds investing in TV production in the United States.

A spokesperson said: ““We have taken costs out across ITV in a managed and sensible way over the past six years and we must continue to keep a tight control on spending to ensure that we are operating as efficiently and effectively as possible, while maximising our ability to invest in the high-quality programming that drives ITV’s success.”

Prior to the Brexit vote, the TV advertising market was expected to grow by 7.4 percent in 2016, following a similar pattern over the previous year.

The ITV now predicts advertising revenues over the first 9 months of the year will be down by 1 percent, year-on-year while a number of media booking agencies suggest the market has dropped even further due to fears over a “hard Brexit”.

Trinity Mirror continue with freesheet cull

Trinity Mirror has announced it will close three local freesheets in Milton Keynes, Luton and Northampton in what is being described as an ongoing purge of Local World titles. 

According to the National Union of Journalists, the newspaper titles, OneMK (formerly known as MK News), Luton on Sunday and the Northampton Herald and Post, are to close without consultation.

NUJ national organiser Laura Davison told journalists: “This announcement has come as a bombshell to staff on these titles. Once again Trinity Mirror has announced a shutdown of papers with no consultation with journalists or readers. Local people, democratic bodies and businesses are going to be stripped of a voice and plurality will be massively undermined.

“The company’s actions smack of arrogance. These operations are already run on a shoe string and now more jobs are set to go. It is another big red warning flag hoisted over the crisis in quality local journalism. We urge local people to join our campaign for properly resourced local journalism.

Trinity Mirror, which has closed 20 titles over the last two years, is unrepentant.

A spokesperson for the publishers said: “We are closing three free weekly titles in Luton, Milton Keynes and Northampton as part of a review of our portfolio to look at how we best serve our readers and advertisers in these markets.

“We are not exiting these markets but will retain a presence in a different way. We believe there is a better way for us to provide content and commercial solutions for the local communities, for example through a schedule of niche products and awards and events.”

“We will also be increasing the focus on Bedfordshire on Sunday which remains as both a print title and website. We will be increasing distribution of this title into Luton and broadening our online coverage.

“The number of roles we require to deliver the new portfolio of products is less than the current structure and as a result the business proposes to reduce the headcount, so unfortunately a number of roles in editorial and commercial are at risk of redundancy as part of these changes.”

Trinity Mirror is obviously making some very unpopular decisions regarding the closure of titles based on the cold, hard, financial realities of running a newspaper company in the digital age.

The question is, do these regions still offer an opportunity for smaller, more agile publishing companies to exploit? If journalists and editors think there is still an opportunity to make money from local news, now’s the time to prove the big guys wrong.

Trinity Mirror Continue With Freesheet Cull

Trinity Mirror has announced it will close three local freesheets in Milton Keynes, Luton and Northamptom in what is being described as an ongoing purge of Local World titles.

According to the National Union of Journalists, the newspaper titles, OneMK (formerly known as MK News), Luton on Sunday and the Northampton Herald and Post, are to close without consultation.

NUJ national organiser Laura Davison told journalists: “This announcement has come as a bombshell to staff on these titles. Once again Trinity Mirror has announced a shutdown of papers with no consultation with journalists or readers. Local people, democratic bodies and businesses are going to be stripped of a voice and plurality will be massively undermined.

“The company’s actions smack of arrogance. These operations are already run on a shoe string and now more jobs are set to go. It is another big red warning flag hoisted over the crisis in quality local journalism. We urge local people to join our campaign for properly resourced local journalism.

Trinity Mirror, which has closed 20 titles over the last two years, is unrepentant.

A spokesperson for the publishers said: “We are closing three free weekly titles in Luton, Milton Keynes and Northampton as part of a review of our portfolio to look at how we best serve our readers and advertisers in these markets.

“We are not exiting these markets but will retain a presence in a different way. We believe there is a better way for us to provide content and commercial solutions for the local communities, for example through a schedule of niche products and awards and events.”

“We will also be increasing the focus on Bedfordshire on Sunday which remains as both a print title and website. We will be increasing distribution of this title into Luton and broadening our online coverage.

“The number of roles we require to deliver the new portfolio of products is less than the current structure and as a result the business proposes to reduce the headcount, so unfortunately a number of roles in editorial and commercial are at risk of redundancy as part of these changes.”

Trinity Mirror is obviously making some very unpopular decisions regarding the closure of titles based on the cold, hard, financial realities of running a newspaper company in the digital age.

The question is, do these regions still offer an opportunity for smaller, more agile publishing companies to exploit? If journalists and editors think there is still an opportunity to make money from local news, now’s the time to prove the big guys wrong.

The Canary Proves Online Journalism Pays (If You Give Your Readers What They Want)

The left leaning news website set up a just over 12 months ago on an initial investment of just £500 is proving that online journalism can pay if you give you readers what they want.

The Canary turned over £250,000 in its first year of operation, has grown to become a top 100 UK news site and now employs an editorial team of 25 (mainly) part-time workers.

The site is funded, like many other online publications, through a combination of advertising, sponsorship and subscriptions.

Unlike many other publications, The Canary doesn’t feel it needs to offer readers any other incentive to support the title other than their content.

The Canary’s editor-in-chief Kerry-Anne Mendoza told journalists (http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/the-canary-from-500-start-up-to-top-100-uk-news-website-in-the-space-of-a-year/): “Paying subscribers for this whole first year don’t get anything. They don’t get a mug, they don’t get a t-shirt, they don’t even get an email from us saying welcome.

“They are paying for content that they could get for free purely because they want our writers to earn more money.”

Highlighting the success of the operation Mendoza said: “What people seem to like us for is breaking open legislation that’s coming through and actually explaining it in a way people understand and can see what the risks are and then take action.”

The Canary operates a unique business model which it explains on its website:

  • First, we pay tax. We are based in the UK and are happy to contribute our share to develop a wonderful country, not without its problems of course.
  • Then we pay costs which we keep below 5% of our gross revenue.
  • What is left is our net profit. We split this simply:
    • 50% to our writers
    • 10% to our section editors
    • 20% to our leadership team
    • 20% goes back into the company for marketing and new projects

Each writer and editor is paid in two ways. Firstly, each article receives a flat rate equal payment from our monthly income from supporters. So with each new supporter the pay per article goes up every month. Secondly, each article receives a top-up payment based directly on the percentage of web traffic, and therefore advertising income, that articles generate during a given calendar month. It’s as simple as that.

While The Canary’s politics might not be everyone’s cup of tea (including many left-wing supporters), their approach to business should be of interest to any writer or publisher that wants to invest in the future of journalism.