Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Top 3 findings from the World News Future & Change Study 2010

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers this month published our annual survey of senior news executives  - and the findings show there's some reason to be festive this Season.

The study, which I conduct in collaboration with Martha Stone of the Shaping the Future of the Newspaper project and Erik Wilberg of the Norwegian Management School, is the largest of its kind and in 2010 had responses from nearly 500 newspaper owners, publishers, editors and senior commercial managers from 78 countries on all five continents.

Not surprisingly, the 128-page report is packed with great information and selecting my top 3 findings wasn't straightforward. But here's what I think and why I think there's some reason for cheer as we wrap up the first decade of this Millennium and gear up for 2011:
  1. The impact of the global economy recession is easing. No, we're not out of the woods yet. Far from it. But a third fewer publishers (18.5 % in 2010 vs 28% in 2009) reported severe revenue declines – that is more 20 per cent. Declining print advertising revenue was the biggest driver of overall revenue decline, with more than 80% of the respondents saying they lost between 1% and more than 20% of their print ad revenue, with the most pronounced declines happening in Northern Europe and North America regions. Meanwhile online advertising revenue and content revenue did not take the same hit as print revenues, with half of the respondents reporting growth, many reporting no change, and a handful, less than one-­quarter, reporting a decline in the last fiscal year.

  2. Advertising-supported print products are no longer enough. The vast the vast majority of the world's news publishers recognise their traditional revenue sources of print advertising and newspaper subscriptions will no longer provide the financial returns of years past and, in response, the publishers are making it a top priority to diversify their revenue streams and to development new products and new channels.

    Publishers are bullish about mobile.
  3. Innovation - and mobile - are keys to future success. One question summed up the publishers’ collective desire for the future of their business, and that is, new business growth. Respondents in both 2009 and 2010 spoke loudly and clearly: the way forward is through investment in new product development for new revenues. We consider this to be one of the most important findings of the study. . Other clear investments for newspaper companies were marketing and branding for newspapers, increased audience research and investment in customer relationship management. In 2009, investment in new product development was followed by marketing and branding for the newspaper, increased audience research, investment in customer relationship management and investment in editorial technologies. This year, investment in new product development was followed by marketing and branding for the newspaper, and then "mobile platforms."  When asked, “Please consider which of the following platforms could be opportunities for your organisation over the next three years,” the top choices were mobile phones (58%), followed by Websites (54%) and e-readers, such as Kindle and iPad (53%.). Clearly the emerging importance of mobile is an important take-away from this year’s study and, of course, we’ll be investigating this in some greater depth in 2011.
free summary of the study is available for download on the WAN-IFRA site. And, of course, I'd be happy to answer any questions [Twitter @francoisnel / FPNel @ uclan . ac . uk ] .

We’re already working on the 2011 survey and planning to expand the study to 10 languages by including Arabic, along with (in alphabetical order) Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

For academic citations of the report, please use: STONE, Martha, NEL, François and WILBERG, Erik. (2010) World News Future and Change Study 2010. Paris, France: World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Still no industry consensus: To integrate your print and online newsrooms, or not to....

That has been one of the hottest questions in news organisation for more than a decade. And, despite much, much discussion - and many examples from the UK and elsewhere - there's still no industry consensus.

Just this week, Robert Andrews of PaidContentUK reported that Trinity Mirror chief Sly Bailey, whose Regionals division's integration efforts have been held up as best practice examples internationally, said operations at the national Daily Mirror, for one, would remain separate:
Bailey said Trinity Mirror’s recent national digital executive-level digital reshuffle was about creating a digital division “separate” from print, allowing each to focus on their respective areas.

“It was just too difficult to ask the editor of the Daily Mirror, who has six newspapers to get out every week, (to run the website as well),” Bailey said.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, there are also divergent operational strategies aimed at achieving a similar result: maximising online opportunities [read: revenue].

Five years after America's second largest paper, USA Today, announced that a merger print and online operations "will improve our report to readers both in print and online", the company has had a "radical" rethink.

By contrast, The Cutline reports that a recent reorganisation at the New York Times, that country's largest paper, is aimed at bringing online and print operations even closer together.

What ever else this means (and I look forward to discussing this further), it suggests how you answer the integration questions depends in no small part on how you answer the key question that every business should answer:

What's the most efficient way to sustainably deliver customer value?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Why Rupert Murdoch's 'paywall' strategy might indeed be adding up

[Update: Many thanks for all the feedback on the calculations, which have now been revised]

Next week, I’m slated to speak at WAN-IFRA’s 9th International Newsroom Summit in London about my research into how publishers can boost their online revenues, so after reading today’s piece in The Independent by Ian Burrell, I thought I’d do some back-of-the envelope calculations to see if Rupert Murdoch’s paywall strategy might indeed be adding up.

Warning: I’m not privy to the online traffic figures of The Times or The Sunday Times, which are no longer ABCe registered, nor do I know their ARPU or Average Revenue Per User rates, so this is just conjecture using figures I have discussed before.

Times' 20,406,420 monthly unique users in May 2009, according to ABCe figures quoted in Press Gazette. Say they were making £0.20p £0.10p per user per month, mostly from advertising.

That would be 20,406,420 X £0.10p = £2,040,642 per month.

So, say they lost 90 per cent of their users and, say, 50 per cent of their advertisers got cold feet, too:

20,040,642 X 0.10 = 2,040,642 users x (£0.10/ 2) £0.05 = £102,032.10 per month, mostly from advertising.

And say half those users cross the TimesPlus ‘paywall’ by through the £1 daily access fee and the other half opt for the £2 weekly access.

Income from daily access users: 1,020,321 X £1 x 30 days per month = £33,060, 963£1,020,32 per month.

Income from weekly access users: 1,020,321 X £2 X 4 weeks per month= £8,165, 136£2,040,642 per month

Total income would be £102,032.10 + £1,020,321.00 + £2,040,642.00 would be : £3,162,995.10, which is still be up 55% on what the income may have been before the paywall.

And say I’m only half right?

Well, then The Times' online income would be down about a quarter.

So, if you’re looking at Rupert Murdoch’s paywall model from a financial perspective, the strategy looks like it may just be adding up. But, of course, one would have to be privy to the actual numbers to really know for sure.

[Addendum: Robert Andrews alerted me to the uncanny similarity between my calculations and those he did earlier for PaidContentUK ]

Friday, August 20, 2010

How does your Annual Revenue Per User (ARPU) compare with the Guardian and Media Norge?

Recently Schibsted‘s Norwegian publisher Media Norge outlined to investors the key challenge they face in building their digital business: “Overall traffic levels may be reaching saturation and online ad prices are stagnating.”

As PaidContent reported, the company also disclosed its average revenue per user (ARPU) rate, giving us a rare look under the bonnet of one of the world’s most successful digital publisher. The company , acknowledged that average income per monthly unique visitor of two Norwegian krona (that’s $0.32 or £0.21) is now less than it was back in 2006.

That’s still more than double the Guardian Media Group’s 2007 rate of 10p (that’s $0.16 or 0.97 Norwegian krona), if my back-of-the-envelope calculations based on figures in their 2008 Annual Report are correct.

To double check, take a look at these slides which I used for a presentation for the Digital Editors' Network earlier this year.

How much is each of your users worth? And how do those figures compare?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Building a Tip Sheet for Laid Off Journalists (and others)

As part of the report on the #laidoff study, we’re compiling a list of online resources where you can find guides and advice about how to get back into the work force, re-tool your career and shift directions, or keep your current journalism jobs.

If you have suggestions for other sites or links we should include, please add those below or send them to me a FPNel @ . Thanks.

Job Search Engines, Articles & Guides:

What support is on offer for graduates of the University of Central Lancashire, home to the UK's oldest journalism programme?

Training Sessions:
  • Vision + Media - provide a range of activities to support media professionals in the Northwest.
  • News University - training and courses for journalists, many of them free (project by the Poynter Institute)

How to Keep Your Job if You Still Have One:

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Updated: How many journalists are there in the UK? This is why I guestimate around 40,000 (that's more than a third less than the number often quoted)

[Update 14/08/2010: My guestimate has been revised to "around 40,000" following input from John Thompson at, Carolyn Werry at Meltwater Press and Sabina Rosander of Cision Research.]

I'm spending some of my summer writing up my #laidoff study- conducted in collaboration with - which explores what UK journalists do next.

It got me wondering: Just how many journalists are there in the mainstream media?

A straightforward question, yes. But, unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer. I've discovered that the most widely quoted figures on the size of the industry comes from the Journalists at Work study published in 2002 by the Journalism Training Forum, which was set up in 2001 to advise the Publishing National Training Organisation and Skillset.

Based on a self-completion survey completed by 1,238 journalists “and other data”, Spilsbury (2002), estimates that there are approximately 70,000 journalists in the UK. Of these, roughly 60,000 journalists work in publishing and 10,000 in broadcasting.

The study’s author is upfront about the difficulty of coming to that conclusion: “Estimating the number of journalists in the UK using national data sources is problematic, as these are very limited and subject to a wide margin of error” (Spillsbury 2002: 17). The main data source of occupational employment is the Labour Force Survey 2001 (which was last conducted in 2004). Even then, that study grouped together people who stated they worked as “authors, writers and journalists,” which is not the most useful for the purposes of industry-specific studies like these.

While Spilsbury attempts to be conservative in his estimates, saying “it would be better to work with a ‘safe’ estimate that may under-estimate the total number rather than make exaggerated claims that cannot later be substantiated,” there is some evidence that suggest the figures might still be exceedingly generous.

Consider, for example, this examination of the editorial employment figures in the local and regional newspapers: The Journalists at Work (JAW) study says that the Local and Regional Press comprise 30% of the estimated 60,000 print journalists, which would be around 18,000 journalists. However, the following year, the body representing that sector, the Newspaper Society (NS), started issuing reports based on an annual survey of their members and put the total number of editorial staff in 2002 at 13,020, which is almost 28% less than the JAW study.

So, even if all the other estimates were accurate, it would still bring the total number of journalists down by 5,000 or almost 10% of the lowest range of the estimated number of print journalists.

It is not only the baseline figures from that study that should be re-examined, but also some of its key conclusions: “Whatever the current number of journalists, it seems clear that the numbers will continue to grow in the future” (Spilsbury, p. 17). Drawing on general employment forecasts that put UK employment growth at 2.5%, the authors conclude that “by 2010, industry forecasts suggest that there will be an additional 20,000 journalists”” and then add “ pointing to significant demand upon the industry’s training, education and recruitment infrastructure” (p.

What a difference a decade makes. With the benefit of hindsight, we can point to the structural changes in the industry that have seen changes in consumer behaviour, consolidation of enterprises and the convergence of job roles. Cyclical changes in the economy and have driven further driven down the number of people employed across the mainstream media.

A review of all the NS employment figures from 2002 to 2007 (the latest available), show a decline of about 30% across all divisions. In general, editorial workers were less affected. Fulltime editorial staff declined by 14% (see Figure), while part-time staff declined by 9.6%. The total editorial workforce in the Local and Regional Press shrunk by 13.75% over the period – which was before the global economic meltdown that started at the end of 2007.

A review of report on job losses published in, Press Gazette and the Guardian Media sections between January 2007 and June 2010, indicate the number of jobs have continued to decline at even greater speed since the start of what is often called the “Great Recession”.

There is some evidence to suggest that the cuts in the regional press have been deeper than in the national press. At the Daily Mail and General Trust, for example, losses at their regional division, Northcliffe Media, over the past few years has typically be more than double those at the national division, Associated Newspapers and are reflected in the redundancy plans. In 2008, DMGT announced 500 regional job cuts , which was then revised to 1,000 in March 2009 and climbed to 1,500 “across the company” in a statement made in May 2009.

A “Redundancy Round-up” in further points to possible differences between the levels of staff cuts in the regional and national newspapers. In reference to 78 job losses at Trinity Mirror Regionals, it is noted that the Press Gazette had reported, “The bulk of the job losses will come in Liverpool, where the 175-strong editorial team will be cut to 132 and the Liverpool Daily Post will scrap its Saturday edition.” The loss of 43 jobs represents a reduction about 25%. Other reports detailed additional cuts at the same offices.

The summary of activities in the national press includes this note: “Fifty editorial staff are to lose their jobs at Telegraph Media Group, management told staff today. ‘It is understood the cuts represent a 13-14 per cent saving to the editorial budget and will be brought into effect by Christmas at the latest,’ reports MediaGuardian."

The reports suggest that no media sector has emerged unscathed, including television. In September 2008, for example, the Media Guardian reported that ITV were cutting 1000 jobs, including 430 newsroom positions, accounting for almost 20% of its total workforce .

And jobs cuts have not only been ordered at advertising-supported media companies. For example, in October 2007 the BBC announced that 2,500 jobs would be axed as part of wide-ranging reforms driven, in part, by budget shortfalls .

A tally of the numbers reported in the survey of three trade sites -, Press Gazette and the Media Guardian - suggests that more than 9,500 journalism jobs were cut between January 2007 and June 2010.

This is in line with the National Union of Journalists’ estimate that in the newspaper sector alone there have been at least 8,800 jobs lost and 54 local offices closed since December 2008. Based on a revised baseline estimate of 40,000-50,000 55,000-60,000 jobs in the mainstream media that would suggest that, as a result of structural and economic changes affecting the sector, the UK’s mainstream journalism corps has shrunk by about a quarter between a quarter and a third since 2001 (or between 40% and 50% down on the 2002 JAW report estimates).

So, back to the original question: How many journalists working if the mainstream media in the UK today? By my guestimation (which has been corroborated by researchers at Cision): 30,000 around 40,000.

How does that sound to you?

- Also: When it's done, the #laidoff study report will be available on the site. Feedback would, of course, be much appreciated.
- An appeal invitation: I would welcome discussions with those in the public and private sector bodies who would help fund a much-needed centre for industry intelligence (perhaps along the lines of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism in the US).
- Next post: How many students enrolled in journalism courses each year?

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Media Magazine: The biggest threat to the African news industry - change-averse company executives

The Media magazine in South Africa recently asked me to write a piece on challenges to the news industry.

Drawing on the findings of the last World Newspaper Future & Changes Study, I argue that the biggest threats to the local news business are change-adverse company executives:
The global economic recession couldn't have come at a better time for some media executives.

It has provided a convenient scapegoat for those top managers who hanker for the days when profits flowed like ink and who believe it'll be business as usual when the economy recovers. Declining audiences and adspend, they argue, will bounce back as fast as you can say "economic cycle". All this talk about the business opportunities that the advances in new technologies are bringing is malarkey, they say. Just look at what happened to those in the digitally dedicated, but decimated, newspaper industries in America, Britain and elsewhere.

In some ways, I wish they were right. But they're not. And those change-averse company executives are the biggest threat to the local news industry.

The rest of the article from the May 2010 edition of the magazine has been posted here.

Results from the 2010 World Newspaper Future & Change Study, which I conduct in partnership with colleagues at the Shaping the Future of the Newspaper project of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the Norwegian School of Management, will be published in the Autumn.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Data & Journalism: perhaps onions are easier to understand?

When I was asked yesterday to provide comment where "data" fits in the journalism standards that Skillset is in the process of reviewing and developing, my answer was simple: Don’t geek it.

In the so-called Digital Age, one thing that is plentiful - and growing exponentially - data. What is scarce, and therefore potentially valuable, is information. And, even more than that, knowledge. And most rare: wisdom.

I'd been thinking a bit about the link between what is often called the "DIKW Hierarch" or the "Wisdom Pyramid" since the last Digital Editors’ Network meeting when Microsoft UK producer Alistair Bruce described how data was being used to tell stories on sites like MSN Local. He likened it to the layers of an onion.
So, I’ve drafted this "Onion Model" as a way to start describing where data links to journalism. And am thinking that perhaps it might even be useful to the discussions about where (or not) to put up "paywalls".

Alistair and I’ll are thinking more about it and will be including some of those ideas in a chapter in the (much-delayed) 4th edition of Writing for the Media, which Oxford is hoping to publish later this year.

In the meantime, I’ve been bouncing around those ideas with colleagues like Andy Dickinson, who said he’d be blogging about his take on it sometime soon, too. And I’ll probably weave it into the discussion at the #DEN2010 meeting on "Benchmarking Your Website". And, of course, I look forward to seeing just how data literacy, retrieval and repurposing is woven into the National Occupational Standards for journalism.

Monday, January 04, 2010

What's in store for online journalism and media in 2010?

The past year in the online journalism and news media industries has seen more job cuts, paid content debates, moves into the smartphone market and the rise of the 'Twitter mob'.

But what will 2010 bring? Will there be new debates and launches or more of the same?

Yesterday we revisited predictions from industry insiders on what would occupy the industry in 2009, from hyperlocal to a surge in news start-ups. Below are the answers to a question put to journalists and industry commentators working online via Twitter for their predictions for the year ahead...
Twitter update from Francois Nel

More on what I mean by reciprocity in the (very short) presentation I gave at last UK Society of Editors conference. Expanding on that idea is amongst my New Year's resolutions.