Monday, March 31, 2014

More on local news

The collection of local news is an expensive process. Until now, it was financed by the print papers, thanks to sales and a very profitable advertising policy. In 2014, things look a bit different. The overall cost is the same, about 600 millions euros for France and for salaries only but the  press income is going down as   classified ads are massively moving to Internet.

Sure, a website covering current affairs for a 800 000 people metropolis should be fairly cheap. No print and no delivery charges. Just salaries for 4 journalists, 10 local correspondents a sales manager  and 2 technicians plus overhead expenses. An annual budget of 700 000 euros should be enough to provide a permanent flow of texts and videos.

However, it could be difficult to finance it. The audience would be limited because of so many specialized sites such as Allo Cine that offer useful information for free. That means that a paywall would not work and that advertising is risky.

So what could be the solution? Most likely an enlargement of the offer with connections to other websites devoted to sports, fooding, entertainment. It would mean the slow building up of a loyal public and a network of shops, sporting clubs, various associations, each willing to pay a small fee to be registered and promoted.

It would be a fairly long process but there is probably no other opportunity to succeed on the local market.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

local news at the digital age

Are local news manageable in the new digital age? This is a big question for American and French regional newspapers. As far as national and foreign news are concerned, the answer is getting quite clear. It is now possible to launch websites that attract a huge public and can be profitable. The last Pew report on news states very clearly that after ten years of search and failures, things are starting to move in the right direction. In France, the success of Mediapart shows that we can have our own Politico.

For local news, there is no proper issue. The fact is that regional dailies built their success on an efficient mix-up of information and useful data on day to day life. 30 years ago, you had to buy the paper to know what was happening in cinemas, theatres, concert halls, shopping centres and also the sporting life. To day, you just need to connect for free to the right website, such as Allo Cine or the city hall site and you get from home every kind of information you need to survive in the big city.

In fact, the global newspaper is slowly vanishing. Now, you have a local news press agency that provides you with pieces of information you don't always need and current life websites managed by people who are not journalists. What could happen next? We'll discuss it in another blog.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Newspapers sell their digital sites

Last January, the Guardian sold for 985 millions dollars its very profitable website of cars digital sales. This month, the various American press groups that own are putting it on sale for 3 billions dollars. It means, for instance, that Gannett, the largest American newspapers group will reap 810 millions and Mc Clatchy, 750 millions.

Any expert of the news industry will wonder why ailing newspapers facing a permanent reduction of sales and advertising and bound to move, as quickly as possible into the digital age, are selling their more profitable assets, losing copious dividends and ad market advantages.

To this obvious question, the Guardian states that it intends to invest on a grand scale into the digital services of the daily, hoping in a few years to turn its digital branch into a profitable venture.

It seems that the American groups expect to ease their pulling out of the print industry by using this huge amount of cash to buy into television networks. This way, Gannett and Tribune could drop their dailies and become prosperous TV and Internet  businesses. The case of Mc Clatchy is a bit different as they seek to get rid of their debts, maybe to sell later on their print activities.

What does it mean? The most likely answer is that the owners of the press industry, following the example of the Graham family, are giving up on their print business and moving to more promising fields, Internet but also television which is still highly profitable if well managed.

At the same time, many young people, helped by wealthy sponsors try to figure out the future of the news industry. They are the Gannett and Tribune of to morrow.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

digital journalism new trends, new hopes

In an important post on the Columbia Journalism Review web site, Dean Starkman stresses the new trends of digital journalism. He shows that during the last two years things have clarified and some heated debates have been definitely closed.

One major debate was about paywall or not paywall.  Now, it appears clearly that the traditional media have to accept paywalls. The NY Times, the WSJ, the Financial Times have very successfully moved in that direction. Although it is not a panacea, it makes for  a growing share of the losses of the print press. The only exception is the Guardian but its offer on tablets is already under a paywall and there are more and more people who use tablets.

However, people agree to pay if they get quality news and long reporting. Recent experience has shown that the public doesn't buy anymore hazardous informations spread by the social networks. The pure players can do it and some are very successful like Huffington Post or Buzzfeed but they too try to be more professional and pick up talented journalists to improve their offer. The print press is sick but it is still a model. After all, it seems that quality journalism has a future

What is really worrying is the fate of local news collection. In the US, local newspapers and websites don't find their way and lose audience and money. It seems that the public is willing to pay for national and world affairs, for economic news and, maybe, sports but is not motivated on what's happening next door. This trend which can be spotted too in France means that other actors are entering the game: highly specialized sites, local government services. A big question: is there a future for independent local news collectors? By now, there is no answer.