Archive for September, 2009

Print freebie eases sting of online payments

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

As newspaper companies consider how and whether to charge for content online – with hundreds apparently signing up for Steve Brill’s consortium while other publishers dither – a survey in England says nearly half of readers would pay for online news if a free print subscription was thrown into the deal.

“While only 5 percent of people who read a news site at least once a month told us they would pay for online access, when you throw in a free or discounted subscription to the printed paper, that rises to a combined 48 percent,” says The Guardian based on its exclusive paidContent:UK/Harris Interactive poll.

It’s not a majority, but it’s enough for leverage, the newspaper says. “The message is loud and clear – people continue to believe that touchable products command tangible economic value but, divorced from physicality and its associated costs, digital content should manifest itself cheaper.”

N&O cracks E&P’s Top 30 sites

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Even before its redesign (see below) The News & Observer’s Web site was pulling in enough readers to rank 27th on Editor & Publisher’s Top 30 newspaper Web sites for the month of August.

The Nielsen Online list shows with 1.8 million unique visitors in August. This is shown as a 110 percent gain year-over-year, but Nielsen expanded its measurement panel eight-fold in June and cautions that the measurements should only be used directionally.

E&P’s Fitz & Jen blog shows The N&O right behind the Denver Post’s site, which at 1.9 million visitors is also new to the list in the last three months, and ahead of the Arizona Republic’s site, the Sun-Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the Kansas City Star’s site, a fellow McClatchy property.

McClatchy’s Miami Herald site ranks 17th on the list with 2.5 million visitors.

The New York Times site tops the list with 17.1 million unique visitors, followed by the Washington Post site with  11.6 million unique visitors.

N&O’s new site easy once they show you how

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

The News & Observer’s newly designed Web site debuts today, with the paper and the site itself touting it as easier to use. Yet, as a friend said, “It was a bit puzzling to see that The N&O had to include a video to explain to readers that the new Web site was much more reader-friendly.”

The redesign includes “one cool feature,” an index tab (at upper right); the ability to customize the categories of news that show up in the news grid on the lower half of the page; revolving “featured stories” at the top of the home page; and additional navigation tabs.

Wednesday morning, the home page also featured a lot of empty space.

McClatchy paper to lay off 12

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

The Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on Tuesday announced that it is reducing its workforce by 10 full-time and two part-time employees.

The McClatchy Co. newspaper has been through several rounds of layoffs and voluntary buyouts since early 2008. The most recent and largest of those was in March, when the newspaper laid off 49 full-time and four part-time employees, and reduced wages for remaining employees.

“The economic downturn has lasted longer than expected, and despite an upturn in the second quarter, the advertising climate remains extremely challenging,” Publisher Timothy M. Kelly said in a message to the staff Tuesday.

McClatchy, the publisher of 30 daily newspapers – including The News & Observer in Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer – has eliminated thousands of jobs to deal with revenue declines and to preserve its ability to make payments on about $2 billion in debt undertaken in the purchase of the much-larger Knight Ridder newspaper chain in 2006.

In its most recent cuts, The News & Observer laid off 10 employees in August.

Media General employees lose third week of pay

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Media General, owner of the Winston-Salem Journal, The Tampa Tribune and 19 other daily newspapers, told employees Friday they must take off five more unpaid days by the end of the year, according to Editor & Publisher.

The five are in addition to 10 furlough days already assessed, for a total of three weeks of pay that the publisher has withheld from employees this year.

Employees must take one day by the end of September (the end of third quarter), and four during fourth quarter, the report says.

The publisher blames “last-minute advertiser cancellations and deferrals of planned spending” by other advertisers.

In addition to instituting layoffs, pay cuts and wage freezes, McClatchy Co., Gannett and other newspaper publishers have furloughed employees this year to save money.

Community newspapers faring better

Monday, September 21st, 2009

A new survey backs up the notion that “local” is better – half as bad, actually – for newspaper revenue.

Figures from Suburban Newspapers of America say that ad revenue at community newspapers dropped 12.4 percent in the second quarter of 2009 year-over-year, according to Editor & Publisher. The Newspaper Association of America says newspaper ad revenue in general fell 29 percent in the same quarter.

The SNA survey included 32 community newspaper organizations totaling 12.5 million in circulation.

As we’ve noted recently, The News & Observer has adopted community newspapers as an efficient vehicle for delivering ad inserts and, in addition to The N&O, currently publishes nine weekly or semi-weekly papers in the Triangle.

Google to challenge Yahoo advertising dominance

Friday, September 18th, 2009

Google on Friday plans to introduce a new display advertising program to compete with Yahoo, which has been the dominant online player in display advertising, says The New York Times.

(Update: Friday’s Wall Street Journal report.)

The Web search giant plans to introduce a “new version of an ad exchange, like a stock market, where advertisers and publishers can buy and sell advertising space, filling spots in Web pages on the fly,” the Times says.

“When a person requests a Web page from a site that is participating in the exchange, the publisher notifies the exchange that space on that page is available. It might also let the exchange know something about that person, based on his or her past online activity or shopping habits. Advertisers bid on the ad space, offering different amounts depending on the person’s attributes, the time of day and other factors. The winner’s ad is then slotted into the page. All of this happens nearly instantly.”

Yahoo’s online advertising network debuted in November 2006 and is made up of publishers of several hundred newspapers, including McClatchy Co., owner of The News & Observer in Raleigh, The Charlotte Observer and 28 other daily newspapers.

Google says its new DoubleClick Ad Exchange will greatly simplify the process of buying and selling display advertising. Analysts tell the Times that it it isn’t likely to catch up with Yahoo soon, but could eventually overtake it.

‘Traditional media’ still top source of news

Friday, September 18th, 2009

They’re pulling up the rear, but newspapers are hanging in there among the traditional news sources that Americans turn to for major news, according to a First Amendment Center survey.

Television was the first source for major news stories for about half of all responding (49 percent), followed by the Internet at 15 percent, radio at 13 percent and newspapers at 10 percent – which places traditional news media (TV, radio and newspapers) as the first source for 72 percent of Americans,” the First Amendment Center says. “Twitter, e-mails and social-networking sites each were named by 1 percent of those responding.”

Seventy-one percent of survey respondents agreed with the necessity of a free press, but fewer knew the scope of the First Amendment. Just 4 percent of those questioned could name “petition” as one of the five freedoms in the First Amendment; 55 percent could only name freedom of speech, and fewer than 20 percent named the freedoms of religion, press and assembly.

Nearly one in five Americans (19 percent) saw the First Amendment as “going too far” in the rights it guarantees.

The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

McClatchy going mobile with AP

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

McClatchy newspapers will contribute to AP Mobile, a multimedia news portal developed by the Associated Press that provides 24-hour access to international, national and local news.

AP Mobile offers applications for Blackberry, iPhone, Nokia devices and Android Market, and promises one soon for Palm Pre.

“Mobile is a key component of McClatchy’s overall digital strategy,” Christian Hendricks, McClatchy’s vice president, interactive media, said in a statement, according to Editor & Publisher.

In addition to AP’s own news, sports and entertainment, more than 1,000 AP members and other sources provide content for AP Mobile.

McClatchy’s Miami Herald and The Sacramento Bee  joined AP Mobile in 2008, and its El Nuevo Herald of Miami was the first Spanish-language daily to contribute to the U.S.-Spanish section of the mobile service.

You can lead a publisher to water, but …

Monday, September 14th, 2009

The Newspaper Association of America has asked for proposals on ways to easily charge for news on the Web, and has received responses from some of the world’s top tech companies, including IBM Corp., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp. and Google Inc.

“But,” says Associated Press Business Writer Andrew Vanacore, “building the infrastructure for charging readers is one part of the equation. The other part looks more challenging: getting publishers to make the leap and stop giving news out for free on the Web.”

Among the 11 proposals received, “Google proposed offering news organizations a version of its Google Checkout system, which is used for processing online payments. It would give readers a place to sign in to an account and then pay for media from a variety of sources without having to punch in their information over and over. And the company says it could offer publishers several pay methods, from basic subscriptions to so-called ‘micropayments’ on a per-article basis,” the AP report says.

“Publishers are nervous about scaring off readers. Charging for news online may open a new source of revenue for struggling newspapers but also could choke off Internet ad dollars by driving down traffic.

“‘This was supposed to be the year that newspapers started charging for online content,’ said Alan Mutter, a former newspaper editor who works as an industry consultant and blogger and submitted one of the 11 proposals. … ‘Based on what I’ve seen, I don’t get any sense that there is unanimity about charging or that they would know how to go about doing it.'”