Phillip Crawley's review on Where NEWS? Reports
Publisher and CEO
The Globe and Mail
Those looking for optimism about the future of newspapers in these dark days for the industry, with dailies dropping like flies in North America, can find some support in the two strategy papers by Horst Pirker and his team.
Of the two, I find more comfort in the MMM strategy than in the hybrid model, which looks like a “one foot in the grave” scenario for paid dailies. It’s life, but not as we want to remember it.
In a market where lack of revenue – for all media: television, radio, print, and online – is the common global factor, the merits of partly abandoning one source of income escape me. Even at the reduced circulation levels commonplace in Europe and North America, copies sold still account for far more revenue than online advertising sales for newspapers.
Many North American papers have been too timid to apply premium pricing, either to single copy or subscription sales, so it’s true that they have less to lose. Offering potential readers your paper for $1 a week not only reeks of desperation, it screws the market for everyone else. Tabloid papers with a cover price of 50 cents, way below the cost of production and distribution, and near-
It’s worth noting that The Globe and Mail’s circulation revenue is double what it was eight years ago when the launch of Conrad Black’s folly, the National Post, drove down pricing across Canada because of his deep discounting policies, contributing to the huge losses which still dog the Post. As it faded, The Globe was able to resume its premium pricing policy, hence the recovery in circulation revenue.
None of the six cases quoted in the hybrid strategy paper offer convincing proof that this is anything else but a last-
Having worked in Hong Kong for five years as editor of The South China Morning Post when Rupert Murdoch owned it, I have no faith in the claims – unverified, of course – made by The Standard that it has finally found a successful business model after 60 years of trying and failing. And that is the most positive of the six hybrid case studies examined by Horst’s team.
The analysis of the multi-
Before The Globe and Mail – part-
Integrated newsrooms have been in existence in North America for 10 years but they are no panacea for commercial success. Some of the big U.S. dailies that adopted this model have fallen victim to the precipitous fall-
There is no doubt in my mind that the 24x7 customised delivery of quality content is the industry’s best bet for a viable future. Where the strategy paper stops short is in tackling the question of how profitable the business can be for the survivors, when you still need to fund a large newsroom full of top-
Many owners in Canada and the USA have already sacrificed editorial quality in the orgy of cost-
Horst and his team should move on next to an analysis of the revenues likely to arise from MMM in a normalised economic environment.
While it is interesting to look at some old stand-
For instance, the authors recall that it is nearly 50 years since Harvard’s Theodore Levitt argued that a failure to understand the nature of their core business caused the railroad companies to lose ground to competitors like the automobile and airline industries. Are newspapers making the same mistake? Only if the owners and managers are asleep at the wheel.
And that’s the most encouraging message to take away from reading both of these papers: Don't blame the economy when you can do something about it yourself. We still can.
Page first published: 07.04.2009