IFRA Trend Report for March 2008
BusinessThe deal could mark one of the largest takeovers in American corporate history. To leverage its position in the online services market, Microsoft has offered to acquire Yahoo! Inc. for about $44.6 billion in cash and stock. With Google emerging as one of the biggest players, analysts believe that a combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! was imminent; speculations of the merger have been doing the rounds for months. The mega bid is an acknowledgement of Microsoft’s failure to monetize its online presence. The deal, if it comes through, could be great for Yahoo! Its share prices are already soaring.
Although Microsoft's bid for Yahoo has been stealing most of the headlines this past month, other issues too have taken centre stage, such as job insecurity. In today’s digital age where content creation and distribution has changed irreversibly and newspapers are rapidly transforming themselves into multimedia companies, a job in a newspaper is no longer secure. Newspaper publishers across the world are resorting to cost-cutting measures, and one of the easiest ways seems to be reducing the number of employees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that 10,000 employees have lost their jobs in the first ten months of 2007. On the cards are 700 jobs cuts at Yahoo! Inc.; 86 are likely to lose their jobs at the Seattle Times Company; and there are reports that the San Diego Union-Tribune has reduced its job force by 10 percent.
If sentiments of Wall Street are anything to go by, 2008 will continue to be a trying year for newspapers businesses. With classified and display advertising drying up in newspapers’ print editions, Wall Street has put newspaper stocks in a deep freeze.
The reader is king. In their attempt to attract eyeballs, newspaper Web sites sometimes come up with innovative offerings. McClatchy Interactive, part of McClatchy Company, has signed an agreement with Zvents, a leading local search company, to power the online entertainment and event platform for McClatchy’s newspaper Web sites, enabling users to conduct searches for local people, places and events.
Indeed, reaching out to a target audience with engaging content, be it lifestyle, entertainment or shopping information, has become a necessity today. The Los Angeles Times Media Group-Valassis innovative pre-print insert distribution programme will now expand to include a Spanish-language edition to target Latino households in Southern California.
As the spectre of recession looms over the United States, the market capitalisation of the New York Times is set to fall below $ 2 billion. Google may be tempted to buy one of the premier brands of the information age. Owning a major media outlet will stand it in good stead when Google launches its mobile platform, and then there will be so much content for use.
Three years ago, Bennett Coleman & Co., publisher of The Times of India, the world’s largest selling broadsheet, established a Private Treaties Division to swap advertising space in its newspaper for minor equity in small and medium enterprises that have no money for marketing but need to build brands. India’s top media groups – HT Media Ltd., Dainik Bhaskar and Jagran Prakashan – are now eager to follow Bennett Coleman’s equity-for-advertising example.
TechnologyThe speed of digital delivery is not only fast changing the nature of a newspaper’s content, but also the way newsrooms work. Whether at the Daily Telegraph, the Financial Times, or the Times, technology is driving integration and convergence. The onus is now on publishers to take advantage of technological developments.
Video has become a very important component of newspaper Web sites. Surveys reveal that users prefer watching video to listening to a podcast, or to reading text. How much video should newspapers seek is a key question. Well, Le Figaro has invested in the construction of a video studio in its premises.
Setting up of video for newspaper Web sites on a budget can be a challenge. Computer, camera, camcorder, editing software or accessories, the trend today is for buying a kit that suits the way you work.
Gizmos of the future: watch out in 2008 for L.G. Philips LCD Co.’s easy-to-read e-paper that you can roll and carry, and for Polymer Vision’s Readius, an e-reader with a wrap-around flexible screen.
‘Hyperlocal’ newsThe term ‘hyperlocal’ has become a buzzword, at least in newsrooms. Several major newspapers across the world are trying to relate to their local communities with the hope that increased readership will generate more advertising revenues. Gannett, for instance, has launched more than 1,000 local speciality publications over a decade. It is not yet clear though whether its ‘hyperlocal’ strategy is working.
Major newspapers often do not cover local issues. Community newspapers are now filling that void, with intense and investigative local reporting. In many ways, local news makes a newspaper more relevant. In South Africa, for instance, community newspapers are the number one source of local news and advertising.
A Malaysian in Canada finds success with a newspaper, the Asian Pacific Post, which highlights local issues affecting diverse communities.