Tag Archives: News International

Hats off to Nick Davies

News of the World

Image via Wikipedia

There’s so much coverage of the shutting down of the News of the World, including mine, but I’m not seeing anyone talking about the journalist at the heart of this story – but who comes out with his reputation and morals intact.

Nick Davies has for four years kept this story alive, ignoring every threat and denial from News International, and always trusting his sources and instincts.

News of the World editor told staff yesterday: “The Guardian was out to get us, and they got us,” almost inferring a personal vendetta. But this is business: Davies uncovers wrong-doing for a living. NOTW may have hacked as many as 4,000 phones, including missing schoolchildren and war heroes’ families.

This video chat with him is worth watching. Here’s an excerpt:

 It’s about power and the power elite and the way that the power elite tend to look after each other. I think it’s reasonable to observe that the Murdoch corporation has too much power and its’ evident in the way that the police, the Press Complaints Commission and some politicians automatically backed off and said ‘let’s not cause trouble, they might hurt us’, that they already had too much power when all this was going on on.

It seems to me highly unlikely that it’s in the interests of society as a whole to give that too powerful group yet more power.

I rather think the threat from Murdoch owning more stuff is slightly over-stated but it’s hard to argue with his analysis of the forces that were holding back the reporting of tabloid journalism’s excesses during the last few decades. Much like with MPs’ expenses, the rules or transparency have now been re-written.

Davies is scathing about the Met police, whose fear of “causing trouble with this newspaper empire” saw multiple investigations dropped, despite live evidence. “There are senior officers who must be seriously considering whether they should resign,” he says.

Oh and Davies also casually says that he’s spoken to NOTW hacks (pun intended) who in 2005 asked Glenn Mulcaire to hack the voicemails of David Cameron and George Osbourne. If Davies’s reporting on this so far is any guide, you’d be foolish to question him.

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Smoke and Mirrors: Why the Daily Mirror will not build a paywall

Daily Mirror front page, 2 December 1976
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The headline on Marketing’s website reads: “Daily Mirror’s plans online paywall“. The Twittersphere alights with it-won’t-workisms. The article says:

Executives at parent group Trinity Mirror are finalising which content to charge for on Mirror.co.uk and Sundaymirror.co.uk. Final details of the strategy are expected to be confirmed later this year.

Daily Mirror columnists, including political writer Paul Routledge and sports columnist Oliver Holt, will provide the foundation for the title’s premium content strategy. However, the Daily Mirror’s general news will remain free.

But wait: the headline on Wednesday morning now reads: “Daily Mirror’s plans for online content charges revealed (The old version is handily immortalised on TheMediaBriefing plus still appears in the article’s URL).

Leaving aside the fact that the headline promises the revelation of “plans” but then reveals that said plans are yet to be revealed, this talk of paywalls doesn’t add up. Here’s the problem with stories like this: There is no one-size-fits-all solution; to charge for content is not to erect a paywall.

The Times, Sunday Times and News of the World have genuinely built paywalls: three (mostly) impenetrable barriers to all their content.

The FT and Wall Street Journal have something similar, but offer some content for free: more of a pay-picket fence, or a members’ club with very restricted opening hours for non-members. The wall comes down at certain points, but it’s still a wall. Countless B2B titles and other content producers have different models still.

Editors’ Weblog has it that these plans are being finalised, but I’ve spoken to more than one person at Trinity Mirror and right now, while nothing is ruled out, not much has been finally agreed. But it’s safe to say Trinity is not keen on the idea of all-encompassing walls. In fact, it’s not all about monetising content through a simple fee for news and comment – but about making the most of relationships with readers through games and niche products. NMA’s article spells it out:

The publisher, which has traditionally been opposed to paywalls, said that while it won’t charge for ‘ubiquitous news’ which sites like the BBC provide for free, it is looking into a range of options for growth, including testing the appetite for paid-for content around its sport and entertainment verticals, 3am and Mirror Football.

Group head of digital Paul Hood tells NMA:

As we learn more about our player base, and as they give us more information about themselves, we can use our rich archive of content to hook them deeper into the Mirror Football site and convert them from casual readers to committed fans.

Doesn’t sound very wall-like to me. In fact it’s pretty much what Trinity Mirror CEO Sly Bailey has been saying for some time, such as during this earnings call in March (via paidContent:UK):

There will be some opportunities to charge for specific content but we don’t think a paywall around everything is the right strategy

The digital paid content debate cannot be reduced to a simple binary choice between “paywall” and “no paywall”. TheMediaBriefing’s forthcoming paywall report, written by Peter Kirwan (and available to order with an early bird discount right now), tackles this head-on and concludes that there are in fact six discernible online paid content models, not one.

Given that the Mirror has charged for its print edition for more than a century, executives don’t see charging for other products (note: plural) as particularly different. That doesn’t mean the Mirror can’t also sell advertising against its paid digital products, although convincing advertisers to do so is now a central challenge for the entire industry.

A wall with no Mirror

But what I don’t think will happen is that the Mirror sets up a universal, lock-down walled garden and take itself away from Google and the public stream of recommendations and personal networks.

And it’s also mistake to compare the challenges facing  Trinity Mirror’s three four national titles (Mirror, Sunday Mirror, Daily Record, the People) with News Corp’s predicament: all of News International’s decisions are being driven by owner Rupert Murdoch’s ideological scheme across all of his empire – it’s a war against Google, whom he accuses of leeching from his journalists’ hard work, and the devaluation of content by our copy-and-paste global digital culture.

There is more than one option when it comes to monetising content and relationships. I hope the conversation and coverage around this debate recognises that.

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It’s not about selling news, it’s about keeping customers

The new-look, paid-for Times website

The paywall debate has focused on how consumers might consume the news industry’s end product: news. “Will readers pay for news online?” “Will the industry survive this change?” “Won’t people just get it for free someplace else?”

These are the news industry’s Frequently Asked Questions right now. Even people that don’t believe in Rupert Murd och‘s pile-’em-high subscription strategy – free content activist Guardian News & Media to name one – want to know whether TheTimes.co.uk will be a success.

But paywalls do not sprout overnight, they need real planning. Just look at my old colleague Martin Stabe’s presentation at SIPA on the nuts and bolts of implementing subscriptions at Emap’s Retail Week magazine. So here are some other questions it might be worth asking.
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Wishful thinking as News International hopes mass print audience and scarcity survive

Image representing Rupert Murdoch as depicted ...
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The latest accounts to be released from Rupert Murdoch‘s News International, covering the 52 weeks to June 28 2009, say much about the company’s content propaganda.

News Group Newspapers, the division that publishes market leading red-tops The Sun and News of the World, made pre-tax profits of £40.3m for the year – that’s 10 percent down year on year and not a bad performance considering the profit drop of various rivals. Revenue falls by £8.4m to £617.9m (Arif at Mediaweek has more on the nuts and bolts).

… Read on after the jump

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