Lebedev in the Money
It seemed at best an unlikely plan when it was announced last year that Alexander Lebedev and his team intended to move the Evening Standard from paid to free distribution. However after just 9 months the paper has begun making money. Doubling the print costs and bidding farewell to the revenue made from newspaper sales, in the middle of a recession no less, was a tremendously bold move. But research has shown that all those additional copies are actually being read, and the beneficial effect this has had for advertisers has seen the coffers filling up once more.
Captain Clickback says: “with politicians stopping you in the street and patting down your pockets for loose change before taking your shoes and sending you on your way, this switch to free distribution was an intuitive masterstroke. The Standard used to sell 1,600 papers at Oxford Circus on a good day. Today, they can easily give away 20,000 copies there. Although owned and managed by the same team, it’s doubtful that the ailing Independent will follow the Standard into free distribution, but there are bound to be some interesting changes afoot.”
Associated spent a day in court recently, taking out an injunction against the humorous politickists who published a spoof version of their free commuter newspaper, Metro. Metr0, as it was called, drew attention to the new government’s stance on immigration law by leading with a fake story that Gordon Brown was being forcibly repatriated to Scotland. 20,000 copies of the paper were given out in central London, none of the paper’s other 32 areas of distribution were targeted.
Ad Decline slowing
Reports on ad spend for the first quarter of 2010 have shown that the news for local newspapers is still bad, but is getting worse slower than it has been of late. The amount spent on local press advertising Jan-March was 5.2% down on the same period last year. So far, so bad, but if you consider that Oct-Dec 2009 was 14.1% down on Oct-Dec 2008, things suddenly start to look like they might be bottoming out.
Captain Clickback says: “much of this almost-improvement will be due to classified advertisers finding the money once more to do more than just pay the wage bill and hope that nobody asks for the rent, however media mix is also playing a part here. Over the last 2-3 years many advertisers will have eschewed print media in favour of an entirely digital campaign. Now that the budget allows it, many will now be recognising the value of a more varied schedule.”
N o real news for advertisers here you might think, but BBC 6Music’s 11th hour rescue is solid news for DAB broadcasting. The BBC’s commitment to raise the station’s profile and listener base rather than close it down is shoe in foot with the government re-opening discussions on a switch off date for FM broadcasting: if we are all finally going to make the switch to DAB, the Beeb will have a vital role to play in creating and promoting DAB content worth listening to. The station’s survival could also be seen as a victory for social media, as campaigns on Facebook and activity on Twitter contributed to the BBC Trust receiving more than 25,000 emails asking that the station be kept open.
Captain Clickback says: “we need to either conclude our ablutions promptly or get off the pot with all this DAB business. The technology is nearly 30 years old and we’re still arguing about the switchover. It’s chickens and eggs though- the investment in signal strength will only come when listenership is high enough, but listenership will only be high enough once the signal strength is sufficient for DAB car stereos to be worth having. While we’re on the subject, since it is necessary by definition that a chicken has to have been born from an egg, but not similarly inherent in the nature of eggs that they must be laid by a chicken, clearly the egg came first. Furthermore, since mutation occurs only during reproduction, it’s surely inescapable that the first chicken as we know it will have been born from an egg laid by a not-quite chicken. But I digress.”
The Manchester Wall has Fallen
Having the confidence and the business acumen to beat Murdoch to the punch and put a paywall around your website is terrific. Not realising that almost nobody will pay up to £60 a year to read local gossip and restaurant reviews on Manchester Confidential is a terrific way to alienate users, lose face all over the shop and save yourself the bother of having to send out invoices to advertisers. Publisher Mark Garner won’t reveal how many of ManCon’s 260,000 free readers signed up to be paid-for subscribers to his website, but having reverted to a free model, is no doubt relieved that instead of being termed ‘a failure’ in the trade press it’s largely being described as ‘an experiment’.
Captain Clickback says: “It’s both unfair and inaccurate to compare ManCon to the Times, but nuts anyway. So long as a similar product is available elsewhere for free, it’s difficult to see why anybody would pay for their news online. It’s a brave or foolish imaginary media superhero who suggests that Murdoch has it wrong, but nuts anyway. Forcing users to pay for content will put a huge dent in user numbers, impacting advertising revenue, and while people can visit the BBC’s offering free of charge, why wouldn’t they?”
If you would like more detail on any of the issues discussed in this email, your Space and Time contact will be delighted to help.
See You Next Time!!