Thursday, 28 January 2010

Why news agencies are struggling to survive: 'Newspapers are ripping off freelances'

Some interesting posts on the Greenslade blog, which yesterday picked up my story that Kent News and Pictures was ceasing to trade, about the tough times facing news agencies and freelances.
Naturally, some took a pop at the payments made to freelances by Guardian News and Media but they did reflect the slashing of rates by the national press.
Persemillion posted: "It's not just The Guardian. Last year The Express cut page lead rates from £125 and more to £100. The Scotsman used to pay £80 a lead, now they pay as little as £40. The Sun and Times cut rates in January last year. All these papers now pay less for all rounder stories than they did 17 years ago. And they pay no extra for using the story online as well as the paper = although they are happy to charge advertisers extra if they want to advertise online as well as the paper.
The whole newspaper industry is ripping off freelances, even more than usual."
PercyHoskins posted: "Slowly but surely the light of news coverage is being turned off all around the country - OK, Kent has an excellent agency in Ferrari but there are many other areas that only have individuals and small teams and when they go nothing will ever be heard from those areas."
The post about slashed rates fits what I've heard. Some nationals that used to pay £150 for a picture are now paying £75 or even £50.
I used to work for a news agency (Raymond's of Derby) and the rates for page leads now seem lower than in my day - and that was 25 years ago. But then the Sun was going head-to-head with the Mirror and paid very well for exclusives. It was arguably one of the factors that made the Sun the country's best selling newspaper.
Also I remember that pick-up pictures of people involved in scandals or tragedies were very valuable to the nationals. Now national reporters just have to lift them from Facebook pages.
Kent News and Pictures founder Chris Eades told in an interview today today he knew of several other major photography agencies also threatening to pull the plug. "Their management are saying 'we're not sure how long we can hold it together'."
Eades said he could not foresee online offering new opportunities, as the papers simply wouldn't pay enough for content.
The Kent News and Pictures business had suffered when newspapers began paying for the photo space in the paper, rather than the time on the job, and cutting retainers and advance fees, he said.

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