Monday, 7 June 2010

Marc Reeves: 'Don't feel sorry for newspapers'

Former Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves, now editor of internet news service theBusinessDesk West Midlands, has published on his blog a speech he is making about the future of news journalism to a West Midlands CBI lunch on Thursday.
Here are some of the points he will make:

The newspaper industry: "Don’t feel too sorry for it. I spent the last 15 years of my newspaper career regularly attending industry conferences in which the threats and opportunities of the internet were endlessly discussed and analysed. Pretty much everything that has come to pass was predicted, but what did the big newspaper groups do? Very little that was right, it turns out. Saddled by a shareholder base that had grown used to the cash cow returns of a monopoly, the regional newspaper industry in particular was structurally incapable of adopting the entrepreneurial approach that is the only option available when almost every aspect of your business model is rendered obsolete."

On the Birmingham newspaper war:
"When hard market facts tell us the media business is only going in one direction, you have nostalgists like Chris Bullivant recapturing days of yore and launching old-style newspapers – and what’s worst, big players like Trinity Mirror humouring him by spending money on counter-launches when they should be moving their brands online ever more aggressively."

Newspaper websites: "Newspapers are still aspiring to the revenue levels of the old days, so the mantra is: "You can’t make money from the internet ... Lose a pound in print advertising, make a penny online. Well, that’s true – but it’s only a problem if you’re trying to make an online revenue stream pay for a newsprint cost base. Despite all the slash-and-burn cost-cutting of the past few years, the newspaper business is balanced precariously atop extraordinary pensions obligations, massive ongoing capital bills for print plants, and debt that was affordable when cashflow was fuelled by lorry-loads of classified revenues but is now raping the bottom line."

On the 'folly' of paywalls: "Is it any wonder that people are so reluctant to ‘pay for content’ online? They’ve already stumped up more than they ever did to buy a newspaper two or three times a week, so why should they add to the burden by paying for content that is available elsewhere for free?"

The future: "I believe the biggest challenge to journalism is not the internet – it is the inherent inability of the largest media groups to squeeze from it the revenues and profits they’ve been built on. It is also the tendency of too many journalists to leave ‘business issues’ to the money men and ‘the management."


Graham Lovelace said...

I agree with every word of this

Anonymous said...

The newspaper industry allowed too many decisions about their internet operations to be made by tech and commercial departments. In the early mellee they forgot about what business they were in and it has cost them dearly. It's only now they are beginning to see that the technology is a means to an end.