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WAN-IFRA 2009: Free costs too much and good content is valuable

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WAN-IFRA 2009: Free costs too much and good content is valuable

After the combined introductory session on ‘World Trends in Newspaper Industry’ by Timothy Balding, Co-CEO, WAN-INFRA, the first maiden session of the 62nd World Newspaper Congress – ‘Newspapers: A Multi-Media, Growth Business’ – extended the view of the threat of digital evolution for the print industry and brought forth interesting case studies and innovations that newspapers around the world have adopted to fight, or rather flow along the digital revolution.

Eamonn Byrne, Director, WAN-IFRA, chaired the session, while the panellists included Les Hilton, CEO, Dow Jones & Co, USA; Andreas Wiele, Member of the Board/ President, BILD Division & Magazines, Axel Springer AG, Germany; and Paul Jansen, CEO, SPH Search, Singapore Press Holdings.

Les Hilton began with the premise that it was time for the newspaper industry to pause and recognise the fact that free (content on Internet) was turning out to be too expensive for the publication and that it was costing them business. “None of the free news sites and free online newspapers is making money. Google is having difficulty in making money through YouTube, which is a free video streaming site,” he said.

He mentioned that by making the WSJ (Wall Street Journal) a paid content, they had not only increased their revenues from online subscriptions but also increased their physical circulation. He quoted a research stating that 80 per cent of display ad clicks on the internet came from 16 per cent of internet users and that the advertisers today wanted intelligent quality audience for brand building. “There isn’t enough advertising to supplement every online aspiration. Free costs too much and good content is valuable. But the question is who provides the content and who gets the value,” he concluded.

Byrne asked Hilton if newspapers will collaborate to offer content on one device. Byrne affirmed that it might happen in the coming times. “Kindle is offering paid book contents and WSJ is already present there. Sony is coming up with a similar device. We might see some killer electronic gifts this Christmas,” he said.

Andreas Wiele of Axel Springer AG, Germany then spoke about adapting to the internet revolution, the benefits of sticking to the print industry and six challenges of the analogue and digital media. He took the audience through the evolution of Axel Springer AG and how the developed organically and inorganically 60 online properties based on their core competencies of Content, market places and marketing. “We decided that we will need to embrace the online world but we will have to do more to monitise the content,” he explained.

He also mentioned that the fears of cannibalisation of media have not come true and that they have not lost any of their existing publication reader to the online products. He noted that the print readership and advertising revenues in Germany were not declining at the rate in which it was in the USA. Pointing out the six challenges for the analogue and digital media, in European countries he said restriction of freedom of press, and advertising bans should be dealt with. He also highlighted that there were insufficient anti-trust and copyrights regulations. Last two points that media companies can actually implement were paid content and a fair share and fair search parameters with the online media.

Paul Jansen, CEO, SPH Search, Singapore Press Holdings spoke about how a search enrich a newspaper’s value to readers and advertisers. He shared the evolution of a search engine that they developed by looking at the limitation of google and yahoo search engines.

“We found out that google was getting a deeper understanding of online behaviour than the content websites themselves. We also found that google and yahoo were weak in local search, local directories and local maps, that we why we created search and directory engine,” he said. He also mentioned that for location based services marketers had to go to telecom companies, they created a hybrid solution for location based services and then even the telecom companies collaborated with them for their services.


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