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Wordblog revived

incorporating New Life


Hope for resurrection of Press Gazette

Press Gazette could return quickly according to Robert Allen, the company administrator from Vantage Corporate Restructuring. He is having promising talks with a prospective buyer according to a brief item posted on the PG site this morning. He says: “Watch this space. I can’t say much more because these things are sensitive but today is a new day. And I’m looking forward to it.

Online video eating into UK’s traditional TV audience

Online and mobile video is starting to eat into mainstream television viewing, according to an ICM survey for the BBC. This looks like a further fragmentation of the young audience which is already the most likely to have migrated from the big BBC and ITV channels to multi-channel TV.

While only 9% of the UK population is saying they watch online video regularly, a further 13% watched occasionally and 10% expected to start in the coming year. Four out of ten of those watching online video once a week, said they were watching less broadcast TV.

The report of the survey points out that the success of sites including YouTube has helped open the door. While TV hit shows are routinely available in the US the the UK is not so advanced. But from around the new year BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are all planning to offer most shows on demand.

The survey does not examine the sources of the online video being watched, but the moves into video on demand by the mainstream channels is a sign of their attempts to hold on to as much market share as they can of an increasingly fragmented market.

BBC not to follow NBC is describing Iraq conflict as ‘civil war’

The BBC is not following NBC in describing the conflict in Iraq as “civil war”. The fighting there, says Jon Williams, the BBC’s word new editor, “defies simple categorisation”.

He writes in the broadcaster’s Editors blog that Harvard professor Monica Toft believes Iraq meets all six of the objective criteria she has identified as being shared by all modern cvil wars . But Williams wonders if using the term civil war “really aids out understanding”.

There are, he maintains, at least two other dimensions. “In Anbar province, the violence in places like Fallujah and Ramadi is driven by the original insurgency against the US-led occupation. Anbar is a Sunni stronghold – the targets, by and large, are not Shia Muslims, but American servicemen and women. Further south, a third battle emerges – fighting between rival Shia militias,” he writes.

He arrives at the view that, “there is no single picture in Iraq – no single term can do justice to the complexity of what’s going on there.”

Danish reporters: Well-dressed, polite and loved

When it comes to surveys of the respect in which people are held in Britain, journalists generally come somewhere at the bottom among politicians and estate agents. In Denmark, it seems, reporters are polite, well dressed, explain the purpose of the interview clearly. And when the story is published 95 per cent of the sources say they have been quoted accurately.

Kristine Lowe examines the survey which is in the latest issue of the trade mag Journalisten, and appears under the heading: “Excuse me – may I ask one tiny critical question?”

She suggests the results arise from reporters getting too close to their sources. Seven out of ten of respondents had been interviewed more than ten times in the past three years.

Space for an online ‘Press Gazette’

I don’t think it is complete tosh. In his post yesterday on the death of Press Gazette Neil McIntosh seems to be pointing to a way of resurrecting of at least the spirit of journalism’s trade mag as a web publication.

Now, why would McIntosh who is the Guardian Unlimited’s head of editorial development suggest anything like that. Well, Roy Greenslade, who has reported the slow death of PG better than anyone, in his Guardian media blog, yesterday wrote: “It offered the kind of competition that kept us rival journalists on our toes. We could measure our success against it.”

The fact is that we need a continuance of the Press Gazette or something to replace it. Hold the Front Page is jointly owned by the giant regional press owners and Media Guardian is produced by a big media business and, as Greenslade pointed out, it needs someone to keep it on its toes.

McIntosh, in his Complete Tosh blog, says, “the magazine’s website (110,000 uniques a month) was much more popular than the printed version where, I suspect, all the effort went (4,639 sales).”

He writes: “It seems like the PG always had an internet-style problem, even before the web existed. Readers – journalists – were used to getting it for free, as it turned up in newsrooms on a Thursday or Friday, and would then be passed around. Why pay when you could get it for nothing? Sound a familiar problem?”

And finally he points at a way that a future journalism publications could succeed. “At a time when online publishing has found a very low-cost, high impact model of publication, PG went old school and bulked up. Had it embraced the new model – looking to Nick Denton [Gawker], Rafat Ali [Paid Content] or Ashley Norris [Shiny Media] rather than to the glory days of print – it might have survived.”

If there was any possibility of that model being successful if it had been done some time ago, its prospects must be much better now. A start-up online publishing business would be unencumbered by the working practices, investment and debts of the past.

It would probably have to find a new name unless the receiver finds he can only give away the Press Gazette title. But there is a real opening here for an independent British journalism online magazine and it is important that we have this voice.

‘Time to clip Murdoch’s wings’

A novel idea for politicians, stand up to Rupert Murdoch, is put forward by Stephen Glover in today’s On the Press column in The Independent. He writes:

Hardly a week goes by without David Cameron coming up with a new idea that astounds his critics and discomforts some of his friends. May I suggest one that might unite almost everybody? Stand up to Rupert Murdoch.

Following Tony Blair’s highly discreditable example, Mr Cameron has been sucking up to the media tycoon, and has buttered up Rebekah Wade, editor of the Murdoch-owned Sun. Not that it has done him much good. Mr Murdoch evidently does not like Mr Cameron, regarding him as an over privileged toff, a class he detests. He recently told The New Yorker that the Tory leader doesn’t believe in anything apart from image.

Glover questions the brightness of launching theondonpaper, mentions OH Simpson and buying shares in ITV to stymie a takeover, and suggests the time has come when it may be possible to clip Murdoch’s wings.

Why do politicians blog?

Emily Bell, the Guardian’s director of digital content, takes a look at political blogging and viral video in the media sections opinion column today under the heading “separating the bloggers from the tossers”.

Her conclusion is: “No doubt between now and the next election the increase in politicians blogging will be like lemmings falling off a cliff, but a word of advice if I may. Unless you have and inner blogger — don’t bother.”

She castigates David Cameron who never veers into the “realm of conversation”. His posts do not refer to external sources, point to material seen or read, or link to people he’s talked to. “It is a one way diatribe of not-quite policies,” she writes.

There are resonances in Bell’s piece, of the discussion on why newspapers blog. Howard Owens has joined this discussion in his Media Blog and suggests: “All reporters must learn to become good bloggers. If you’re smart enough to be a good reporter, you should be smart enough to figure out how to become a good blogger.”

That argument could equally be applied to politicians but I am with Emily Bell: you need “the inner blogger”.

News media v giants of search: battle for advertising

There is a growing realisation that print media’s ideas of moving towards a form of internet journalism that could be as profitable as print are doomed. That is unless something can be done about increasing online advertising revenues very substantially.

Peter Cole in the Independent on Sunday writes:

The company [Google] which has made fortunes for its billionaire founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin would laugh at the idea that you cannot make money through advertising on a news website. To which those who are providing the content would ask “Whose news?”

He quotes Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, who told the Society of Editors that Google was “hoovering up stupendous amounts of money on the back of our content”.

The news on the advertising front looks like getting worse. Earlier this month Merrill Lynch upgraded its forecast for search advertising in the United States this year from 32.2% to 35.2%. The branded advertising forecast remained the same at 24.4%. They estimated that search advertising would continue to grow faster than branded, taking 42-43% of the cake next year.

Peter Cole writes about the need for a “conversation” with Google. In the United States, were these things seem to happen earlier, an agreement between Yahoo and a consortium of 150 newspapers was announced last week.

Members of the Cosortium are: Belo Corp, Cox Newspapers Inc, Hearst Newspapers, Journal Register Company, Lee Enterprises Incorporated, MediaNews Group and The E.W. Scripps Company. The newspapers in the consortium reach 38 states.

The press release says Yahoo will work with the newspapers in these areas:

Advertising: Use Yahoo!’s technology platform to sell online advertising for the newspapers’ Web sites.

Search: Use Yahoo!’s search monetization functionality on newspaper Web sites, such as Web search, downloads of the Yahoo! toolbar and sponsored search.

Local: Offer Yahoo!’s local products such as Yahoo! Local listings, Yahoo! Maps and Event Listings on the newspaper Web sites.

Content: Use Yahoo!’s extensive network to distribute the newspapers’ content in areas such as Yahoo! Search results, Yahoo! News and other content verticals.

Members of the consortium described it as a “transofrmational deal for the newspaper industry”. Merrill Lynch commenting on the agreement said:

We are somewhat mixed about the implications for the newspaper industry, but ultimately believe this is a worthwhile experiment. Not understanding where exactly Google is going with its newspaper ad placement experiment, it is also probably healthy to have Yahoo! in the fray.

They continue saying:

We also wonder if the Yahoo! partnership splinters the newspaper industry, precluding newspapers from forming a national, industry-wide consortium and migrating onto common platforms as some observers have suggested. While we appreciate the participating newspapers’ attempt to tap into local online adv. by partnering with Yahoo!, the partnership also seems an admission that papers have to give up some economics online in order to broaden their distribution. Giving up some economics vs. potentially missing out completely might prove to be a good decision, not to mention that papers will gain access to technology.

That is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the deal. It looks as if mainstream media is going to have to work together on this, and more than “a conversation” will be needed. Perhaps even the BBC, which has commercial services which fall outside its public services, will join in.

It will be tough and the search giants probably understand newspapers better than newspapers understand search: two Yahoo executives, Hilary Schneider and Dan Finnigan were previously senior people at Knight-Ridder.

Press Gazette closes

A simple statement this evening announced the closure of the Press Gazette after 41 years. The item on the web site reads:

Press Gazette’s editorial team would like to thank all of its readers over the past 41 years, and all of those who have given us support in the recent difficult weeks.The magazine’s staff was informed tonight by managing director Simon Read that they were being made redundant with immediate effect.

It is sad for all the staff who have worked so hard to bring about the improvement in the paper in the past year. It also leaves print journalism without a trade journal at a time of, perhaps, the greatest and fastest change it has seen.

I will miss it: its advertisements were the source of several of my jobs and rather more applications. Yet its demise was inevitable as advertising migrated to others including Media Guardian and the Hold the Front Page website, owned by the regional publishers whose advertising was once very important to the Press Gazette.

Perhaps the title will survive in some form.

PR involvement in Alexander Litvinenko’s ‘poisoning’ story revealed

As if the murky world of espionage had not already obscured the story of the death of Alexander Litvinenko enough, it now seems that powerful PR forces have been at work too.

The Guardian reported today that a company run by Lord Bell of Belgravia, who as Tim Bell was behind the advertising campaigns which helped the Tories to power in 1972, distributed the pictures of Mr Litvinenko in hospital and handled media enquiries.

Lord Bell’s Bell Pottinger Communications clients include Boris Berezovsky, the Russian oligarch, who was a friend and employer of Mr Litvinenko.

The Evening Standard’s This is London website added that Moscow has also employed a powerful PR consultancy, to counter claims from Berzovsky. It reports: “The Russian government has signed a multi-million pound contract with the American PR firm, Ketchum. They are using two heavyweights in London: Tim Allen, a former Downing Street spin doctor, and Angus Roxburgh, a former BBC correspondent in Moscow.”