MediaFile

Tech wrap: Is the DoJ right to oppose the AT&T, T-Mobile deal?

The Justice Department sued to block AT&T’s $39 billion deal to buy T-Mobile USA because eliminating T-Mobile as a competitor would be disastrous for consumers and would raise prices, particularly because the smaller provider offers low prices, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit is a serious attempt to halt a “fundamentally flawed” deal, not a tactic to wring out-sized concessions from AT&T, a source familiar with the lawsuit said.

Dan Frommer says blocking the deal won’t help make service quality any better. A merger would create more spectrum to offer better, faster, more reliable service, Frommer writes. Also, its shortsighted to look at today’s pricing and market and use them as strict guides for the future, as voice and SMS service are disrupted by Internet technology, and as carriers try to charge more for 4G LTE access than they did for 3G access, Frommer added.

Breakingviews columnists Robert Cox, Robert Cyran and Richard Beales say the wireless industry in the U.S. is essentially a duopoly and that the DoJ suit against the AT&T, T-Mobile deal protects smaller providers.

Earlier, AT&T promised to bring 5,000 wireless call-center jobs back to the U.S. if the deal wins approval.

Sony put price tags on its long-awaited debut tablets that could hurt the company’s chances to grab the No. 2 spot in the tablet market. Two versions of Sony’s main tablet cost $499 and $599, which matches the price of Apple’s iPads for models with the same memory and will turn off consumers, analysts said.

A new-found app-etite for the web

A funny thing happened on the way to the Apple Store … Apps were supposed to be the salvation for publishers when the iPad morphed from unicorn status to the real thing last April. Plenty of publishers — newspapers, magazines and books — have built apps. Apple’s newest rules on subscriptions are placating many more.

But there is already a bit of a backlash, and a new awareness that the world wide (open) web may compare favorably to the walled gardens available on the iPad and other tablets.

Why are publishers already starting to re-think the future of media again? For one thing, there is that kickback to Apple —30% off the top — for selling through the iTunes store. Then there are those rules that seem to favor the functionality of Apple apps, like in-app purchasing. And, most ironically, there is the “Aha!” moment that the iPad itself has provided by highlighting what the optimized, mobile web can really be like.

The Financial Times blazed the back-to-the-web movement, abandoning the iTunes store in lieu of an HTML5 site that is still behind their paywall. Apple primed the pump by forbidding in-app sales. Amazon, Kobo and Barnes & Noble moved their stores from their iOS apps to the web.

FT hearts tablets so much, it’s spreading the joy among staff

SINGAPORE/It’s not hard to see why newspaper companies, saddled with plunging circulation and big iron presses , are so ecstatic over tablet devices. They bring a form of hope that hasn’t crossed this industry’s path since newspapers dominated classified advertising in the 1980s and 1990s making them fat with revenue and profits. Tablet computers, like Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, just might spark renewed interest in wilted newspapers among consumers and help ease the legacy costs of paper and ink.

Consider News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch who has often expressed his love for the iPad and is busy building a team to produce a tablet-only newspaper The Daily.

The  Financial Times is just as enamored and is spreading the joy offering its employees a nice chunk of change to go toward the purchase of an iPad or other tablet.

New York Times: Honest work means honest pay

Some people hate The New York Times and some people love The New York Times — but everybody wants to read The New York Times for free. That will largely end in 2011. You probably read that today on the Internet, and you probably read it for free.

The Times said it will let you read some articles per month for free, then make you pay for more. It’s what the Financial Times does. Who said it had to be original? If you subscribe to the print edition, just keep reading it. This isn’t really about you. This is a decision that will, for better or for worse, inform the public that if you want journalists to tell you stuff or entertain you, you need to pay them to do journalism all day long.

Lots of people have opinions on this and lots of people have done the research. Even more people style themselves Internet experts. The one thing they can’t help is sharing opinions on whether news sites should charge or whether they’re not just misguided for doing it — but whether they’re stupid or criminally wrong.

Rupert Murdoch, the smartest man in newspapers?

I wrote an analysis on Monday about the possibility that News Corp might take its news search results away from Google and list them on Microsoft’s Bing search engine instead. My conclusion: This one isn’t such a hot idea. Then I read John Gapper’s Financial Times item about how it *could* be a hot idea.

To recap, here’s how it would work.

    Microsoft would pay News Corp for the privilege of being the only search engine to carry results from papers including the New York Post, Wall Street Journal and Times of London. Microsoft thinks it can get more people to use its search engine, drawing them away from Google. News Corp could punish Google, in essence, for making tons of money from the ads it serves alongside news search results. Why, the thinking goes, should Google make a bunch of money off the news that we produce and our newsrooms go starving and our ad sales tank? Other newspaper publishers, if they see Murdoch making it work, might think the same thing and abandon Google en masse.

I and many others wrote that it would be a gamble at best. What if people don’t care that much about news? If the 70 percent of the search market that uses Google discovers  the news is absent, will they switch search engines? Scientists of misanthropy like me say it’s unlikely. If they don’t find it, they won’t seek it.

Gapper at the FT has another way of looking at it:

In effect, (Murdoch) would be swapping his revenue stream from online advertising with a payment from Microsoft for drawing visitors to Bing. That suggests one of two things: either, as a lot of digital evangelists have suggested, he is getting old and does not “get” the internet, or he has looked at the figures and decided that Google traffic is not worth very much. Personally, I think the latter is more plausible. …

Talking with Thomson Reuters chief about print

Covering Thomson Reuters Corp for almost two years has taught me that people like to cast my company in a recurring role in media deal parlor games. Now that the company’s arch-rival Bloomberg LP will buy BusinessWeek magazine from McGraw-Hill, lots of my pals in the media world are wondering: Will Thomson Reuters buy a mainstream news or business news magazine? Or newspaper? Why not Forbes? Why not the Financial Times?

Keep in mind that Thomson Reuters likes to remind people when they ask these questions that Thomson Corp, before buying Reuters, got out of its Canadian newspaper empire for a reason. (See below)

I asked our chief executive, Tom Glocer, a question along these lines on a Thursday phone call he had with reporters to discuss the company’s third-quarter financial results.

Financial Times: Pay to play

I stumbled across this headline on Wednesday morning:

FT Bosses Launch PR Offensive For Paid-Content Model

I thought: “Launch? Don’t you mean ‘Launched’?” The Financial Times brass has been arguing for months that the only newspapers that will survive the tough times they have been through lately are those that stop giving away the news online, and can do it without sacrificing the advertising money they earn on the Web.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog that produced that headline, courtesy of digitalarmm:

Editor Lionel Barber tells Channel 4 in an interview that there is now “an inexorable momentum behind charging for content” and he urges other national papers only considering introducing paywalls — essentially all of them — to act now (See the video link inside the digtalarmm blog post)

from Sean Maguire:

The raw and the crafted

The Media Standards Trust has begun a lecture series on 'Why Journalism Matters'. It is disconcerting that it feels we have to ask the question. The argument put forward by the British group's director Martin Moore is that news organisations are so preoccupied with business survival that discussion of the broader social, political and cultural function of journalism gets forgotten. It is a pertinent review then, given the icy economic blasts hitting most Anglo-Saxon media groups, and notwithstanding the recent examples of self-evidently broader journalistic 'value' produced by London's Daily Telegraph in its politican-shaming investigations into parliamentarians' expenses.

First up in the series was Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, who cantered through the justifications for a vibrant, independent press. Watchdog, informer, explainer, campaigner, community builder and debater - those are the roles that journalism plays. The value that it brings is most evident by comparison with the unhealthiness of states where the press is not free, noted Barber, citing the struggles of the citizenry in China and Russia to hold their leaders to account.

The FT's USP as a media group, according to Barber, is as an explainer and analyser of complicated events that play out across a global stage. But analytical reporting of global stories costs serious cash, he noted, in a question-begging aside. That you get the quality of journalism you are prepared to pay for, ultimately, is his response to the challenge posed to mainstream media by Internet-enabled communicators. For free you can have the rawness of a blog. For crafted journalism that is properly sourced, reviewed for taste and style and checked for accuracy, you must find ways to charge. At your peril do you blur the edges between the crafted and the raw world of easy comment, hasty opinion and rumour billed as fact, argues the FT editor.  (There was a hat tip, however, to the bloggers that have broken news, such as Guido Fawkes who forced the resignation of an advisor to Gordon Brown by revealing his plans for a smear email campaign.)

Friday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s top stories in the media industry:

TV Networks Fight Drug-Ad Measure (WSJ)
“Advertising costs are deductible to any company as a business expense. The plan being considered by Rep. Rangel’s Ways and Means committee would eliminate the deduction with respect to prescription drug advertising,” writes Martin Vaughan.

Big media seek 21st century business models (Reuters)
“Media moguls at this week’s Sun Valley conference have spent as much time discussing how to reconfigure business models disrupted by the Web as they have worrying about the weak economy,” reports Yinka Adegoke.

Zucker Says Marketplace Has Reached Bottom (B&C)
Ben Grossman writes: “NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker said Thursday that while the overall marketplace is still challenged, he thinks it may have bottomed out. ‘It’s still quite uncertain and we don’t really see the full recovery we are all hoping for,’ he said.  ’It’s still tough out there, but I think we have seen a bottom.’”

Is your newsroom ready for the future?

On Tuesday, a panel hosted by Reuters and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers discussed the state of the media industry and the challenges it faces from consumers demanding information in new and different ways.

How could the industry transform its newsrooms to thrive in this culture?

Chrystia Freeland of the Financial Times said the key discipline was to constantly ask what the reader actually wants and not what is technologically possible. “This is going to be different for everyone,” Freeland told the crowd, which included Thomson Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger.

For the full discussion, watch the video below.

The panel included
Chrystia Freeland, US managing editor, Financial Times

Larry Ingrassia, business editor, The New York Times

Sree Sreenivasan, dean of student affairs & new media professor, Columbia Journalism School