MediaFile

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)

Here’s more:

Meanwhile Barber’s boss, FT CEO John Ridding, was busy telling Guardian.co.uk’s resident press blogger Roy Greenslade that the FT now makes one fifth of its profits from its website, compared to 17 percent in 2007.

None of this is too surprising, but here’s the third prong in the strategy: the equivalent of a house ad supporting the FT’s doctrine on paid content, not published as a real ad, but as the thrust of a commentary in the FT’s Lex column:

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.)

FT’s Barber cuts to the heart of the press problem

Some interesting points from a weekend opinion piece by Financial Times Editor Lionel Barber.
Barber analyzed how the press — particularly in the United States — got to the miserable place that it’s in now. There are plenty of reasons having to do with business models and impatient Wall Street vultures, but Barber brought up an interesting idea: the mainstream media disenfranchised itself from the public’s trust as it became more cozy with its high-level sources — precisely at the time that the Internet started to annihilate the U.S. newspaper business model.

Barber relies on Michael Elliott, the British-born editor of Time’s international edition, to sum up the U.S. newspaper crisis:

A broken business model overly reliant on classified advertising revenue that has now moved online; a mistaken notion that post-1945 newspaper staffs of 800-plus journalists were the norm rather than a historical aberration; and, crucially, a stultifying failure to innovate because of the lack of competition.