DateMonday 11 December 2006

Blogs vs newspapers.. or not

John Naughton has put up the transcript of an email interview he gave to a journalist from New Zealand. It starts somewhat abruptly with the question from the NZ hack:

Q: Blogs are constantly being talked of as being “on the verge” on mainstream influence. Yet, outside a few cases in the United States (Dan Rather’s “memogate” etc), they don’t seem to have lived up to their promise. Is 2007 the year of the blog, or the year the blog boom finally busted?

A: Silly question — typical of old-media journalism.

Ow! Read the whole thing, though, because he’s on the money.

But does point to Alan Rusbridger’s point that for a paper to succeed online, it needs to be not “on the web” but of the web. (Wonder where the interview will appear once written up?)

Which you certainly need when you have gloomy stuff like this from Greenslade:

On the sales, audited by ABC, note first these telling results for the month of November compared to November last year: daily popular papers down 4.95%; daily mid-market papers down 2.18%; daily qualities down 2.74%. So the total daily market is down 3.72% (and I can tell you, without fussing about the exact details of discounted sales and foreigns and bulks, it’s far worse once you take account of those as well).

Ooh, is that a plate of polonium? I do feel peckish…

How much free paper distributors earn for forcing thelondonpaper into your hands

OK, now I’ve done a little bit of – gasp – journalism for this, so of course this post has been written under the draft PCC regulations for bloggers.

So I thought that I would ask one of those folk who give out the papers how much they earn, and-

This is the PCC. Have you checked this with two other sources?

Have you checked it? Sourced it?
Well, I asked someone who…
Were you sure they were a distributor?
Well, he was on a street corner holding a huge pile…
All right, but we’ll have to point out that you might be endangering your Licence To Blog if you cannot demonstrate that your remarks are without malice or prejudice.

Anyway, OK, um. So he was standing there on the corner, and so I asked him how much he earns. Turns out that it’s £7 per hour, for four hours. So that’s £28 per day. Hardly a fortune.

I asked him how much London Lite people get but he didn’t want to say. Sure that he’d have asked them.

As I recall from Peter Preston’s little snippet in the Observer this week, there are about 500 outlets for each of the freesheets. Which means that (assuming that the papers pay all their distributors the same) you’re talking about £14,000 per day, £98,000 per week, £5.1m per year.

Don’t know about you but that to me doesn’t sound like a lot. The per-day cost, after all, is just the cost of a couple of ads in the paper (I’m assuming – don’t tell the PCC! – because I haven’t seen the ratecard).

Except that thelondonpaper has had to spend about £1m, again IIRC, to get its spots in train stations. But that only works out to about £2,700 per day, which is a couple more ads. And Preston was talking about ad ratios of – what, 20%?

In conclusion, it’s not making them a huge amount of money, but probably the biggest cost is just printing the damn papers. The distribution is cheap enough (doesn’t have to travel big distances) and the editorial, while tough to fund, is pulling in advertisers.

Though I still hate tlp’s design. But I only pick it up for the sudoku (don’t tell the advertisers!)

Coda to the above: I know, I’m very late to this discussion. But I just looked at the actual story that I linked to there, about the PCC speech. There, Tim Toulmin, a – the? – PCC director said “If you want to see how the newspaper industry would look like if it was unchecked, then look at the internet.”

If the newspaper industry was unchecked????? That’s laugh-aloud stuff. (See any of the Daily Star, Daily Express, News of the World, Daily Sport, Sunday Sport, or The People to tell me precisely where the PCC’s guiding hand has made such a difference.) I sincerely hope someone did have the grace at least to guffaw when he said those ridiculous words. I know I would have, had I been there, for I’m prone to calling emperors on the failings of their clothing.

Oh, but it got even better.

He said a voluntary code of practice would allow content to be checked without government involvement, stressing: “We’re not in favour of regulating the internet. The flow of information should not be regulated by any government.”

Former Downing Street spin doctor Alastair Campbell, who chaired the session organised by the Commission for Racial Equality, said blogs were “perceived as a positive development” but added that “some of the most offensive stuff” comes from them.

Look, Mr Campbell, bloggers might have done a few things, but none has ever distorted facts in order to shore up the desire for war of a few people in the Pentagon with the forecastable result that thousands of people die and internecine feuds result.

Meanwhile, you now know how much those folk freezing on the streets get. You could give them a coffee in this weather. It’s probably just as hard a pitch as selling The Big Issue, except you’re not allowed a dog on a string.