Newspapers Online: Where else is the money?


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A study of innovation in online business models
at newspapers in Britain’s 66 cities by François Nel, University of Central Lancashire, presented at the Future of Journalism Conference, Cardiff, 9 September 2009. An article on this presentation is scheduled to be published in a special edition of the journal, 'Journalism Practice', due out early in 2010.

Comparative findings from the 2009 will be presented at the Society of Editors' 'The Fightback' conference, Stanstead, 15-17 November 2009.

For more details see
or contact
FP Nel @ uclan . ac . uk / @francoisnel

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  • That UK regional newspapers needed to do so (look beyond their ‘backyards’ and consider new ways of thinking about their business models, that is) is clear. Just how they are going about that – and to what extent these activities could be considered indicators of a “new way of thinking” – is the subject of a longitudinal study that commenced in the summer of 2008. Findings from the first exploratory cycle of that investigation are reported here, preceded by a brief review of the context and critical perspective and the methodology.
  • Francois Nel / FoJ/ 6
  • Networks, considered by some (Niewiarra 2002 in Krueger & Swatman 2004) to be keys to success in content distribution, is another area that may provide publishers which further revenue opportunities. Again, while site audits alone are not sufficient to discern the logistics chains behind the content, it was clear that some, but not all, publishers were engaged in a variety of advertising networks that leveraged resources within companies (e.g. Johnston Press’ PropertiesToday), across publishing companies (e.g. Fish4) and with non-publishing companies (e.g. Echo Outdoor). Most publishers were also building internal content networks that drew in traditional sources and formerly-passive readers through activities such as blogs. Some were also building links with outside content networks (e.g. There was, however, no evidence found that these networks were providing unique value propositions that could allow them to be sustained by revenue streams, other than advertising (i.e. through sales, subscriptions, membership or donations).  
  • In the case of the Liverpool Echo site, for example, customers were steered to the company’s site on which both private and trade advertisements for goods and services are sold and displayed but, unlike, online brokers eBay and Amazon, the site did not facilitate the transactions. Elsewhere on the Liverpool Echo site, there were links to Echo Outdoor where the offer to advertise on “up to 45,000 [taxis] across our national network, or to advertise on digital advertising units” suggest the company is acting as brokers for other advertising inventory. Customers were invited to call or email an advertising representative, but not to complete the transaction online. No link to the Trinity Mirror-owned advertising broker, Amra, was found either. Having said that, unlike Google Adsense, for example, the Amra site ( did not facilitate online transactions either.
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  • Newspapers Online: Where else is the money?

    1. 1. Where else isthe money?A study of innovation in online business models at newspapers in Britain’s 66 cities<br />François Nel<br /><br />
    2. 2. The (requisite) academic abstract*<br />Much like their counterparts in the US and elsewhere, British newspaper publishers have seen a sharp decline in revenues from traditional sources – print advertising and copy sales – and many are intensifying efforts to generate new income by expanding their online offerings. A study of the largest-circulation newspapers in the 66 cities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland showed that while only a small minority did not have companion websites, many of the publishers who do have an online presence have transferred familiar revenue models. It has also been recognised that income from these sources is not enough to sustain current operations and innovative publishers have diversified into additional broad categories of Web business models. Significantly, this exploratory study did not only compare the approaches of various news publishers with each other, but it also considered how active newspaper publishers were in taking advantage of the variety of business models generally being employed on the Web – and which opportunities were ignored <br />2<br />*a version of this paper will be published in a special edition of the journal, Journalism Practice, due out early in 2010<br />
    3. 3.  The old media world has ended – and the sooner we say so the better. <br /> With it must go old thinking…<br /> My main message today is: <br />we need to break out of this thinking and we can – but only if we look beyond our own backyards and see the bigger picture. <br />Andy Burnham, then Culture Secretary<br />3<br />
    4. 4. Chaharbaghi, K., Fendt,C. and Willis, R. (2003). &quot;Meaning, Legitimacy and Impact of Business Models in fast-moving Environments.&quot; Management Decision 41(4): 372-382. <br />4<br />
    5. 5.  the old <br />media world<br /> the new <br />media world<br />Web 1.0 <br />News as lecture<br />Broadcast model<br />Cyclists <br />Advertising<br />Web 2.0<br />News as conversation<br />Dialogical model<br />Structuralists<br />Beyond advertising<br />5<br />
    6. 6. Newspaper Society Industry Survey 2003 & 7<br />6<br />
    7. 7. Research Questions<br />RQ1: What revenue streams are featured on the companion websites of regional newspapers? <br />RQ2: Which online business models are the regional publishers not engaging in? <br />RQ3: To what extent could these activities be considered to reflect ‘new thinking’ about business models on the Web?<br />7<br />
    8. 8. Bath Birmingham Bradford Brighton Bristol Cambridge Canterbury Carlisle Chester Chichester Coventry Derby Durham Ely Exeter Gloucester Hereford Hull Lancaster Leeds Leicester Lichfield Lincoln Liverpool London Manchester Newcastle Norwich Nottingham Oxford Peterborough Plymouth Portsmouth Preston Ripon Salford Salisbury Sheffield Southampton St Albans Stoke Sunderland Truro Wakefield Wells Westminster Winchester Wolverhampton Worcester York Aberdeen Dundee Edinburgh Glasgow Inverness Stirling Bangor Cardiff Newport St Davids Swansea Armagh Belfast Lisburn Derry Newry<br />Notes on sample<br />Companion websites to the largest newspapers in Britain’s 66 cities<br />8<br />
    9. 9. As the research aimed not only to identify the online business models the news publishers were employing but also to note areas that remained unexplored, it was decided to reference the taxonomy of general online business models identified by Michael Rappa(2001), who observed 41 distinct configurations of value streams, logistical streams and revenue streams that he grouped into nine categories: Advertising, Brokerage, Infomediary, Merchant, Manufacturing, Affiliate, Community, Subscription and Utility. Mindful of Rappa’s (2000) point that the Internet continues to evolve and that “new and interesting” variation can be expected in the future, the researchers were guided, but not limited to, Rappa’s models.<br />The data was collected between the 28th July and the 31st August 2008 by two coders. The findings were compared and any variances were investigated and resolved. <br />The findings were analysed using simple descriptive statistics; as the number of sites studied was small and the sample was not random, more sophisticated statistical measurements were not viable here. <br />9<br />More notes on method<br />
    10. 10. Advertisingmodel<br />10<br />
    11. 11. Subscriptionmodel<br />11<br />
    12. 12. Infomediarymodel<br />12<br />
    13. 13. 13<br />
    14. 14. 14<br />Brokers revenue opportunities:<br /><ul><li> Introductory fee (rather than simply exposure to opportunity / ad)
    15. 15. % of transactions (in areas where legislation allows, typically non-financial)</li></li></ul><li>Merchantmodel<br />15<br />
    16. 16. Affiliatemodel<br />16<br />
    17. 17. Brokeragemodel<br />?<br />17<br />
    18. 18. Manufacturingmodel<br />18<br />
    19. 19. Communitymodel<br />19<br />
    20. 20. Opportunities 1: Manufacturing<br /> All the publishers had expanded their online content into areas not available in print, but there were no discernable revenue models to sustain these activities, beyond driving traffic to the host site where it could possibly contribute to increases in general advertising revenues. <br />There was also very limited evidence from the audit alone of the extent to which regional publishers in the sample were involved in new manufacturing activities directly related to the newspaper brand, such as archives which other researchers found to be widely used by other publishers (Ihlstrom & Palmer 2002, Mensing & Rejfek 2005, Herbert & Thurman 2007). <br />At the time of the audit, the regional publishers in the study had almost no involvement on mobile platforms, which has also been considered an area with significant revenue potential for content makers (Joakar & Fish 2006, Moore 2007, Herbert & Thurman 2007, Sylvie 2008). <br />Inventory of brand-integrated content was also very limited. <br />20<br />
    21. 21. O3: Networks<br />21<br />
    22. 22. O2: Intermediary<br />While publishers were expanding their activities as intermediaries into a range of partnerships (such as dating sites), one related area identified by Rappa (2001) seemed unexplored: the broker model<br />22<br />
    23. 23. 23<br />
    24. 24. 24<br />Naspers, the South African media giant, is continuing on its online acquisition spree across Europe and now Latin America: it has acquired 91 percent stake in Brazilian online e-commerce group, for $342 million. Buscape provides comparison shopping solutions to more than 100 portals and websites in Latin America, including Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), Globo and Abril, among others. It also rundQueBarato, a free-classifieds network in Latin America. In addition it has an affiliate advertising network named Lomadee, an e-commerce research business, eBit, and a fraud risk assessment service, FControl.<br />Source:, 29 September 2009<br />
    25. 25. 25<br />&lt; 200 + regional papers<br />
    26. 26. UK shoppers will spend £13.16bn online in the last quarter of 2008, 15% more than Q4 2007. [Source: IMRG / Capgemini via Econsultancy blog, Nov 2008] <br />This equates to £215 for every person in the UK, but represents a slowdown compared with the 54% year-on-year increase in 2007. <br />Online retail sales in the UK are predicted to reach £44.9bn in 2012, up from £19.5bn in 2008. [Source: Verdict Research via eMarketer, Sept 2008] <br />More than 85% of the world&apos;s internet users surveyed have purchased something online, according to the Nielsen Company. [Source, Nielsen, Feb 2008] <br />26<br />
    27. 27. To what extent could these activities be considered to reflect “new thinking” about online business models? <br />27<br />
    28. 28. Thank you & questions<br />Contact:<br /><br /> <br />