Scott Taunton, MD of UTV (owners of TalkSport), recently questioned the funding of Radio 5 Live stating a review was necessary. This comes off the back of John Myers appointment to conduct an ‘efficiency review’ of Radio 1 and Radio 2, 1Xtra and 6 Music.
I don’t think Taunton was saying anything tongue in cheek when he suggested a shift away from live sport content for Radio 5 on the basis that ‘it is well served by the commercial sector’. In essence, he is asking for an uncompetitive playing field….something he pretty much owns in commercial radio!
Only Absolute, Classic FM and Talk Sport offer national commercial reach and despite the never ending desire for people to go digital it just isn’t quite happening (more on that another time!) meaning Talksport continues to grow and latest rajar’s show ever increasing reach….of men at least!
My opinion is that Scott Taunton may be missing a trick. I have always believed that the BBC is actually commercial radios biggest marketing tool. What better way to argue that the listener engages with and accepts advertising than to point to the BBC. The fact that commercial Radio succeeds and continually pushes BBC for total radio share is a clear indication of how people accept the revenue structure of radio – advertising and sponsorship.
If people wish to avoid the advertising they would…but commercial radio reach clearly demonstrates that they don’t.
TalkSport has a clear competitor for content in Radio 5. The huge investment that Radio 5 Live utilises each year (double that of both Radio 1 and Radio 2) is a wonderful marketing tool for TalkSport. Granted, 5 Live reaches double the number of TalkSport but that’s no bad thing. Five Live is a national heritage (maybe!?) brand, with backing from us the tax payer and rights to coverage, information, news and content simply not available to commercial radio.
I would agree that a funding review is due on 5 live but Talksport should really be singing form the rooftops, shouting about their market share and being proud of its constant rajar growth. Without 5 Live and any real like for like competition they might not be able to boast in quite the same way
On face value the latest ABC figures make disturbing reading particularly for the Sun and Daily Mail.
Both titles recorded 10-year circulation lows but these were made worse by the weather experienced in December.
Traditionally, December is a poor moth for newspaper circulation as holiday’s effect buying patterns, but last month’s weather only exacerbated the problems due to failed distributions and purchasers unwilling or unable to leave the home.
The popular market suffered a yr on yr loss of 4.75% for the 6 month period July – December. The sun dropped by 3.56% in the 6 month period to a 10 yr low of 2,717,013. The mirror suffered greater losses of 7.18% yr on yr to hit a low of 1,133,440. However the Star saw the biggest losses at 5.69% to 713,602, this coming just after they increased the cover price in 2010.
In the Mid Market the Daily Mail teetered on the edge of 2m coming in with losses of 3.3% to reach a figure of 2,030,000 though this was tied with them realising the biggest market share on record of the mid market titles. The Express was down 2.5% to just over 623,000.
The quality market saw the biggest drops of 15.15% and 15.46% yr on yr for the Times and Telegraph respectively. The Times now circulates 448,463 and the Telegraph is at 631,280 whilst the FT kept ground a little better losing only (comparatively) 3.26% at 390,121.
The Guardian saw losses akin to the Times and Telegraph at 12.66% to just 264,000
The i has delayed the release of its ABC figure until February but they will be pleased to note that the release of the i paper hasn’t cannibalised sales of the Independent. The independent had a circulation of 175,000, down 3.49%
In more positive news, the Sun released an ipad version of the paper for the first time on Christmas Day and whilst the figures might not have been great it was another mark of how News International are hoping to lead the way
These falls are unlikely to stop and the industry appreciates that. New revenue streams are coming into play with the Times creating a paywall (see previous blog) and all groups looking at how to best maximise revenue from their web offering.
The Times new app, if you haven’t seen it, is a thing of beauty. A well structured, clear and precise version of the title you can understand why Murdoch thinks that the future is via tablets and downloadable versions of ‘press’ titles.
The challenge is to become true providers of news content through the various formats available, a race News International are winning and I support the claim that in time a larger proportion of the Times, Sunday Times and indeed all ‘newspaper’ consumption will be via tablets and similar devices.
Popular Media columnist Michael Wolff claims the Times Paywall ‘has turned into an empty world’ and he might just be right.
Whilst I applaud the ambition to make the site pay it does seem to be failing. The site has around 200,000 register users but this number seems inflated.
Naturally, News International are positive about the numbers…
Rebekah Brooks, Chief Executive, News International, said: “We are very pleased by the response to our new digital services. These figures very clearly show that large numbers of people are willing to pay for quality journalism in digital formats.’
However, a large number of the Times or Sunday Times newspaper subscribers have a free subscription to the site meaning the number of subscribers to the site is closer to than 100,000 and of course this figure also includes those who took up the early heavily discounted offers or have paid (maybe only once) on a pay as you go basis. I suspect a large number of those will drop off once regular full payments are requested
It was always going to be a bold move to charge for online content of this nature and there was always only one man for the job. Murdoch does like to lead where others follow and his innovative approach has made a great success of other media platforms. His attempt to say ‘we did it first’ may well backfire as the failure of the Times paywall decreases the likelihood of their competitors following suit. However, if they do, he will of course lead the way once again.
Indeed, the Telegraph will no doubt be grateful that the lesson learnt isn’t theirs.
Of course, the Times isn’t the first to charge for content; the Financial Times have been doing it for years. The difference being that the content on the FT is exclusive, unique, highly sought after. Editorial that simply isn’t available elsewhere and this is the essence of the problem for News International. If they don’t provide editorial content that is genuinely unique and of interest to the user why would the consumer pay?
Large organisations were able to invest in online content early to ensure they took a share of the market and during the unsophisticated years of development national and international well known brands were able to gain mass online presence. Over time, online user habits have shifted as people grow more selective about the content they consume. Bloggers and niche sites have grown and consumers look for unique, valuable and engaging content meaning News Int. have an ever growing cycle of issues. To grow over time they may need to invest in recruiting the best bloggers, industry experts and engaging authors….but why would these people put themselves behind a paywall? The point about blogging is to add value, be recognised, be read and for the reader to engage with content. Putting themselves behind a paywall is somewhat like shouting in a soundproof cell!
If other journalistic sites don’t follow suit and remain ‘free’ then News International will struggle to make their format pay. Further, if online users decline it could have a negative effect on press circulation.
In their defence they could think, as one News Int sales rep recently told us, ‘a 100,000 £1’s is better than 21m nothings’.
Watch this space