Today’s Watch List: 26.06.06

Among the items on our watch list today are:

  • Reuters reports that consumers will soon be able to buy songs as they listen to them on digital radio in the United Kingdom. UBC Media, which is the largest independent producer of radio programming for the BBC, will begin testing the technology on one of the Chrysalis Group’s digital radio stations in Birmingham at the end of July and that the service will also be available on digital-radio enabled mobile phones later this year. Consumers would pre-pay for songs using a similar credit plan to that commonly used for mobile phone calls.
  • The Internet’s market share of advertising in the U.K. reached 7.2 percent, according to the Advertising Association, as reported in the Guardian. Of the rest, newspapers accounted for 45.3 percent, television 25.4 percent, direct mail 12.5 percent, outdoor advertising 5.5 percent, radio 3.1 percent, and adverts in cinemas 1 percent. However, if you remove classified advertising and just count display ads and commercials, television had with largest share (35.2 percent), newspapers 31.8 percent, direct mail 17.3 percent, outdoor 7.6 percent, radio 4.2 percent, Internet 2.5 percent, and cinmea 1.4 percent.
  • Editor and Publisher today reports about a panel discussion held Monday in Manhattan on the topic of “Online Media and the Future of Journalism.” (A topic in vogue this month.) Its panelists were Slate founding and former Editor Michael Kinsley; Time Inc. former Editor in Chief and Wall Street Journal former Managing Editor Normal Pearlstine; Slate current Editor Jacob Weissberg; co-founder Adrianna Huffington; and author and New Yorker magazine writer Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell likened the problems of the U.S. newspaper and airline industries:

    “The airline itself never makes any money, but everyone else connected with flying makes tons of money.… Airlines have got to be a bit better at pricing their services, and so should newspapers.”

    Gladwell generally is a competent researcher and incisive writer, but I think he missed some subtle differences between those two industries. Foremost among those differences is profit. The U.S. daily newspaper industry earned more than $45 billion in revenues last year; had a profit margin average of 18 percent; and generated more than $8 billion in overall profit. By comparison, the U.S. airline industry last year had $571 billion in revenues than newspapers and a net loss of $4 billion (a negative seven-tenths of a percent profit margin). Another difference is that U.S. airline ridership increased by about 4 percent last year, while U.S. newspaper readership declined by about that same percent. So, Gladwell’s point makes no sense; but how like a writer to think that pricing content higher would cure the newspaper industry’s problem!

  • Speaking of Slate, on Saturday its media columnist Jack Shafer wrote a column, entitled The Incredible Shrinking Newspaper, with which I entirely agree. I’ve little sympathy for newspaper executives who are suddenly shocked that there is their industry is in dire straits. I and others have been telling them for years that it would happen around now. As Philip Meyer, journalism professor at the University of North Carolina and author of The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism, recently told a Reuter reporter “They’re kind of frozen at the wheel because the money is still coming in.” I think the Rime of the Ancient Mariner is more like it. About time they finally noticed the albatross around their necks.
  • Spain’s El Pais becomes the second major European daily to launch an edition for Sony’s video-game device, Playstation Portable. Norway’s Dagbladet was the first back in September 2005.

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