Sunday, 31 May 2009

Free Newspapers - the beginning of the End? Kent on Sunday Charges 90 pence

Oh how I love Sunday mornings! A long, lingering breakfast with a pot of fresh coffee, lashings of toast and the Sunday papers.
I usually buy the Sunday Times, which costs two pounds. It’s quite a lot, but I justify it because there’s so much to read; all those supplements!
Oh, I nearly forgot! When I’m in the newsagents I always pick up a copy of the Kent on Sunday newspaper as well. I like the way it’s laid out, it has some interesting bits and pieces and best of all; it’s free.
Or at least it was until today.
This morning the newsagent didn’t have any Kent on Sunday’s in stock. “They’re charging ninety pence each for them”! He told me in an astonished and bitter voice. “I told them to get lost” he added.
Clearly he’d not been given any warning of this price hike and was not amused.
At first I didn’t believe him. Why would a newspaper that had built a successful business and large readership on the basis of giving away 100,000 free newspapers suddenly start charging? And if they did start charging, why a whopping ninety pence? Why not ten pence or twenty pence?
So I set off to Morrisons. Surely they’d have some copies. To my surprise they didn’t either! The man on the till told me, “We haven’t got any because they’re charging ninety pence for them. People aren’t going to pay that are they”?
Intrigued, when I got home I went onto the Kent on Sunday’s website. No mention of the ninety pence charge here. But you can view a copy of the latest edition online and when I did, by zooming into the mast head there it was;
A deeper trawl of the internet revealed a short article on the website of the UK Press Gazette (the newspaper industry journal). It says that the Kent on Sunday is moving to a “part-paid and part-free” business model.
The reason apparently is the recession and the fact that KOS Media’s advertising revenues have been badly hit. So does this have implications for the hundreds of other free newspapers in the UK and elsewhere? KOS Media thinks it does.
The UKPG quotes KOS Media’s Managing Director Paul Stannard as saying, “As with any media company, if in the next four to five years we see the market decline at the same rate it has in the past six months, then everybody will be looking at their business model”.
This is an astonishing development.
For the last decade we have witnessed a deepening crisis in the newspaper industry. The Daily Telegraph for example has seen sales decline more than 18% over the last five years.
In the US it’s even worse. Readership is down by more than 30% and titles, including famous ones, are closing down. And then came the recession which has taken a baseball bat to newspapers’ advertising revenue.
But this decline has been partly offset by the dramatic rise and apparent success of free newspapers.
London for example is awash with them. It’s hard to get off a train without having the London Metro, the London Lite or thelondonpaper shoved into your hands. And the success of the freebies has had a punishing impact on paid titles like the London Evening Standard, which recently re-launched in a desperate bid to revive its flagging sales.
The free newspaper model appeared so successful that when a major survey of newspaper editors was carried out in 2008 it found most were convinced that free papers would eventually replace paid for ones all together.
The "Newsroom Barometer," conducted for the World Editors Forum (WEF) and Reuters found that a majority of editors (56 per cent) “believed news in the future will be free, up from 48 per cent from last year’s survey”.
The general mood was summed up by Ian Clark, general manager of News International Free Newspapers which publishes thelondonpaper (one of London’s free dailies). "Free papers are reversing the trend for decline in the paid-for sector," he said.
So are the problems at the Kent On Sunday a one-off, or a sign of a more widespread problem?
Sadly for the industry, it looks like the latter.
Recently the Financial Times reported that, “Not long ago, freesheets were seen as the nemesis of the paid-for newspaper. Now it seems at least as likely that the free newspaper model will be the first to fail”.
The article reported how “In the UK, Trinity Mirror and the rival Johnston Press, which between them publish around 230 freesheets, have both released dismal results. While Metro International, the world's largest publisher of free papers, has admitted it has breached debt covenants and did not have sufficient working capital for the next 12 months”.
And this is what makes my experience at the newsagents all the more profound. Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the free newspaper revolution? The death of free newspapers? And if so, what is the significance to an industry which is already in crisis?
Graham Majin is Head of Video Production and Video Marketing at Kent Video production company Kersh Media

Video Marketing; Why Video SEO is like buying a Tudor Chicken

Was marketing easier five hundred years ago?
Imagine you’re a farmer. It’s the year 1509, Henry the Eighth has just become King. You have some chickens and eggs to sell. Off you go to the market.
It’s very busy; there are almost a hundred stalls there, lots of them selling chickens and eggs. So how do you market your products?
Perhaps you set out your stall close to the entrance so people will see you first. Perhaps you advertise by shouting in a loud voice, “Best chickens and eggs, Get yer lovely chickens and eggs, best prices in the market”!
Your customers can’t read, so a written sign wouldn’t be much use, but a picture of a chicken painted on a board might help. Another marketing trick would be to hire a street caller to walk round the market advertising your wares.
Yes, marketing is an ancient art; advertising messages have even been found in the ruins of Pompeii. But today it’s evolving at a breath taking rate.
If you want to buy a product or service today, you’re probably going to look for it on the internet. My son bought a cricket bat last week; he did it online. Some retired friends of ours booked a B&B last week, they did that online too.
Search engines like Google or Yahoo have become the market place. If you’re not visible to the search engines, then you’re like the farmer who stayed at home. You won’t sell many chickens!
New industries are sprouting up to help businesses appear higher on the search engine lists. It’s called SEM or Search Engine Marketing. There are experts who will help your web site achieve a more prominent place; this is called SEO or Search Engine Optimisation.
The latest development is Video Marketing, Video SEO or Video SEM. This will become increasingly important because recent changes to Google’s search algorithm (the way Google is programmed to rank websites) favour video content.
Which is why we’ve been celebrating this week. Our business has grabbed the number one spot on the first page of Google for seven of our key search phrases. We are, at least for now, like the farmer with the best spot and the loudest voice in the market place!
Chicken anyone?
Kersh Media and KWIKVID are Kent video production and Kent video marketing companies. In other words we’re agencies that delivery quality, affordable video production and video marketing to a range of clients.
Although we are based in Kent (close to London and the M25), we work UK and World Wide. So if you need help with video production and video marketing, please contact Kersh Media and KWIKVID as we’d be happy to help you.
Graham Majin is Head of Video Production and Video Marketing at Kent video production and video marketing companies Kersh Media and KWIKVID.

Monday, 18 May 2009

BBC v ITV; Who's Saving Whom?

It's a strange world. Imagine a cafe. Now imagine the government sets up a rival cafe right opposite. The new place is funded by the tax payer and the food is subsidised. The original cafe struggles. Fewer people eat there and the owner cuts back. Eventually the old cafe announces it's closing down.
Now the government cafe managers feel guilty. They realise they've put the opposition out of business through unfair competition and they're worried someone may start to question why public money has been used to duplicate an existing commercial service and then destroy it.
So they offer to help the old cafe. "Don't go out of business" they say, "Our chef will cook your meals for you and you can use our tables and chairs".
What a crazy scenario! Nothing like that could happen in the real world right? Wrong! It's happening in the UK right now. Have you heard of something called Coast To Coast? It was the regional news programme on ITV's TVS region between 1982 and 1992.
And what a programme it was. Officially Britain's most successful regional news programme, it enjoyed fantastic ratings and was voted the nation's top regional news show by the Royal Televsion Society three times. Mike Debens and Liz Wickham were the anchors and Ron Lobeck presented the weather. In those days Coast to Coast had no real competition. The BBC offered something called "London Plus". If you lived in Kent, where our video production company is based, you were lucky if they covered a story here once a week.
Then in 2001 BBC opened South East Today at Tunbridge Wells. It was lavishly funded with a budget of more than £8m per year raised through the compulsory license fee. It employed some talented people and did a good job (I should know, I produced its main news programme for five years!). The quality of ITV Meridian's news began to fade, ratings dipped, advertising revenue slumped. Early in 2009 Meridian announced it was all but closing its Kent news operation. Presenters, camera crews, journalists and back room staff were handed their P45s.
So how has the BBC responded? Amazingly it's offering to prop up Meridian by providing, "Regional news infrastructure including raw picture material and information technology". A bit like the story of the two cafes- really don't you think?!
Graham Majin is a former Assistant Editor at BBC South East Today. He is currently Head of Video Production at Kent based KWIKVID and Kersh Media. http: