Thursday,20 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)
Thursday,20 June, 2019
Issue 1372, (7 - 13 December 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Perspectives on the future of journalism

Two conferences on the future of newspapers and digital media were held in Germany recently, aiming at injecting new life into traditional journalism, reports Hany Daniel

Summary of The New York Times
Summary of The New York Times' Strategy

Germany hosted two conferences on newspapers and digital media recently in the IFRA World Publishing Expo and DCX Digital Content Expo in Berlin and the InPrint Industrial Print Show in Munich.

Over three days, news media specialists from all over the world gathered in Berlin for the IFRA World Publishing Expo and the DCX Digital Content Expo to evaluate the emerging technologies, innovations and trends sweeping the industry. With nearly 5,000 visitors and 181 exhibitors on board, the participation was a solid signal that the event still resonates with the industry and has promise for expansion.

A total of 4,934 visits (25 per cent more than last year) were made to the event from 10 to 12 October. With more than 100 speakers on four stages and an array of suppliers on hand, from startups to established players across the multimedia spectrum, visitors had a plethora of opportunities to engage and network with the industry’s leading innovators.

Likewise, the exhibitors praised the quality of contacts they attracted and emphasised the need for such a global platform for technical solutions that support the transformations in the news media.

 “The Expo has always been a leading indicator of the innovations and trends taking place in our industry, and this year’s event backed that up,” said Vincent Peyrègne, CEO of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) that now co-organises the event with its partner the Publishing Exhibition. “The initial results and feedback from both visitors and exhibitors are encouraging,” he said.

Alexander Petsch, CEO of Publishing Exhibition GmbH, said that “on the exhibitor side, we have launched a trend reversal: after declining exhibitor numbers in the last years, these have now risen significantly again. Six from the 10 biggest IFRA exhibitors that are huge players in the print industry are back. For DCX, our team convinced the biggest 10 exhibitors of digital solutions to come back. For next year, we want to expand the target group even further and attract more corporate publishers and marketing and content experts to the show.”

Christoffer Birch-Jensen, business development director at Norkon Computing Systems, said “it was our first Expo where we could test our solution out on a bigger market. Overall it has been a good experience for us, and we had some really good leads. There were the right people. It is more about quality than quantity.”

Commenting on Arab participation at the event, director of WAN-IFRA Global Advisory Nick Tjaardstra told Al-Ahram Weekly that it’s difficult to include all Arab news publishers under one umbrella. But any newspaper that is charging for print should be charging for digital.” He added that “it will probably take some time to improve the digital offer: if you look at the New York Times, they started to charge back in 2007, before revising and starting again in 2011. That’s 10 years trying to improve and adapt.”

“The challenge is to encourage print readers to also engage online and to understand better what they read and how. I know that for many Arab countries print remains a prestigious product – so then the question is how the digital version can also be prestigious, on tablets for example. And how can digital advertising be prestigious,” Tjaardstra said.

“While of course some content should be free to all, the flow needs to be restricted unless funded by a foundation or an organisation… There is also a trend for companies to work together to share certain paid content, like in Scandinavia,” Tjaardstra added. “But reach alone is ultimately meaningless and hard to monetise. Companies like Buzzfeed are re-stating their profit forecasts for 2017. Facebook is basically a marketing platform that media companies need to optimise (most probably by paying) and digital ad revenue is flattening out elsewhere. Loyal digital users are the most important. They keep coming back, they have a brand attachment, and they have a potential willingness to pay.”

“And of course news media companies need to transform. They need to experiment, connect the newsroom more closely with paying readers, speed up the product-development process, diversify revenue streams, and more. Above all, they need to stay relevant, otherwise even if print decline is slow, the younger generation will have long forgotten it,” Tjaardstra added.


ENCOURAGING NEWS: Expert adviser Steffen Damberg described best practices for digital transformation in the newspaper industry.

He showed the different tools publishers can use to analyse the performance of their articles and the interests of their readers – ranging from “readers’ panels” that rate content to software that analyses digital user behaviour and shows where publishers should put the free and paid content on their Websites.

An insight into digital transformation at the German media organisation Deutsche Welle was provided by Esra Dogramaci. She started her presentation with the prediction that, according to a report from the US computer giant Cisco, by 2019-20 per cent of Internet traffic will be in the form of video. She encouraged her audience to produce videos that matter to their users and showed best practices from Deutsche Welle. Like the former speakers, she recommended analysing user behaviour in order to find out which platforms are useful to promote and distribute content.

Michael Jaschke, founder and CEO of the new digital distribution network Glomex, outlined the possibilities that video provides and appealed to news publishers not to leave content to the duopoly of Facebook and Google. Video is the medium of the future, he said. For the younger generation (18 to 34 years old), TV has taken second position behind digital. So the opportunity for video is huge.

“Not participating in it would be madness,” he said, adding that there were nevertheless still challenges in monetising video. “The market is quite fragmented at the moment, so it is extremely difficult to give the user an orientation. Very few audiences are coming to you to see and watch. They expect you to bring videos to them,” he said. Therefore, Glomex offers an international market place for distributing video content. As it doesn’t cost any money in the form of fixed fees, the new offering seems to be worth considering for news publishers. 

The session on “new print business” moderated by Martin Schwarz, editor of the magazine 4c based in Vienna, gave inspiring insights into alternative ways to raise revenues in print publishing. Mike Blinder, a media consultant and motivational speaker, shared his experiences in helping regional newspapers to boost the performance of their sales managers. He has generated over $100 million for the newspaper industry, half from traditional print advertising. If we think that print is going into a decline, “we are living a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Blinder said. In the US, 46 per cent of the population still reads newspapers.

According to reader surveys, many of these readers are affluent and engaged baby-boomers that are interesting customers for advertisers. However, despite this many media marketing managers regard print as old-fashioned and prefer “shiny new” digital products, Blinder said. How can print publishers convince them to invest in newspaper advertising? He recommends offering media packages that include print as well as online ads on a yearly basis. This strategy has helped media houses to bind especially local small and medium-sized businesses to their brands.

Vice Chairman of the New York Times Company Michael Golden said at the meeting that “the New York Times has been under the control and the active senior management of the Ochs-Sulzberger family for 120 years. Obviously, we manage the business on an annual basis, but we believe we will be one of the most successful digital businesses” in the future.

“Our strategy is to make journalism worth paying for,” Golden said. “We measure our success by the number of people who pay us to be subscribers in print and in digital.” Right now, he said, the New York Times has about one million print subscribers in various forms: Sunday-only, weekend, or seven-day. All of those subscribers have full access to the newspaper’s digital offering. The paper also has more than two million digital-only subscribers who pay between $225 and $450 a year for digital subscriptions. “In addition to that, we have more than 200,000 subscribers to a crossword product, which is doing very well,” Golden said.

He said the paper’s short-term goal was to reach $800 million in digital revenues. “One of the big changes that we have made in the last two to three years is that we are very focused on audience-first,” he said. “Advertising is critically important to our business, but we do not believe it is the future of our business. We believe it’s much less dependable, much less available to newspapers and news organisations, and that audience-first and audience revenue is the key.”

“We need people to come to our Website, to come directly to our journalism,” he said. “That’s how we think you really build a relationship and really build value. We use Facebook. We use Google. We use social media to bring our audience in, but we work very, very hard to bring them directly to the New York Times. We cannot rely on them coming solely through social media.”

He said the paper’s core appeal would remain the national and international news, science news and culture news it was well-known for worldwide. “But we believe that if we are going to get to five million, or 10 million digital-only subscribers, then we have to have more touch-points, more areas in your daily life where you see the New York Times as an authority. Everything we do in one way or another is to increase engagement,” he said.

The test for success is if you can engage consumers enough to return again and again, not if you can bring in a lot of people once, he said. “Readers have stayed with print because it is a different experience, an experience they value,” Golden said. “I believe that we have a significant number of years ahead of us in print. I am not going to put a number on it because then everyone will focus on the number. We are aggressively building our digital business, but personally I believe that we’ll be in print for another generation.”


THE INPRINT EXHIBITION: The third edition of the InPrint Industrial Print Show was held from 14 to 16 November at the Munich Trade Fair Centre. The show was able to attract some 3,000 high-profile industry professionals, and a comprehensive programme provided insights into the latest developments and market potential of this emerging industry sector.

In an official awards ceremony prizes for innovative product developments and outstanding partnerships were awarded to four exhibiting companies. The organisers, as well as the majority of the 153 exhibitors, were highly satisfied with the outcome of the show.

“With its specialist community coming together to drive emerging markets for innovative print technologies, InPrint has now firmly established itself as the seminal event for print applications in industrial production. While the exhibition is an important platform for the exchange of ideas and innovative thinking, this time a large number of concrete solutions has been demonstrated by exhibitors on their impressive stands.”

“What we can see as a result of this year’s show is that InPrint is clearly evolving from a developmental networking event into a networking and trade exhibition, with increasing sales activity on the show floor,” explained Nicola Hamann, managing director of the organisers, Mack Brooks Exhibitions.

“While the individualisation of many products and materials were previously mainly possible for small individual batches or on a made-to-order basis, innovative printing applications now enable long-term mass customisation within the industrial production process. Many manufacturing sectors see huge market potential in these printing applications, as they allow companies to enhance their value chains and gain competitive advantage,” commented Frazer Chesterman, co-founder of InPrint.

A total of 2,951 visitors from 63 countries came to the Munich show to discover the latest equipment, to exchange expertise, or to find business partners for developing market-ready solutions. In addition to highly specialised visitors from the industrial print community, InPrint attracted 1,834 visitors from Productronica, the world’s leading trade fair for electronics development and production, which was co-located with this year’s InPrint.

An analysis of the exhibition survey shows that half of the InPrint visitors came from outside Germany. Top visitor countries besides Germany were Italy, the UK, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Poland and Russia. While 60 per cent of visitors were print specialists, a third of visitors were from different sectors of the manufacturing industry and some seven per cent came from the packaging sector.

Constantly rising quality demands in all areas of industrial printing require sophisticated and proven production plants, especially when it comes to delivering custom-fit printing solutions in screen, pad and digital printing.

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Cairo.

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