The Sun’s ‘walled content garden’ brings together print and digital

The Sun

Today, The Sun newspaper becomes the latest national mainstream medium in the UK to erect a barrier to its content on the web where access to that content is only available now if you pay £2 per week.

Switchover to The Sun’s new paywall-fronted site began yesterday evening, and the new site went live overnight. When you land on the website now,  you’ll see The Sun as the screenshot above shows, requiring a log-in before you get to any meaningful content.

It’s similar in this approach to its stable mate, The Times.

(The Sun is part of News UK, Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper business in this country previously called News International that includes The Times and The Sunday Times. The relaunch of The Sun is clearly part of the company’s ongoing efforts to move on from the phone hacking scandal that erupted in 2011 and that led to the closure of the News of The World newspaper in July of that year; and to the Leveson Inquiry, whose findings and recommendations continue to be matters of lively public discussion.)

The relaunch of The Sun website is part of a brand repositioning known as Sun+, a bundle of content that embraces three elements:

  • Sun+Digital, content not only on the new website but also via free apps for mobile devices.
  • Sun+Perks, comprising freebies, deals and promotions worth more than £200 each month.
  • Sun+ Goals, video clips of every Barclays Premier League goal via a free app for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

All that for £2 a week, even less if you pay for a year in advance.

It’s an interesting mix, offering a range of content and experiences that should be an attractive proposition to many existing online Sun readers as well as appealing to new ones (especially with the launch offer of one month of access for just £1).

But what about those who read The Sun in print every day? There are 7.3 million daily readers, according to News UK – what’s in it for them?

A press release on July 30 includes details of how print readers can take advantage of the three ‘content pillars’ if they wish to:

[…] customers who buy the paper but also want to enjoy this fantastic bundle of benefits will be able to collect special codes that will be printed in each paper every day from Sunday August 4.

These codes will initially unlock one month’s worth of digital access and from then onwards, by collecting 20 codes each month, members will receive continuous access to The Sun’s unrivalled digital content and perks. This is possible using the latest InkJet printing technology supplied by Kodak, which has been fitted across all The Sun’s presses in the UK and Ireland. Each press will print a unique code on every single paper every single day.

The bold text is my emphasis. Imagine that – millions of copies of the newspaper printed every day, each one with a unique one-time code individually printed on each copy as the presses run. That’s pretty neat technology.

Yet, I wonder if this includes Band-Aid – employing digital coolness and some clever tech to keep an old business model going in the face of evidence that shows traditional print is continuing to decline just about everywhere as newspaper circulation figures for June 2013 strongly suggest.

newspapercirculations2013june

At the same time, readership for all things digital continues to rise, even digital content that you have to pay for (the Financial Times being a good example of that) – surely good signals for The Sun’s digital bundles if not for the printed newspaper?

It’s not a view News UK CEO Mike Darcey wholly agrees with.

Yesterday morning, I was part of a group of invited bloggers in a meeting with the News UK CEO and members of the company’s senior team involved in the launch plans including Derek Brown, The Sun’s digital editor.

Darcey believes in the content bundle. It’s the start of a new journey for The Sun, he said, following the success of The Times, broadening the bundle, adding distinctive content, exploiting new technology, getting into video, focusing on subscription.

Paid-for content works against free, he believes, just as in TV (he was with satellite broadcaster BSkyB for 15 years, over six of them as COO: that’s all about paid-for content). In news, he says, “our formula is curated, filtered, world-class comment and opinion, delivered with authority.”

He says that newspapers have always been a bundle of content – a bundle that keeps expanding, which is now expanding to take advantage of new delivery platforms, notably tablets and smartphones.

It’s an optimistic view of a marketplace that seems to me to be in a near-constant state of disruption as we continue a transition not only to those new delivery platforms Darcey mentions but also to new content creators and consumers. That would include The Sun itself – not only is it a newspaper publisher, it’s also a video content creator and publisher as it will produce daily programmes that will be available in the Sun+Goals digital content offering.

It also includes anyone with a story to tell, whatever label they wear, be they citizen journalists, brand journalists, content marketers, whatever and whoever.

The information landscape is vast, it’s growing all the time, and the content choices facing consumers and businesses are equally exciting and confusing. Information overload is just a breath away.

In the midst of all that, if The Sun has a compelling proposition – the print-plus-digital content bundle Darcey speaks of – that its target markets and advertisers recognize as such, and that translates into a willingness to pay, then the prognosis is good.

Today’s Sun+ launch is just a first step, a fact Darcey was at pains to emphasize. That seems quite clear, especially with regard to Sun+Goals, the exciting-looking mobile app. Right now, it’s a purely content-consumption vehicle, as it were: you get the content – near-live video clips of Premier League football goals – that you consume.

Where things will get really interesting is when you have the opportunity to comment, connect and engage with others, share your thoughts… In essence, be part of a dynamic Sun+ community. There are interesting ideas that might be worth exploring over time. For instance, a corps of passionate football fans who are also great communicators who could create match content as it happens.

Look at what sports broadcaster ESPN in the US is doing with hiring bloggers to cover every NFL game, for example. It could lead to niche communities to which you wouldn’t necessarily devote professional journalism resources.

As I’ve said before, if you offer content plus a great experience that people are willing to pay for – no matter how complex, difficult, changing, disrupted and competitive your market is – then the chances are very good indeed that you will have a viable business opportunity.

See also: commentary by others at yesterday’s meeting with Mike Darcey:

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Remembering 7/7

July 7 remembrance

Eight years ago on this date – on July 7, 2005 – suicide bombers killed over 50 people in London in  a series of terror attacks on  buses and tube trains during the morning rush hour.

More than 700 people were injured, many severely.

While 7/7 wasn’t of the magnitude nor horror of 9/11 four years earlier, it was very much our 9/11 moment.

I was in London on that day  – the day after the celebrations of the news that London had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics – and was in a meeting when the first news came of the bombings. I lived in Amsterdam at the time and was due to return there later that day. I managed to do that although caught up in the chaos and panic of unfolding events when it wasn’t really clear exactly what had happened.

Those were the days when ‘social media’ meant blogging – there was no Twitter, no Facebook, no pervasive wifi or cellular data networks and connectivity; not even the mainstream awareness of what you could do even if you had the means to do it.

If you wanted to know what was going on at a time of very fast-moving events, you looked to the mainstream media especially TV and radio (and has that really changed even today?)

There was podcasting, still in its infancy – Shel and I had started FIR at the beginning of that year. I remember recording some thoughts on my digital audio recorder about what I’d experienced that day that, while unquestionably nothing compared to the experiences of those actually caught up in the killing fields on buses and trains, nevertheless was a shocking experience.

Here’s that recording – one person’s snapshot impressions from a terrible day eight years ago.

In memoriam.

The FT’s digital revolution bears fruit with fastFT

FastFT

An intriguing-looking package arrived at my house on Saturday, delivered by special courier.

"fastFT Markets Survival Kit," said the little pink card tied with red ribbon to the top of the square box. I knew immediately who it was from – the Financial Times: the combination of the pink-coloured card and that "FT" logotype were instantly recognizable.

Opening up the box revealed some rather nice goodies (more on those in a minute) accompanied by a letter from Lionel Barber, the FT’s editor.

"Dear Neville," the letter began. Personalized marketing, that’s for sure.

Barber’s letter introduced me to fastFT, "a groundbreaking service coming soon from the Financial Times that will provide market-moving news and views, 24-hours a day."

This is actually a big deal, and it’s coming tomorrow. It’s something Barber outlined a few months ago in an interview with The Guardian talking about editorial and business changes and restructuring at the FT as part of his ambitions for a "digital revolution" dominated by online news rather than ‘print’ news.

His letter on Saturday explains what fastFT is and how the new service will work:

[…] fastFT will deliver up-to-the minute reporting and comment in short, sharp and informed dispatches – giving FT readers the edge they expect and the agenda-setting analysis they rely on. When 140 characters doesn’t cut it, fastFT will go beyond the headlines, providing context and opinion in quick, authoritative reports with a level of transparency and personality that isn’t available elsewhere.

Staffed by a dedicated team of journalists around the world, fastFT will be live and updated 24-hours a day, Monday to Friday, and supplemented with exclusive content from the FT’s renowned network of journalists and guest contributors. It will expand on the FT’s existing offerings – from breaking and investigative news, opinion and analysis to blogs, interactive journalism and videos – by adding a live and dynamic layer of reporting and commentary.

I’d describe it succinctly like this: it’s a live 24×5 online breaking news service tailored to the news and information requirements of the FT reader wherever he or she is located in the world.

If you go to the fastFT section on the FT website today, you’ll see just a digital timer counting down the hours and minutes to the launch of the service on May 29, tomorrow.

fastFT

There’s also the hashtag #fastFT that I’d expect to see lighting up with tweets at and after the launch tomorrow.

Barber’s letter goes on to explain the advantage of the single-platform that is fastFT:

In an environment where readers increasingly rely on their mobile devices for the latest headlines, fastFT has created a single platform for market-moving news, allowing us to engage more deeply with our readers on whichever device they choose, wherever they are.

That strongly suggests fastFT is more than simply a broadcast news channel, making it a more interesting-looking proposition than it might first appear. If you are able to engage with FT journalists via the device you’re using to get at your fastFT content, rather than just read the news, it opens up opportunities for knowledge acquisition and sharing, far more than you could expect from a traditional news medium.

And what about those goodies I mentioned earlier that were in the intriguing-looking box I received on Saturday?

fastFT Markets Survival Kit goodies

Here you see the two major ones that caught my attention:

Along with a squeeze ball and a Fair Trade chocolate Geo Bar, the "Markets Survival Kit" is a nice approach to introduce fastFT to people the FT wanted to reach out to in an unusual way. Works well for me!

Check out fastFT from 10am UK time on May 29.

[Update May 29:] fastFT went live at 10am UK time this morning, with content available to FT subscribers (and registered users within their metered page-access allowance).

To get a sense of what it looks like – what type of content you’ll see there plus a range of information on journalists’ contact info – here’s a screenshot:

fastFT

And the FT has published a short video that describes the new service.

(if you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

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Guardian to launch new platform to streamline access to web content

History of guardian.co.ukNews that The Guardian newspaper is planning to aggregate its presence on the web under a single entry point, theguardian.com domain, is an interesting milestone for a mainstream medium whose innovation in extending its presence and brand beyond its traditional printed newspaper origins in the UK makes it a stand-out among mainstream publishers.

A web address change may not seem like that big a deal. But if you’re a content publisher putting out the type of content online that attracts millions of people every day to visit you on the world wide web, having a single entry point to all your content that reinforces your brand name and presence makes sound commercial sense.

And sooner rather than later. The latest readership figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, released a few days ago, show that nearly 82 million unique browsers accessed the newspaper’s website in April 2013 – a record high, says The Guardian – from all over the world.

It seems clear that the evolutionary shifts in the newspaper business are gathering steam from the big milestones we saw last year.

In December 2012, Newsweek magazine ended nearly 80 years in print, becoming an online-only publication. Quartz, a digital-only business magazine from Atlantic Media, launched in September. In July, the Financial Times said that worldwide digital subscriptions surpassed those for print for the first time. We also saw an interesting experiment on Christmas Day when the Telegraph in the UK published a digital-only edition on a day that traditionally sees no newspapers at all.

The Guardian’s arch online rival, Mail Online – the digital stable mate to the printed Daily Mail newspaper – has poured resources into developing a digital presence that has made it the world’s most-visited news website with more than 112 million unique browser accesses per month, according to its latest ABC certificate – most of those from people elsewhere in the world than the UK.

The stakes are high in a global marketplace where your competitors today are brands, social media publishers and others. Getting attention to your content requires a lot more than just being a newspaper publisher with a tradition of great journalism behind you.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Guardian to launch new platform to streamline access to web content” was written by Mark Sweney, for theguardian.com on Friday 24th May 2013 08.08 Europe/London

The Guardian is to launch a new global web presence, theguardian.com, in recognition of the newspaper’s increasingly international digital appeal.

The move will streamline access to Guardian content – amalgamating the main entry point Guardian.co.uk, mobile site m.guardian.co.uk, US homepage guardiannews.com and the soon-to-launch Australian digital edition – into one core web destination.

In the last five years, the number of monthly Guardian digital browsers has grown from 20 million to more than 80 million, with much of that growth coming from international markets.

“Every month, our online content is accessed from almost every country around the world,” said Tanya Cordrey, chief digital officer at Guardian News & Media, in a blog post called Going global on our digitaljourney. “In fact, UK users now represent just a third of our total audience.”

The home of the newspaper’s content has been guardian.co.uk, which is the only non-“dot com” domain suffix in the top 10 Google News list of digital news outlets.

“This may be a small URL change, but it marks a big step for the Guardian and reflects our evolution from a much-respected national print newspaper based only in the UK … to a leading global news and media brand … and an ever-growing worldwide audience accessing Guardian journalism every minute of every day,” said Cordrey.

Cordrey added that the move to theguardian.com will make for a simplified user experience, but will also be more appealing to major advertisers in international markets, who are perhaps not drawn to the idea of running campaigns on a UK-specific website, despite the reality of the Guardian’s global digital readership.

The move, which will take place later this year, will involve the transition of millions of URLs attached to the Guardian’s websites and about 15 years of archived content.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email media@guardian.co.uk or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly “for publication”.

• To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Unfiltered social reporting from Boston

mitshootingrm

Hot on the heels of the Boston marathon bombings last weekend comes another frightening event in the United States, this time a fatal shooting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in neighbouring Cambridge late on Thursday night US time.

As I write this, it’s still very much a breaking news story with sketchy reporting in the mainstream media, certainly here in the UK.

Yet social media is a mass of reporting from individuals on the ground. Citizen journalists all even if some wouldn’t choose that label to describe their tweets, instagrams, Facebook statuses and more.

They’re just saying what they’re seeing and experiencing right there because that’s the nature of what many people do these days, especially if you’re under 30. And because they can, thanks to being connected online to hundreds and thousands of other people via the social web.

Trying to get a good sense of what’s actually going on from scanning scores of tweets that fill the Twitter timeline isn’t easy. One way you can get a great sense of events in a compelling visual display is with Rebelmouse, a web service that curates content from across the social web and displays it as if it’s a digital newspaper.

You can see a great example of the visual power of such curated content for this breaking new story from the screenshot above and on the MIT Shooting page at Rebelmouse itself.

As I noted in a tweet earlier, this is unfiltered social reporting, content that people share in their moment. This is not verified and fact-checked reporting – that’s what professional journalists and editors do and tend to be quite good at.

But resources such as Rebelmouse are part of the new media landscape, one that’s a chaotic mix of verified reporting such as what you expect from the mainstream media, along with anyone’s opinions and comments. And in situations like this, inevitably there will be misinformation and untruth – some no doubt deliberate but the vast majority accidental or due to other people’s assumptions and misinterpretations.

Welcome to the acts of freedom of speech. The consequences are what we make of those acts.

Compelling content is king for the newspaper business too

How healthy is the newspaper business?

If you look at print, the long-term prognosis is not encouraging overall, certainly not in the UK and to a large extent neither in the US, especially as the declining circulation and revenue of print newspapers occurs alongside a shift in emphasis to online versions.

We’ve seen some radical such shifts this year, notably the closure of the printed Newsweek magazine and its continuation as a digital-only publication. Quartz, a digital-only business magazine, launched in September. In July, the Financial Times said that worldwide digital subscriptions surpassed those for print for the first time. We also saw an interesting experiment on Christmas Day when the Telegraph in the UK published a digital-only edition on a day that traditionally sees no newspapers at all. The print ones, that is.

Indeed, in digital the mainstream media picture looks much more encouraging and interesting as eMarketer reports in assessing which are the top ten newspapers online, worldwide, ranked by the number of visitors.

top10onlinepapers

Top of the list is the UK’s Daily Mail. Or rather, the Mail Online, its digital edition – not at all the same content or focus as the printed newspaper edition.

Quoting comScore data, eMarketer says that the Mail Online website attracted over 50 million unique visitors in October, the most of any online newspaper. It adds that despite a partial paywall instituted in 2011, websites affiliated with The New York Times ranked second, attracting over 48 million unique visitors, followed by two other well-established outlets, The Guardian and Tribune newspapers.

The appearance on the list of People’s Daily Online (fifth) and Xinhua News Agency (seventh) attest to the growing size and engagement of China’s internet news audience, eMarketer noted, stating:

[…] 644 million people worldwide visited online newspaper sites this October, which [comScore] estimates to be 42.6% of the world’s internet users. As their business models continue to tilt away from print and toward digital, newspaper outlets around the world are competing to win the attention of this large and growing audience.

In assessing the Mail’s performance as the most-visited newspaper on the web, eMarketer says:

[…] unlike The New York Times or The Guardian, [the Daily Mail] does not feature much in the way of original reporting on its website. Yet it has managed to grab a bigger share of the online audience than either of those organizations through its relentless focus on catering to the tastes of its global audience.

The Daily Mail’s editor, Paul Dacre, told The New Yorker in April that he thought the Mail Online was succeeding because it had identified a large niche in the news market:

“At its best, American journalism is unbeatable. But the problem with many of your newspapers is that they became too high-minded, too complacent, and self-regarding … They forgot that there’s a huge market out there of people who are serious-minded but also want some fun in their reading.”

The bold text is my emphasis.

mailonline

And maybe that is precisely the key to the Mail’s success in attracting people to its digital content:

  1. Understand your audience with precision – no guesswork.
  2. Offer them compelling content (see above for a clue to the Mail’s definition of ‘compelling content’).
  3. Make that compelling content relevant (the Mail Online has a specific US edition to cater to a huge market).
  4. Make that content easy to obtain (web, mobile apps, no paywalls as it’s ad supported), consume and share.

Looks like a winning formula.

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