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A Disingenous Newspaper

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Yesterday the free UK newspaper, Metro, managed to publish a massive great spoiler on the current series of Game of Thrones. While discussions about current TV series are the meat and drink of newspapers - think of all the articles about who will be the next Doctor Who? However Metro ran this "news story" on page three, and illustrated it with a half-page photo that very clearly, showed part of what happened. (Incidentally, that image was pretty graphic considering real life recent events involving knives).

Metro rightly got hammered in social media yesterday with hundreds of Tweets from angry readers who hadn't seen goings on in the series yet.

Today, in a typically bullish response, Metro ran a piece basically defending itself, highlighting on several occasions that the episode had already been shown (completely irrelevant in today's TV watching world). Newspapers never like to admit that they've screwed something up. So they come out punching.

Now to be clear, I don't read Metro - and only saw the headline when fellow commuters read the paper. But its prevalence on public transport in big cities around the UK makes it ubiquitous. And in any case I'd also seen the UK airing of the show on Sky Atlantic on Monday night, so it wasn't a spoiler for me.

But I'm also well aware that the vast majority of Metro's readership hasn't seen the show. Most will not have even had the opportunity to watch the show yet.

Here are just some of the reasons:

- They were busy on Monday and Tuesday nights, and hadn't had a chance to catch up.
- They were watching the excellent BBC2 show The Fall, and will catch-up with a later showing
- They were saving up episodes to watch together on their PVR
- They are Virgin Media customers (vast chunks of London are cabled so this is a significant part of the audience) and don't have access to Sky Atlantic
- They don't have pay TV and watch the series on DVD or Blu-ray

Sky knows that this is how people watch TV shows these days. That's why they show Game of Thrones multiple times a week, and make it available to catch-up with on computers and mobile devices (although I'd recommend against watching this particular show in a public place).

The nature of the show means that it is very different to fire on EastEnders or a murder on Coronation Street. I'll reiterate. Despite it being shown on TV on Monday, most people will not have watched it yet.

The word "spoiler" seemingly emerged during the pre-web Usenet era of the internet. Once upon a time, there was no rush. Economically film prints used in the UK would be "used" versions that had already done the rounds in the US. Viewers with little real knowledge of what was being made and when accepted that there were often long delays between a film or TV programme's US release and it hitting UK shores. Famously, Star Wars opened in late May 1977 in the US, not reaching the UK until late December the same year, with most people not seeing the film until 1978. The coming of the internet meant that it was far easier to learn more than you wanted to know about a show ahead of time. Learning the murderer of Laura Palmer on Twin Peaks was a good example.

Yet today, while films and TV shows get near simultaneous global releases, our watching habits have changed out of all recognition. Netflix releases a series all at once; we may gorge a physical DVD boxset many months or years after a show came out (c.f. The Wire); PVRs and streaming catch-up services like iPlayer mean that we schedule programmes on our own terms - we don't let channel schedulers dictate our lives - sport and live reality shows excepted.

Does this make it harder to sometimes talk about films and television programmes in the mainstream media?

Yes it does.

The subject comes up quite a lot on the Kermode/Mayo film podcast where sometimes previous films are used to compare with new fare, and invariably someone will complain that a classic has been spoiled for them. Is it a spoiler to know what happens at the end of Romeo and Juliet or King Lear? Or to learn about Rosebud in Citizen Kane? What about Luke Skywalker's parents or who dies at what point in the Harry Potter saga?

To be honest, while I wouldn't expect any serious published piece about any of these productions to shy away from revealing what happened, I wouldn't expect a headline, title or accompanying imagery to immediately reveal all.

One of the spurious arguments Metro has put forward is that the book was published 13 years ago (and The Daily Show made a similar quip in Tuesday's episode). That's true, but we're watching a TV adaptation that aired for the first time last Sunday in the US and on Monday in the UK. Clearly very many viewers will not have read the books. I know I haven't.

Metro is fully aware that TV viewing habits have changed. The reason I use the word "disingenuous" above is because the editor knows perfectly well what he was doing when he published those spoilers. And he's being mendacious if he doesn't acknowledge that.

Metro sells itself to advertisers as a leading "Urban Media Brand". In their own words, its audience is "cash rich and time poor" - in other words the kind of people who use PVRs and catch up with things on demand.

In the end Metro doesn't care. A Twitter storm yesterday means that they've already filled two pages of today's paper. They've got page views on their website that they'll go on to monetise. Unless people stop picking up a free paper, or advertisers stop using it, it makes no difference to them.

I'm not sure why this whole thing has exercised me so much. As I say, I wasn't affected by it.

I just think it's the utter contempt that Metro has shown its readers. I shouldn't expect any more from a company that's owned by Associated Newspapers.

Pitchside Advertising

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I was out on Sunday evening, and didn't watch the Brazil v England match live from Brazil, but I did watch the highlights later. Good goals from the Ox and Rooney, but I'll leave the football alone. I want to talk about the pitchside advertising.

As the match kicked off, the pitchside advertising switched from looked like static ads viewable in the stadium, to what at first seemed to be those scrolling electronic ads that you get in most Premier League grounds these days.

So far so normal, except that there was a brief shot of James Milner right at the start standing in front of one of those electronic ads and there was ugly keying all around him. In other words, it looked like the technology that weather presenters had to stand in front of the map before they refined green screen technology.

Then I began to notice the ads themselves a bit more. There was an advert for Teletext which wanted to know "Do you want to get away like Wayne?"

Huh? That doesn't seem very nice. He's on the pitch you know. But of course - he can't see it can he. He can just see the fixed ads for big brands like Nike. Another ad was for BT Sport, but only seemed to mention their UFC coverage. A bit odd. Most distasteful was an ad for a payday loans company I'd not previously heard of. Now I despise those companies in particular. They prey on the needy (An aside: doesn't Nicholas Parsons earn enough from presenting Just A Minute? I'd happily see him get paid more if it meant that he stopped doing voiceovers for one of the bigger companies in the market).

So the first half, which Brazil dominated, was full of these ads aimed squarely at Brits. But that almost certainly meant that ITV was being delivered a UK-specifc feed.

To be clear, I'm 99% certain that ITV had nothing to do with any of this. They only sell programme advertising, and Ofcom doesn't let them run in-game ads. But if the club or competition sells ads, then ITV has to show them. It's certainly not unusual for pitchside ads in overseas games to be aimed at UK audiences. Whoever pays the most gets the ads (hence ads in Chinese at Premier League games). Indeed on occassion, two sets of cameras are used to give both home and away audiences localised ads. But I'm not clear what happens when ITV is being delivered a feed that has deliberately had ads "injected" into it.

For whatever reason, after halftime, the "injections" had been cut off. If ITV did this, then they did right. We didn't get awful green screen technology distracting us. Nor did we get unpleasant ads from either holiday companies seemingly mocking a player on the pitch, or a loans outfit failing to say how high their APR is (something that almost certainly would fall foul of the ASA code in the UK).

Following Up This Week's Media Talk Podcast

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Showing the Other Cheek
An otherwise random photo to illustrate this blog

I quite enjoyed this week's Guardian Media Talk podcast, but there were a couple of things that needed highlighting or explaining a little more.

The BBC has renewed its complaints with Sky about the £5m a year it pays to get on the Sky platform. There was a decent discussion about the whys and wherefores, but I think it was a little misleading in places.

It needs to be made clear that the £5m the BBC is pays is not actually for satellite carriage. That is indeed an open market consideration with a vendors leasing space on satellite and uplink facilities to it. The £5m is in fact for access to the Sky EPG.

Sky publishes the various different fees it charges channels, including some specific fees that channels including the BBC channels must pay on its website. It would argue that these are for development of the platform, costs incurred in delivering the correct regional version of BBC channels to customers and so on. It's clear too, that the costs are coming down from 2014 (which I think is the drop of £10m to £5m that has been talked about).

Whether or not Sky is right charging the BBC and other public service broadcasters these fees, is a separate question. But this isn't a market cost, but something that is solely in the gift of Sky.

I'd certainly argue that Sky does benefit strongly from having BBC channels on its platform. If for some reason they came off, then I can easily foresee lots of angry Sky customers unable to do things like record their favourite programmes on their Sky+ boxes. And it's worth noting that the BBC and Sky worked together last year during the Olympics to make space for all those extra sports channels providing unrivalled coverage of the games. Sky even spent money advertising the fact that these channels would be available.

I'm not altogether sure that all current Sky customers would be able to receive a DTT signal were BBC channels to come off the Sky EPG. While they'd remain on the other satellite service, Freesat, the lack of Freeview reception in remote parts of the country would almost certainly require some viewers in those areas, and others in flats, or with out of date aerials, to buy a new Freesat boxes to continue watching.

And the other thing not mentioned was the fact that US networks including Fox actually charge cable operators to carry their channels. As in the UK, those big networks still have the bulk of programming that viewers want to watch (although they've had a torrid time of it this year), and if a cable operator stopped carrying one of the big networks, they might well lose customers.

Sky's a commercial business, and I'm not surprised that they're fighting their corner on this one. But that doesn't make it right.

What else? I too watched the lovely documentary on Belfast's registry office - Love and Death in City Hall - last week and thought that it was terrific. But I don't want to see it spun off into a series. That's all too common these days - My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding started life as a one-off documentary, but then got spun out into a repetitive series that was creatively blank. There's nothing wrong with one-off documentaries coming along, leaving their mark, and then going. Sure, there are more "stories to tell" but it's just a ratings grab and rarely adds much. Ditto all the birth programmes and stories of A&E. In general I'm not a fan of this kind of thing, but I much prefer strands like Cutting Edge or the much missed 40 Minutes that give us a chance to be surprised. They won't always work, but they're much better creatively.

Sadly too late to make it into the podcast was the news that the BBC has cancelled its massive Digital Media Initiative. I've been trying to understand precisely what they were trying to achieve and failing to an extend. While having all its archive material digitised and searchable internally seems eminently sensible, it sounds like it was the efforts to build a bespoke BBC solution from the ground up that was its failing. And it would certainly seem bizarre to be trying to build internal tools that replicate the functionality of commercially available products from Avid, Adobe and Apple et al. £100m is a lot of money to lose on a project. Questions rightly need answering.

Finally, it wasn't highlighted anywhere, but I really liked this week's Sky Playhouse - Stage Door Johnnies. While I think that in general the series has had more misses than hits, this was a good one. Some great actors playing the kind of people who hang around theatre stage doors - in this case during a production of Romeo and Juliet starring Suranne Jones and John Nettles.

I miss "plays" of this nature, whether previously called Play for Today, Screen One or Screen Two amongst many others. It seems one-off films have to be much bigger these days, to be rolled out at Christmas. The only issue I have with Sky is that, perhaps understandably, they're desperate to have star names.

So while I think it'd be much better if new younger writers were given a go (sometimes it seems that the only routes in are writing for the Royal Court Theatre, or the BBC's Doctors), rather than pandering to big names who fancy "trying their hand" at writing or directing, and manage to cajole their mates along to help them out. If truth be told, I think that's also the reason that Sky's comedies haven't always lifted off. They have the talent, but they're giving them almost too much freedom.

Anyway, I shouldn't complain too much, because Sky is finally putting its money where its mouth is and investing in original UK productions aside from sports coverage.

And I'll leave the discussion about what happens with Global's situation for the time being. We're all awaiting the outcome with interest though!

No News Here, Move Along

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Friday Cover

On Monday, I was somewhat sympathetic towards Sarah Sands, editor of the London Evening Standard. One of the biggest stories of the year had broken in time to make that day's final edition, but the headline was buried behind an ad.

Well tonight I have less sympathy, as a nonsense story is "developed" by the right wing press, and her paper came up with a headline possibly even more ludicrous than this morning's Mail (see above).

Lots of people are furious that the BBC might have played a song because lots of people had bought it and pushed it into the charts. I can't be bothered to even get into the asininity of the whole thing. You can read about it just about everywhere else.

In any case, I don't particularly want to get involved in Margaret Thatcher. She was the first Prime Minister I recall, having been nine when she came into power. But the faux objectionableness being delivered by our free press who seem so keen that another outlet should participate in self-censorship is galling.

The thing is, the most objectionable Thatcher coverage I saw anywhere this week, was the cover of Tuesday's Sun. Considering that Thatcher did so much for Rupert Murdoch in dismantling the power of the unions (listen to this week's Radio 4 Media Show for more), then this was a fairly contemptible headline.

Whether the paper thought it was being funny, I don't know. But Dominic Mohan's cover completely misfired. It comes to something when even the Daily Star had a more measured front page.

I tend towards a "live and let live (or die)" attitude. She was an elderly lady who'd been in some decline for years. I didn't agree with her politically, and I'll leave it at that.

Incidentally, is it just me, or does it feel fairly straightforward to get a song into the charts? A couple of weeks ago, having performed their biggest hit for the first time in years on primetime ITV, Ant and Dec got a number one. And now we have this, albeit not yet at number one.

Editorial v Sales

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Spare a thought for Sarah Sands. She's the editor of the London Evening Standard.

The news of the death of ex-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher broke just before 1pm today, which meant that her paper could be first on the streets with coverage. I'm not sure what print deadlines are like at the Standard now it's a free newspaper. But I know that the paper was re-written from an earlier lead detailing the tragic death of yet another cyclist who was in an accident with a lorry.

We can imagine that they had perhaps an hour to put together their Thatcher coverage before the final edition had to start rolling off the press.

So she will have been thrilled when she realised that today was a day the Standard's sales team had sold a wraparound cover to Sky promoting their Now TV service!

Free papers have always featured wraparounds, although we're seeing more of them on paid for titles. And this one was time specific as they were explicitly promoting the Manchester derby as being available for streaming on demand this evening.

So the paper wanted to run this cover.

Inside Cover

But had to go with this one instead.

Actual Cover

Not quite the dramatic impact they'd have liked. And the sales team bank the advertising revenue while the editorial team don't get the dramatic cover they really wanted.

Good Luck With Those Paywalls

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That title sounds a bit insincere. But I really do mean it. Because, to work, they're going to need some luck!

In the last twenty-four hours, both the Telegraph and The Sun have announced the raising of paywalls on their sites. This wasn't unexpected.

The Telegraph had been experimenting with its overseas users for a while and claims to have converted quite a few people. They're going for the metered model allowing readers up to 20 articles a month before they have to pay up to read on. The Telegraph really led the way in the early days of the web, but somehow never held onto that lead. The price is quite low, and I wish them good luck. I'm not sure it'll work especially well as I don't see Telegraph readers as being digital evangelists despite that early lead. But we'll have to wait and see.

What I do know is that I'm not paying for digital only access for any paper that hasn't got a proper Android tablet version of their app. The Telegraph's offer will include access to the paper via its smartphone apps, but it's tablet apps that are important for newspapers. And that means more than the iPad. If you think you can succeed digitally, but not serve the needs of Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 owners, then good luck to you. You'll need it.

The Sun's announcement wasn't surprising. They spent a lot of money on digital rights to Premier League highlights as part of a News Internatioanl buy, and those rights begin in August. There's no way they handed over millions of pounds just to give those rights away free.

On the other hand, I'm unconvinced that access to them is enough to get people to hand over cash. The goals appear on Match of the Day, Sky Sports, news programmes, and from next season, the iPlayer. The ESPN Goals app on mobile has been a nice freebie, but I'd never pay for it.

But The Sun faces a bigger problem. A lot of broadsheet papers complain that the existence of the BBC's online offering means that they struggle. I'm afraid The Sun has a different problem - and it's the Mail Online. It's become, somehow, a world leading entertainment news portal, and as such has camped right on The Sun's turf.

I really don't know how The Sun is going to make a success of a subscription offering when the more popular site is free.

Advertising Week Europe - Guardian Breakfast

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The inaugural Advertising Week Europe conference kicked off in London this week, and the very first session was The Guardian Founders Opening Breakfast with The Guardian's Editor in Chief Alan Rusbridger. Listening to live jazz music at Ronnie Scott's at 8am was a different experience.

As I sat down with a cup of tea and a croissant, a BBC News alert text reported that Labour's Harriet Harmen was saying that a press deal had been struck between the main political parties. So a big day for the press perhaps?

Rusbridger referenced this news in his introduction and mentioned that regulation of the press was perhaps a strange concept for Americans in the room. In any case, with a Royal Charter "you should all feel privileged to be in this room."

The panel, to talk about leading-edge technology in a digital world, consisted of Gurbaksh Chahal of Radiumone, Rene Rechtman of Goviral and AOL Networks, and JB Rudelle of Critereo.

Rene talked about the importance of peer to peer connections made in social media for buying products while JB said social is one area of importance, but combined with others, it becomes powerful.

Rene said that his business is driven by data with social data at its heart. They're able to know things that others can't about their users. He said people want to be part of the sharing society on line and that if you can utilise that data you can be in a strong place.

JB said that they don't think about data as a special category. They think about intent. The ultimate goal for advertisers is performance. If there's no shopping intent, then there's no advertiser interested in this user.

He said that if someone looks a specific product page on a website, then theres strong intent. If you're looking at, say, the news on the war Iraq, there's nothing really there.

Rusbridger wanted to know about privacy issues and whether consumers are happy with the current boundaries.

Gurbaksh said that everyone talks about it, and sometimes it gets over-embellished. They don't care about your name, but your actions. "Who" you are doesn't matter. It's the intent that you have. He doesn't believe that there are any privacy issues. He said people are sharing more than they probably should on social networks.

Remy said it's just the beginning. Look at Apple. People making in-app purchases without realising; kids spending thousands without parents agreement. There are going to be lots of issues, privacy only being one. The market will regulate itself in the end.

JB said that the legal aspect is simple. It's pragmatic and that the UK is leading the way.

In business, we have to think about how to sustain a long term business. If we don't treat our customers well then it causes long term damage. Be one step ahead of the law in having good practice.

Asked about what's worked really well in peer to peer Remy gave examples of Red Bull and Nike's Fuel Band. The latter almost says that they don't need to advertise any more. It wasn't real, but it was a provocation. You have a different set of opportunities to talk to your clients in a pragmatic way. Starbucks is another example with their app. It allows the conversation to continue. Volvo Trucks was another client who uses social media well.

Gurbaksh talked about the Super Bowl and Hyundai. He said that they found people who mentioned relevant hashtags on Twitter and then presented them with the two minute version of their Superbowl ad rather than the thirty second one that aired on TV.

JB talked about the uniqueness of their ads to users. The same user doesn't see the same ad twice and you might see very different copy.

Rusbridger wants to know about mobile.

Gurbaksh said that he shouldn't be worried. With 1.2bn Android and iOS activations now, there's a real marketplace to target. However, everyone hates the current mobile experience. The thing that will be cool about mobile will be the things you can't do on the web. E.g. Utilising geolocation data. He said that we should think of the rich data that exists - the footprint you can't get online.

Rene said that he agrees that mobile formats aren't right yet and haven't been figured out. Think of it as a pipe. He said that research shows that the tablet is taking over many of the previous laptops roles. And mobile is used for entertaining consumers and browsing short form video, news, and social media networks.

JB said that they're incredibly excited but there are a lot of moving pieces. He thought that we're in the equivalent of the late nineties. But we're more experienced today. So we can ramp up and monetise the mobile space much quickly.

Japan is a market that is very advanced in mobile, with the US and Europe still "coming". It'll move quickly in the next 18 months he predicts.

Gurbaksh said that Facebook now says the average user spends 6.5 hours a month on the web but 8.5 hours on mobile. That's why they're going to be mobile first company.

Someone asked about the Mozilla third party cookie plans that are proposed, and that he thought were concerning. Although the panel all thought that they had a solution. Gurbaksh thought that it wouldn't become an issue while JB said that it's not a legal issue. He noted that the average politician had no idea of the difference between first and third party cookies.

In response to another question, Rene saw no limits to the kind of clients that can use social media. Anything can be made sexy - including a washing machine (I note that Samsung had quite a decent viral video for their washing machines recently).

Gurbaksh said that there was a rush to do some things like setting up a Facebook page. But what does that mean? You can make any brand sexy but you need to put the effort in.

On regulation JB said that you have to get the user on board. It's only a small piece of the story. Britain has done regulation well whereas the Netherlands has taken a more draconian approach.

Gurbaksh gives a Neiman Marcus example using URL shorteners tracking sharing of URLs to purchase, with a really high return rate of purchases.

In a world where there's unlimited content, says Rene, then the value comes from high end and curated content. Otherwise the value is close to zero.

Rusbridger noted that if it was only about curation then The Guardian would have no advantage over something like the Huffington Post. But they have a newsroom of people creating their own reporting.

Asked about too much value being given to the last click in a purchase chain, Gurbaksh says some brands will think that way, but he says in the US thinking about just that is becoming a thing of the past.

Rene says that the last click model is definitely disappearing. But he says that it's across devices and the attribution model (An aside: quite how that relates to non-internet marketing, I'm not clear).

JB has a different view. His company has its own mathematical model which includes display and gives their clients an ROI.

The panel largely agrees that agencies will still be important in Europe. Although there are opportunities to work direct with clients. It's going to collaborative.

Rusbridger asked the last question himself and told us that he was heading to the airport to visit India where he'd be interviewing Google Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt. He wanted questions from the panel. But they all tended to be in awe of what he was doing, so nothing too journalistically demanding came of it!

A fun opening session to a week of events across the capital.

Ignoring The Leveson Obvious

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As stupid politics ruins a perfectly good, and vitally necessary libel reform bill, I again get back into the quagmire that is Leveson reforms.

Her Majesty's Press sitting there refusing to have any kind of legislation oversee them, while Leveson seems to have done his best to work around this issue.

But it all feels like it's completely missing the point. While some kind of "All New PCC" is formulated there used to be the "Desmond Question" - would Express proprietor join the new organisation. We're told he will be in the "All New PCC".

Yet this is all absurdly parochial.

The business of news and journalism has changed irrevocably.

Forever.

And the vast majority of the internet will not be part of the "All New PCC."

Why are there absurd distinctions between what is and isn't the Press™?

The future is surely not going to be made of organisations that are "Registered at the Post Office" as a newspaper. So while the Mail Online might be signed up, what about other entertainment news websites based in the US? What about news outlets with no paper equivalent? What about the humble blog? Some of these do carry real news. They conduct investigations. They produce long form journalism.

From a consumer perspective, these are all the same and interchangeable in a connected 21st century. It's just that the new outlets never had an office in Fleet Street, and weren't delivered on dead Scandinavian trees.

So frankly, I don't actually care what HMP decides is or isn't right for it.

It's everything else. If a website hacks my email (phones are so passé) where do I go to? That's what I'm going to need to know?

PS And if you think I'm completely wrong about all this, then I'd really love to know

    why
. So do tell.

Internet and Mobile Premier League Rights

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15 April 2009

Recently News International won the rights for both mobile and internet highlights pacakges from the next season. These are the packages that are currently owned by ESPN (mobile) and Yahoo (internet), neither of whom will have any rights from next season.

According to a source at The Guardian, News International paid £20m for these rights. What's not entirely clear is whether that's £20m pa or £20m for the life of the three year deal. I suspect it's probably the latter. [Update] A separate Media Guardian piece puts the value at about £30m over three years. The piece also suggests that News International outbid sister company Sky, as well as Yahoo and Perform.

The actual value of Premier League rights auctions is confidential unless the bidders choose to reveal it. Sky and BT essentially have to reveal the costs because they're so great, they impact on the revenues of the businesses.

But the actual value of these rights, is always a bit questionable. Since they started to be awarded - mobile from the 2001/02 season and internet three years' later - the rights have never stayed with the same rights holder beyond a single season.

The table below shows who's owned the rights since they started being awarded:

UK Mobile and Internet Premier League Rights

Season Internet Mobile
2001/03-2003/04 - 3 (used for single season)
2004/05-2006/07 Sky Vodafone/3
2007/08-2009/10 NTL Sky
2010/11-2012/13 Yahoo ESPN
2013/14-2015/16 News International News International

The other major factor that comes into play is that the BBC has negotiated a deal to allow Match of the Day to appear on iPlayer from the start of the 2013/14 season. It'll only go online early Monday morning, but hitherto, it's been the single notable missing part of the iPlayer. Interestingly, Match of the Day 2 is on the iPlayer and usually features all the goals from Saturday's games too in brief highlights.

But the fact that there's a free to air alternative to these rights. Having brief highlights is still a commodity of value - with internet viewers traditionally having shorter attention spans. To see that Wayne Rooney goal, it's easier to just load up the Man Utd short-form highlights rather than scrolling backwards and forwards through a full episode of Match of the Day.

ESPN's goals app has been an excellent service for the last three years. However you suspect that they'd have loved to have monetised it properly. Instead they gave it away as a kind of loss-leader to promote the TV channel. Yes, there are advertising pre-rolls, but it's doubtful that they will have fully mitigated the overall investment.

What the app does have is "post match pub appeal". You're out and not at home able to watch Match of the Day or Football First on Sky. So you boot up the app and watch the salient bits on your mobile.

Of course there are oddities. ESPN was only allowed to to stream its goals to "mobile" devices - defined as devices with a SIM card. So it'd work on an iPad with a 3G SIM in it, but not in a WiFi only one (the more common device). There's nothing to stop you streaming the app via WiFi once it's passed this test.

The reason for this is because the Premier League had separately licenced internet rights to Yahoo, and it had to differentiate them accordingly. It's no good trying to say that the internet and the mobile internet are... well... the same thing just differently optimised. As 4G grows, and mobile devices become more sophisticated, that'll very quickly be a distinction few aside from lawyers will be able to make!

The interesting question will be whether or not News International is forced to keep that somewhat arbitrary separation in place. 60 second clips come into play from Monday mornings (as with the BBC's iPlayer highlights), so are less relevant. Mobile rights are brief 30 second clips, and are instant except during the 3.00pm "window".

I must admit that I always felt that Yahoo didn't really do enough with its rights. Theoretically valuable, I don't think that football fans used Yahoo to seek out their football highlights. Did you miss that unbelievable goal at the weekend? You probably just searched YouTube to find it. Yes, the Premier League is pretty hot on getting illegal uploads removed from YouTube and other sites, but a great goal can always be found.

I was never sure what Yahoo was trying to achieve. Aside from those rights, I never felt that Yahoo became the destination for football news. Other sites did better and cleaner jobs. And because Yahoo's sports section is co-branded Eurosport, it was an odd bedfellow. Eurosport doesn't have any Premier League rights. So it would never be a destination for that sport (tennis and cycling, on the other hand, are right up their street).

How will News International monetise these clips? I suspect that there'll be a twofold approach. If you're a subscriber to The Times or Sunday Times, their match reports will now be "illustrated" with goal clips - something no other publisher will be able to do.

And then there'll be paid-for apps that give you access to these clips - free if you're a subscriber.

Because The Times and The Sun have different attitudes towards paywalls, there'll have to be a sensible way around that doesn't disincentivise people from paying for rights. Perhaps part of The Sun will go behind a paywall.

Mobile is getting bigger, and every time these rights come up, the view is probably that now is the right time. But in the end, I suspect that Dan Sabbagh on this week's Media Guardian podcast is right. They'll have these rights for three years, and then someone else will pick them up with their own strategy for monetising them. However, we shall wait and see...

Newspapers and Tablets

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The majority of the UK press has been vehemently reacting against the recommendations last week of the Leveson report, and in particular reject any kind of government legislation of their industry in spite of the systematic abuse that many titles have treated members of the public.

But as they do that, one wonders - with a great deal of concern - what the ultimate future of the printed press is. And to a greater extent, serious journalism overall. Are they fiddling while Rome burns?

Today we learnt that News Corporation is shutting down its fledgling tablet publication The Daily.

So far what we have learnt is that:


  • Paywalls don't work

  • Giving everything away free and using advertising doesn't work

  • Trying to use a single form of distribution - even tablets - doesn't work

Being the critical resource in a specialised area and doing most of the above does work. Or at least it does if you're the FT (or WSJ). And breaking the shackles of a store proprietor who wants 30% just for listing you is probably no bad thing (FT again).

Perhaps I'm being a little unfair with my bullets, but I think that's fairly much the case to date. And well done if you're breaking that mould.

Let me talk about my own news requirements for a moment.

I'm a paid up subscriber to The Guardian and its sister paper, The Observer. For a discounted rate, I buy tokens in advance that let me pick up printed papers at newsagents. Remember, this is the newspaper group that already puts all its editorial up online free of charge.

So why do I pay? Well for two reasons in the main. One, I know that if nobody buys their paper editions, then there won't be a free ad-supported online version because the sums don't yet add up. And two, I like paper. Aside from anything the editors of printed papers provide an excellent mechanism to give me a broad church of stories to read. My natural online tendency is not to stray too far from the Media Guardian section of their website, but the paper copy gives me a broader selection of stories, and I read things that I'd have never strayed across online.

So despite frequently reading stories online the night before I take physical ownership of the paper version, I still feel that I'm getting excellent value.

That said, I certainly could see myself moving to a digital edition, were I able to.

You see my subscription also entitles me to the iPad version of the paper. But that's of no use to me. I don't own an iPad (and have no intention of getting into the walled garden of apps that Apple deigns to let me install on a device that I have to pay for).

I do, however, have a Nexus 7 that I've become rather attached to it. Yet The Guardian doesn't have an Android tablet app. So I'm left out. Yes there's a generic mobile app. But it's not optimised for a tablet form factor, and is essentially a mobile-optimised version of the website, without essential functionality like offline caching.

To be fair, there are hardly any mainstream Android apps for UK newspapers. That is to say, ones that are truly optimised to make use of the larger screen size, and feature essential functionality such as offline reading, and a scheduler for getting editorial delivered to the device.

The one exception seems to be The Times. I've not subscribed to it, so have no real experience of it working, having only used their standard mobile app on my phone. But I do find it very interesting that they're currently offering a deal to let you pay £50 for a Nexus 7 if you subscribe for 18 months to The Times and Sunday Times for £4 a week (or £17.33 a month).

It's got to be said that this sounds like an excellent deal, since that's for the full 32GB version of a device that retails for £199. You end up paying a further £193 or just under £11 a month for your newspaper. And it's cheaper still if you pay up front for the lot - £299.

This is precisely the kind of deal that I suggested newspapers should be making two and a half years ago.

I'd like to see a newspaper group really do something clever. A deal to give me a free iPad (or similar - because we all know that the iPad is vastly over-priced) if I take up a two year subscription - like my mobile phone company does.

Perhaps it has only been with the advent of inexpensive yet powerful tablets like the Nexus 7, that such deals become possible?

Which brings me onto my next issue. The lack of Android support - The Times excepted - across the newspaper industry. With the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire surely flying off shelves this Christmas, the likelihood is that they're going to rapidly take a significant market share.

As a user, I believe that the 7 inch format is a much convenient one for travelling with and reading on the go. It slips into pockets and bags much more easily than 10 inch tablets do, and the price point makes it affordable to a much larger range of consumers.

Where once upon a time, it was entirely understandable that companies developed for the iPad first and then considered their options before moving onto another platform, it seems to me that it's actually essential that today they develop in parallel for Android. Indeed, such is the state of play currently, they'll probably have more standout in the Google Play Store than they will in Apple's iTunes Store.

Newspapers are simply missing a trick by not pushing fully featured Android applications out.

Even worse - sometimes when they do it's that most awful of things, an exclusive partner tie-up. Take for example The Guardian's Eyewitness app. It's available to buy on iTunes for £1.49 and presents a range of stunning photos in tablet form that builds from what's available in the paper and online. One of the reasons I love the printed paper is the massive Eyewitness photos usually spread over the centre pages.The power of a photograph can never be underestimated.

Sadly, for what are clearly marketing purposes, The Guardian has only released an Android version of its Eyewitness app to users of the Amazon Kindle Fire. Despite being essentially an Android platform, it's exclusively available for users of that device.

I'm waiting over here to pay good money for the app, but they don't want it (or rather, they probably prefer Amazon's slightly larger cheque). Ironically, because The Guardian has APIs, someone else has written an Android app that takes the available photos (not the full range that the paid apps deliver) and presents them to users in such a way as you might not realise that there was a premium app available.

Getting back to the start, what the closure of The Daily shows us is that solely appearing on tablets was a bit too much too soon. But that doesn't mean that tablets - in some form or another - aren't perhaps the most preferred way for newspaper to prosper in a digital age. The paper was clearly generating real revenue, as this excellent piece at the Nieman Journalism Lab points out. But the model didn't work in a tablet-only environment. Multi-platform is essential for the scale to make paying for those journalists achievable.

Again, I've not read The Daily, because even though there seemingly was an Android version, I never heard about it. But I do know that if you're not offering more than I can already get in the Metro or on websites built around agency copy, then you've not got a hope.

Put the resource in, and build good apps - for both iOS and Android. Ideally launching them simultaneously (it's notable that Rovio launched the iOS and Android versions of Angry Birds Star Wars together, just as Xbox 360 and PS3 titles arrive together).

Use it to support your print proposition.

Be creative in how you market your offering. Heavily discounting devices is a great idea.

There still could be money to made here. Because if there isn't, the industry really is in trouble.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Media category.

Literature is the previous category.

Misc is the next category.

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