There was many a line in this that caught my eye; most of which can be saved for another day.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/23/bbc.pressandpublishing

It was Myners’ line right at the end, however, that maybe deserves some thought – the bit where he suggests that, when it comes to the regional press “there will be continuing pressure for consolidation of ownership to bring scale…”

We have been down this road a little before; in wondering just how Trinity Mirror’s excellent local community web-sites in Teesside – soon coming to a Coventry suburb near you – can be made to work in downtown Loddon.

It clearly can be made to work in Loddon; the question is whether or not it will be the Trinity-Mirror model that winds it’s way over the bridge from Chedgrave and up the High Street – or the Archant one. They are, of course, only ten miles up the road in Norwich and have, therefore, rather less of a trek to get here.

But Myners is clearly merely repeating what every regional newspaper executive knows; that to make their numbers work – to get that old, newsprint quart to fit in a web pint pot, they are going to have to get hold of some more pint pots… to give themselves scale, as Myners observes.

Now, I am no economist. But right now, with their share prices already halved and the credit crunch just starting to bite, who on earth has got any appetite whatsoever to consolidate the UK regional newspaper industry to the kind of scale that – in every likelihood – is now required must be something of a moot point.

Newsprint quart into a web pint pot and all that… how many pint pots are you going to need to make your scale viable in an age where, as Clay Shirky pointed out, traditional geographical constraints on our behaviour are flying out of the nearest window?

Does ‘scale’ entail a quantum mass that is numbers-only? Is that where advertising-heaven lies? In numbers? ‘Look, we have 22 million uniques… six million here, four over there, 200,000 down here…

But what if advertisers are looking for a scale that is more than just a patch-work quilt of numbers; more than pockets of influence? What if they want to hit every nook and crannie in the land?

Perhaps scale can come with ‘ownership’ of one of the four corners of this green and pleasant land… that Trinity Mirror and Northcliffe will sit down together and swap your Birmingham for our Bristol, our Cardiff for your Leicester, and so on…

Perhaps. But it seems unlikely. After all – and this is where I repeat that I’m no economist – but I presume that the wheels of any such consolidation process would need to be greased by large dollops of funding.

You sense that the markets have already delivered their verdict on newspaper stocks; the fact that the Birmingham Evening Mail didn’t exactly have people flocking to Trinity Mirror’s door might be further proof that whilst picking off the odd weekly here, the little free paper there might still be a possibility, the whole-scale reorganisation of the UK provincial newspaper industry looks one mountain that people have neither the will – nor increasingly the simple wherewithal – to climb.

Where that leaves us all is the next moot point. Under pressure, was Myners’ opinion.

In desperate need of starting from scratch, starting all over again from a blank piece of paper would be mine.

 

 

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I knew there was something else. Something else that had niggled away all day.

This.

http://www.currybet.net/cbet_blog/2008/03/google_hijacks_newspaper_search.php

That’s brilliant. Top spot. Or if not spotted, then illustrated.

And while we’re handing out medals, I stumbled across it on Martin Stabe’s blog.

What the newspapers concerned do next will be fascinating to watch. Cos I’d show Google the door…

Don’t get me wrong, Google is the biggest and best taxi service in this web-world; they get me from A to B in an instant. But being an oh-so ‘umble news provider, I’ve never quite got the best out of the other string to their mighty bow, advertising. There again, I don’t have Ernst & Young advising me…

But as a taxi service, superb. They bring the punters straight to my door.

But go back to marvellous Martin, and let’s talk it through. I’m a Norwich fan; I’m not, be we digress…

I’m a Norwich fan; fancy seeing what’s in the Telegraph; so I hail my Google taxi, ‘To the ‘Telegraph’ pal…’ and they arrive at the front door…

Now at this point – if I were the Telegraph – I’d open the door, let the punter out and tip the driver before he left. And then it would be a case of walking with them into our newly-decorated hallway and asking them where they’d like to go next…

‘Sport, please…’

‘Of course, sir. Step this way….’ all in the hope that, en route, they’d notice the fact that we’d actually just had the hallway done; that something smelt nice in the kitchen.

Strikes me that our Google taxi driver is now through the hall and up the stairs before anyone has had time to notice.

Having arrived in the teenage kid’s bedroom that does for ‘Sport’, I can then rummage away through the drawer of dirty underpants until I get to the one with the Canary logo on the front. But if I was The Telegraph, The Guardian, etc… I’d want the taxi driver to be still stood on the front door-step waiting for my return and then to be told where to go next.

Because if I was those ever-so clever people from Google and I did that ‘Taxi for Telegraph Sport: Norwich City run…’ often enough, the next time I hailed a cab, they would have been able – through force of my habit – to predict exactly which smelly drawer I wanted to go to thereby missing out whatever was on the hall, on the stairway and in the bedroom altogether… and it would be their predictive advertising adorning the landing walls….

Now if all I was ever interested in was getting so many uniques into said bedroom drawer and wasn’t that bothered how, exactly, they got there and how many muddy feet were trampling over my newly-laid search carpet in the hall, then fine.

But if we think that the great circulation battles of the future are going to be for the global ABCe’s, what happens if – as an advertiser – I’m now faced with The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian and The Daily Mail all locked in and around the 15 million uniques per month mark?

Where’s my next measure?

I think – or rather, I hope – it’s time. That within those four walls of your digital home you provide enough ‘sticky’ content to keep the eyeballs lingering over what’s on the hall table, what’s left on the landing, etc, etc… for longer than any of your nearest and dearest rivals.

I’ve dealt in fag packet numbers for the last two years; I’m not about to change.

But, let’s just say, that to get to said dirty pants drawer it takes me four pages – on a first visit. Five seconds, in total. Provided, of course, that I haven’t stepped in anything ‘sticky’ en route.

And let’s say my 15 million month uniques on average visit twice a month.

That’s 30 million visits; average ‘journey’ time to what’s behind the fridge, in the bottom kitchen cabinet, behind the lamp in the lounge, etc, etc… is our 5 seconds. On average.

30 mill x 5 is 150 million seconds; that’s 2.5 million minutes; that’s… ooh… five years worth of eye-ball time a month I’m giving away cos I won’t ask the taxi driver to leave his passenger at the front door.

Mmm.