Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Autumn Seminar - Are your newsroom decision-makers equipped for the demands they face?

Of this there’s little doubt: today’s newsroom decision-makers face unprecedented demands.

Against the backdrop of a general economic slump, traditional media managers are compelled to adapt their operations to meet shifts in customer expectations driven along by constant changes in technology, which also embolden new and existing competitors.

The result: There has never been a greater need for motivated leaders with a thorough knowledge of the opportunities of the digital age, as well as the capacity - and confidence - to mobilise creative teams and deliver results.

The five-day 'Newsroom Leadership in the Digital Age', which runs from 6-10 October 2008, aims to give participants the tools they need to address the key issues facing newspapers that operate in today's competitive, technologically-advanced environment.

Our international team of resident and visiting tutors - including Julie Martin, the Evening Gazette editor behind the multiple award-winning site, scholars and master teachers - will help participants build the advanced knowledge and skills.

The programme will also include the 10th Journalism Leaders Forum and networking reception, scheduled for 7th October on the theme: “Hard Lessons: What are the tough times teaching media decision-makers about the way forward?”

Participants in the Preston seminar, which also includes a series of practical digital skill master classes, will also have the option of earning academic credit and working towards a university award.

To get more information on the 'Newsroom Leadership in the Digital Age' seminar and to apply before 30 August 12 September, please visit our website.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, please don't hesitate to the programme director François Nel at FPNel @ uclan. ac. uk.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

At a glance, 2008 Newsroom Barometer indicates editors may agree with market analysts on pathway to success

For news executives scrambling to respond to the pressures on audience numbers and revenues, the findings of the 2008 Newsroom Barometer should be encouraging – or alarming. At first glance, editors seem to agree with analysts that future growth depends on investment.

For editors, the top concerns were people. In the survey, 35% said training journalists in new media skills would be their top priority if they were given resources to invest in editorial quality. The second most common concern was recruiting more journalists, which was chosen by 31 % of editors.

Of course, future success will not come about simply because more journalists are making more stuff, because value doesn’t simply depend on quality or even the availability. It also depends on scarcity.

Consider this example from the headline news: Clean water is important, but where it’s plentiful, it’s not considered very valuable. But, as the aid workers in Burma will tell you, the cyclone has left large swathes of the country under water – salt water – and clean drinking water is scarce and, therefore, very valuable indeed. Not surprisingly, much of the energy and relief money will be spend on just that.

Determining what is scarce in the news and information marketplace – and therefore, potentially, valuable is the first step towards growth for the industry. And that takes investment not only in growing skills of the journalists, but in the building the knowledge of those who manage the business and lead the teams.

Of course, the Newsroom Barometer question was hypothetical (editors where asked what they would do if … ) . Between the newsroom and the market are the business managers. And, for many of them, margins are still all.

But, as Deutche Bank analyst Paul Ginocchio said recently publishers make a mistake by thinking that the market cares more about margins than profit growth. "I think the market knows now that you can’t cut your way to profitability…It’s not a cost issue, it’s a revenue issue. Growth takes investment." Strategic investment (I've argued before) should prioritise building the knowledge required to make better, faster decisions, along with the skills & technologies to do things better, faster.

The global survey gathered the answers of 713 editors and senior news executives from 120 countries, and was conducted online in March 2008 by Zogby International and commissioned by the World Editors Forum and Reuters.

Other highlights:

- 86% believe integrated print and online newsrooms will become the norm, and 83% believe journalists will be expected to be able to produce content for all media within five years.

- Two-thirds believe some editorial functions will be outsourced, despite frequent newsroom opposition to the practice.

- The largest group – 44% – believe on-line will be the most common platform for reading news in the future, compared with 41% last year, while 31% cited print (down from 35%last year), 12% mobile and 7% e-paper. The rest were unsure.

Also see: Reports by the Editors Weblog , , the Guardian, Hold the Front Page , The Geek and Reuters (video).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Investing in the news media ain't for sissies

The news business ain’t for sissies.

‘It was always so,’ I can hear the hacks (and former hacks) mutter. Indeed. But these days it doesn’t only take guts to make it in the newsroom, it also takes nerve to be in the boardroom – and on the trading floor.

Technological changes and challenges that have been rocking the newspaper industry and reshaping its culture for a decade and more have combined with increasingly dire financial prognoses. In the United States, an industry whose health has been declining for years got sicker still in 2007, with circulation, advertising revenues, and profit margins all falling – and, in a spreading number of markets, taking staff size down with them; one newsroom executive ordered to plan another round of cuts described the situation as “past bleeding – we’re into amputation now”.

In Britain, the picture hasn’t been that gloomy – until recently. Consider, for example, that in 2006 profits still flowed like ink at regional newspaper giant Johnston Press, long considered the best performing amongst its peers. The picture looked rather different in 2007 and, given the general economic gloom, the forecast for 2008 isn’t any better.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that analysts at Deutche Bank and elsewhere are yelling ‘sell’ and the share prices for news media companies seem to have gone into freefall. Share prices for Johnston ( JPR ), Trinity Mirror (TNI ) and Daily Mail & General Trust, which includes Northcliffe Media ( DMGT ), have more-or-less halved over the past year. And things aren’t much better for the largest regional news group in the UK, Newsquest, owned by US-based Gannett, whose share price (GCI) closed at $27,.93 yesterday (24/04/08), down from $56.73 exactly a year ago.

So, what’s going wrong? And, perhaps more critically, what can we do about it?

That’s the focus of the 9th Journalism Leaders Forum on 29 April and a theme I’ll continue to explore this summer, thanks to some funding from the Centre for Research-Informed Teaching at the University of Central Lancashire where I work.

The issue is complex and answers aren’t likely to be simple (and comments, suggestions would be very much appreciated). Yes, the much-discussed trio of changes in technology, economy and demographics have indeed played a part. But I’d suggest that, as the folks at AA will tell you, the first step to recovery is looking in the mirror and ‘fessing up.

Sam Zell, the US real estate magnate who bought the Tribune Company and took it private late last year, thinks that too.

Speaking at an Inland Press Association meeting (reported by Martha Stone in the Shaping the Future of the Newspaper report 7.3), Zell said, “I think the newspaper industry has stood there and watched while other media enterprises have taken our bacon and run with it...It’s too much complacency… [The industry has been] standing there and letting this happen while Rome is burning.”

Of course, that’s not entirely true. Some folks have fiddled a bit (see Mark Andressen’s NYT ‘Deathwatch’ ), but others (most notably companies outside of the US, such as Nordjyke Medier in Denmark) got cracking and are coining it.

Deutche Bank senior analyst Paul Ginnocchio suggests that is't not only about what media executives are doing that is a problem - there's also things they should STOP doing. When Martha Stone asked him, "What are some of the most common mistakes publishers make that diminish their business in the eyes of analysts?," he replied:

"It's focus more on margins than revenue growth.

For a long time they thought Wall Street was focussed on margins. But Wall Street cares about profit growth, not margin expansion. I think the market know now that you can't cut your way to profitability. It's not a cost issue, it's a revenue issue.

Growth takes investment. [emphasis added]"

Investing in the news media during a downturn! Now that certainly aint' a job for sissies.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Key Journalism Leaders Programme Dates for 2008-9

The 2008-9 academic year is already shaping up to be a busy one for the Journalism Leaders Programme team.

Along with reviewing applications to our postgraduate courses (certificate, diploma and MA), we're also scheduling a raft of bespoke training solutions for media companies in Europe and further afield. And, yes, we're also planning more open events, including the 10th Journalism Leaders Forum, which is slated for 14th October 2008. Some other key dates are below.

Of course, if you'd like more information about any of our activities, don't hesitate to get in touch with the programme director François Nel at FPNel @ uclan . ac . uk.

KEY DATES for 2008-9
Applications for academic courses are now being reviewed.

9 12 September - Deadline for Late Enrolment
22 Sept-28 Nov - Autumn Block
13-17 6-10 October - Autumn Residential in Preston
14 7 October - 10th Journalism Leaders Forum
& Digital Editors Network workshops

12 Jan-20 March - Winter Block
2-6 Feb - Winter Residential in Preston
3 Feb - 11th Journalism Leaders Forum &
Digital Editors Network

20 April- 26 June - Spring Block
11-15 May - Spring Residential in Preston
12 May - 12th Journalism Leaders Forum &
Digital Editors Network workshops