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Panpa Bulletin : July 2011
Customer loyalty must be our mantra Hail new era of photography THERE was a time when the printed picture was the most pervasive visual format in the mass media. It was the heyday of photo-jour- nalism, during the middle of the 20th century, when news magazines would build their reputations around their use of photography and when, to many, they offered a first glimpse of the big stories of the day. Technology changed all that and TV became king. That may be about to change. The birth of tablet publishing may revitalise the power of the photo- graph. Devices like the iPad reduce over- heads for the business and improve convenience and immediacy for the reader. They also elevate news photography to a status it hasn’t oc- cupied for a long time. There could hardly be a platform more dependent on photography. And there could hardly be a bet- ter means for the distribution of our work than a high resolution, ultra- portable, constantly updated mass media device like this one. So if tablet publishing proves suc- cessful in the long-term, it will be in no small part due to the help of strong editorial photography and the efforts of news photographers – much like the good old days. With this will come an expecta- tion of increased technical adeptness with greater demand for fast – even live – transmission from the field. A growing appetite will emerge for more multimedia and HD-SLR video content from photographers – and that will mean more training and new skills. The depth of our journalism will increase, too. Given the choice, news photog- raphers generally prefer covering a story in series form rather than as a single image. That’s because the photographic essay is like long form writing; you’re not forced to isolate the highlights. Instead, you can include all the nu- ance and detail that would otherwise be lost, offering a more comprehen- sive portrayal of the subject. With its galleries and slideshows, the tablet platform is like a return to the golden age of photo-journalism when photographers might see their pictures published in series across 12 consecutive pages of a magazine and with scarcely a word of interruption. Tablet publishing will broaden the reach of our work to an extent not yet imagined, as the audience increases from those within a print delivery footprint to anyone with a compatible device. And if publishers can turn a profit out of all of this, for photographers I am failing to see a single downside. Opinion Jim Chisholm is an independent media consultant based in France. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Wade Laube www.panpa.org.au The PANPA Bulletin | JULY 2011 | The birth of tablet publishing may revitalise the power of the photograph” “ The newly-released app of the Melbourne newspaper, The Age MY late father-in-law, Keith, was a wonderful man. Smart. Charming. Modest. He was an hotelier, well versed in the ideas of hospitality, loyalty, service and quality. I re- member him pointing out to me a guy who visited his bar every night for two beers. He said this was his most impor- tant customer. In a hotel that ran conferences, exhibitions and events, this was his man. He calculated that one person coming in every night for two beers was more valuable than any event, banquet or party. Oh for Keith to be running the publishing business. Loyalty and intensity must be the mantras for media companies in the next decade. Intensity is the combination of fre- quency of consumption – the mix of visitor numbers, visit frequency and visitor activity. In print, reading times are falling. On the traditional internet, visitors are rising, relative to print circula- tion, but pages visited are not. Meanwhile mobile devices, phones and tablets, are generating great intensity but in relatively small numbers. Loyalty is out of the window. Media consumers are increasingly, and rightly, turning to a wider range of media sources – something they have been doing so since the inven- tion of radio. And – as I have reported many times – the more valuable the cus- tomer, the less loyal they are. To turn back to my analogy: does our value lie in irregular visitors, or our steady loyalists? The Times, of London, and New York Times have concluded they can make more money from a few pay- ing loyalists than from the advertis- ing a thin mass-audience attracts. Both are smart companies that in- vest cleverly in strategic analysis. But to me, the math simply doesn’t stack up, either in terms of the relative value of content payment, or that of pay-per-click. Oh, how I’d love to be wrong. Multipliers are one of my favour- ite strategic tools: small incremental, manageable, targetable actions, at each step in the value-chain that collectively, geometrically build into enormous growth performance (or in some case, deletes negative per- formance by focusing on the causes of dilution). One small change in, say, the frequency with which print readers are coming back to the product each week, backed up by an increase in the number of print readers referred to a masthead’s website, can trans- late to a massive increase in total readership. But what are we doing about it? Zip all. Given the dramatic news of the last month, I’ve unusually been watching a lot of television. Whether it is CNN, BBC World, Al Jazeera, Sky or Fox, they all share one thing: Obsession with intensity. Between every programme is a look- ahead promotion demanding that we come back for more. As a non-TV viewer, I’ve been finding myself diarising viewing for nature programmes, comedies, and even (and don’t tell anyone I said this) Piers Morgan on CNN! Every presenter, anchor or report- er points viewers to their website. I’ve been arguing for more dec- ades than I admit, that newspapers must forward promote, only to be told variously, “we mustn’t give our plans to our competitor”, “we don’t have the space”, “we’re being attacked by an alien species from planet Zog”. All of which translate to “I’m lazy, insecure, and can’t be bothered with your marketing nonsense”. Tough. Today it is critical we take this on board. The Columbia Journalism School has recently produced an excellent report on the “business of journal- ism”, which presents the need for journalists to be more commercially minded. It’s a great report, so I hesitate to say: “I told you so!” Our industry – in every depart- ment, at every level – must wake up to the reality of intensity, or our lack of it. It is an actionable and potentially profit-generating concept. The New York Times can boast a ratio between monthly web users and print circulation of 188, The Guardian’s ratio is 125, El Mundo in Spain rates 69 and the Sydney Morning Herald 22. And they all enjoy enormous international audiences, according to Nielsen numbers. It’s a different story for regionals. US regional newspapers average 5.7, Spain’s 16.3, UK 9.1 and Aus- tralia’s 6.4, says Nielsen. My analysis from working with publishers is that the “best of breed” publishers, which focus on local markets, can apply the multiplier concept to achieve page impacts per circulation levels of 13 times those of the average pack, by focusing on these few simple factors. But I look at the average newspa- per, or average newspaper website: do I see a single look-ahead, or a sin- gle invitation or incentive to come back? Rarely. Is there an adequate cross-over between print and web? Rarely. Is a penny or cent spent on brand- ing? Hardly. Many of the major digital compa- nies are now resorting to TV adver- tising to raise their brand profiles. Ironic isn’t it that these digital guys are turning to traditional media for branding, and we don’t get it? We’re not losing friends because people don’t like us. We’re losing them because we’re simply not welcoming them back. Loyalty and intensity must be the mantras for media companies in the next decade Jim Chisholm Wade Laube is photographic editor for the Sydney Morning Herald. He tweets under the handle @wadelaube and blogs at www.wadelaube.com/blog