Thursday, April 22, 2010

Morning Brief: Pay those freelancers!

I wonder what Demand Media would think of this? The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued a draft ruling proposing to grant a group representing freelance journalists the right negotiate minimum pay rates. The group, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, wants to negotiate deals with Fairfax Media, ACP Magazines, News Limited and Pacific Magazines.

"While the publishers have not supported the application, under the proposed authorization they remain free to choose whether to negotiate with the MEAA or deal with journalists individually," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said.

The publishers have not supported the application? I'm shocked.

The number two owner of US newspapers is now a bank: JP Morgan Chase. Chase, of course, owns the debt on the Tribune Company, Freedom Communications and the Journal Register. Maybe financial regulations being proposed in Washington will end up preventing banks from making such risky investments, right?

It looks like the melodrama that is Canwest Newspapers may finally be ending. Torstar Corp. appears to be the favorite to buy Canwest Global Communications Corp.’s insolvent newspaper assets, according to the Globe and Mail.

The Globe and Mail also has an interesting story entitled Why private equity avoids newspapers.

"Jonathan Nelson is bearish on the future of newspapers. He’s far from alone in that camp, but what Mr. Nelson thinks of the dead-tree media actually matters. In fact, Mr. Nelson’s distaste for tabloids and broadsheets is shaping the auction of CanWest’s newspapers, and just may end up playing a role in delivering 11 big city dailies into the hands of Torstar Corp. Mr. Nelson is the founder of Providence Equity Partners..."

This might improve your view of private equity firms until you sit back and think about all the investments PE firms have made this past decade in B2B publishers, installing the usual group of CEOs (it has to be determined by musical chairs, no?), etc.

EBay founder, Pierre Omidyar, had launched an online news service in Hawaii called The news service charges $19.99 per month for a membership. No word on whether that is the final price, or whether lower bids will be accepted.

"It's really critical to help find a new way to do journalism that connects with ordinary citizens in a better way," Omidyar said Tuesday. "I think that is what's been lacking. Because the industry has been preoccupied with its own decline, it hasn't had the opportunity to reinvent itself. "As a new startup, we have the opportunity to reinvent that and bring journalism back into the center of conversation."

Journalism back into the center of conversation? Great, sounds like another conference is being lined up.

The launch of the iPad in Europe is approaching and developers are beginning to get their apps into iTunes. A French app, that I'm sure Apple loves, appeared today: Mac4Ever HD from EureKOO.

The app is so new that there is only one review so far in the app store. The reviewer gave the app a five star rating and wrote "Application génial, tout comme sa version iPhone. Mon site préféré sur l'actu Mac et Apple enfin sur mon iPad." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Final thought: article after article I've read the past two days discusses or mentions the idea that newspapers are looking for something, like the iPad, which will be the answer to their woes. Reading these stories made me realize that many of these folks must not have been around during the times when newspapers were enjoying 35 percent margins because they would know that what made this happen was a lot of people selling -- selling ads, selling subscriptions -- and none of it was being done by journalists.

In fact, as any publisher can tell you today, good journalism costs a lot of money (which is why bad publishers always look there first when cutting costs). When I was a circulation director we sold newspapers by going door to door, the work being done by a department mostly made up of housewives who worked part time. They did a fantastic job representing the paper, and they did it by telling potential subscribers about the coupons that could be found in the paper on Wednesday and Sunday, and other things journalists rarely think about. So if journalists want to continue to attend conferences where they discuss the magic formulas for saving their newspapers I say go ahead -- they weren't really the main drivers of financial success in the past, and they won't be in the future -- but they sure do talk a good game.