Thursday, September 29, 2011

Amazon enters the tablet battle: It’s all about the shopping

What the aggressively-priced Kindle Fire will mean for news publishers.

In February 2010, before the first iPad shipments, I went out on a limb here (in a post about iPad strategies for publishers) with this prediction:
I believe the biggest transformation that will be wrought by the iPad will be to bring an enormous increase in online shopping.
How have things turned out so far? What might the results have to do withAmazon’s new tablet? And, most importantly for the Nieman Lab audience, what new disruptive challenges does all this throw at the elusive and precarious business models for news?
First, it turns out that tablets indeed push much more online shoppingas Dana Mattioli reported in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. In a story entitled “Tablets: Ultimate Buying Machines” — quoting info from Forrester Research, Macy’s, and others — Mattioli reported these findings:
  • Tablet shoppers make purchases in 4 to 5 percent of shopping site visits, compared to about 3 percent for consumers visiting shopping sites on PCs. That’s about 50 percent more purchases.
  • Tablet shoppers, according to many retailers, spend 10 to 20 percent more per order than PC shoppers or smartphone shoppers. Combined with the first finding, that means 65 to 80 percent more spending.
  • Tablet shoppers who shop via apps tend to spend much more than tablet shoppers on websites. (At TheFind, they’re spending three times as much through the app compared to the website.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A call for consolidation: Dean Singleton on John Paton, collective action, and the next waves of newspaper cutbacks

My recent post at NiemanLab:

When MediaNews Group and Journal Register Co. announced a quasi-merger on Wednesday — putting the two under a new common management structure named Digital First, with John Paton serving as CEO of both companies — it was the most dramatic combination of American newspapers companies in years. And it was also a victory for the vision of Dean Singleton, the longtime MediaNews CEO who has been a champion for consolidation in the newspaper industry for decades.
Singleton, now MediaNews’ executive chairman, spoke with me Thursday about the move and his belief that more mergers, clusters, and partnerships are essential for the industry’s survival. “Broadcast consolidated, cable consolidated, and newspapers, in order to have the same relevance that cable and broadcast and others have, need to go through consolidation,” he said.
Back in 1996, at a management meeting when I was working at MediaNews, Singleton said that he anticipated one day just three companies would own most of the papers in the country — and he intended MediaNews to be one of them. At the time, the company owned only 13 newspapers and was not among the top 10 in terms of total circulation. Fifteen years later, with paid weekday circulation of about 2.2 million (JRC adds in another 400,000), it ranks second, behind only Gannett’s roughly 5 million.
Having shed most of MediaNews’s debt via a strategic bankruptcy, and having stepped aside from day-to-day management, Singleton is focused on building the next rounds of consolidation. He feels that collectively, the newspaper industry “should have seen the changing media environment sooner and dealt with it sooner,” and that collective strategies are now essential.
For Singleton, Paton seemed like an ideal partner: Their friendship goes back decades, and Singleton actually helped sponsor Paton, who is Canadian, when he needed a green card to work in the United States.
As a reflection of the daunting headwinds facing the newspaper industry, he predicted: “I don’t think there’s any newspaper company in America that won’t have fewer people a year from now than they have today, and fewer still in two to three years.” But he’s not headed for an exit strategy: “I love this business, I’ve been in it since I was 15, and I love it and I care a lot about it.”
Here’s a transcript of our interview. You can also download an MP3 of our conversation. (Due to the interviewer’s klutziness, the first question and a snippet of the first answer were truncated.)


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

MediaNews group under new management

MediaNews Group, the second-largest US newspaper company in terms of weekday circulation, a company I worked for some 13 years, publisher of the Denver Post and newspapers from California to New England, is consolidating management with Journal Register Company under CEO John Paton.

This is sort of a merger without merging, but could be a positive development for both companies. Look for big changes, in any case.

From Nieman Journalism Lab, here's a post linking to the announcement and a Paton blog post, along with context and background quotes from yours truly posted back in January and July foreshadowing this development.