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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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The inefficiencies of cutbacks

The Observer have announced that they are streamlining their offering into 4 sections. In the process, they are ending 3 of their 4 monthly magazines (several of which, I believe, are award-winning).

It is highly unlikely I will continue to buy it.

As a non-subscriber, my switching costs are minimal. I may prefer the tone of its coverage to other titles, but value – at least perceived value – plays an important role in the purchase decision. The quality of the magazines (along with the relative ease I can do the crossword) were major draws to the title. Both versus its competitors, the Saturday Guardian and its website.

And I don’t really feel like paying the same for less. So I may experiment once again with the Times, transfer my pennies over to its sister paper, or stick to the website.

Of course, I am assuming that the cuts mean that these articles will be discontinued. They may well be moved into the other sections. But given the need to cut costs, I am expecting that if this does happen, it will be on a much reduced scale.

This move may cut the Guardian group’s costs, but it is also going to negatively affect their revenues. They must be sure that the net impact of their finances is beneficial. But the net impact on their brand and identity is surely negative.

There is also the possibility that the move to streamline the Observer could have a secondary motive to make the Guardian look better by comparison.

Other titles such as the Express, Independent and People are already shells of their former selves. I’m hoping the Observer doesn’t go this way. It would be far better to convert it to web-only or end it completely than to see it published merely for appearances.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uherrmann/

Links – 27th June 2008

Selected links from my del.icio.us feed:

Blog-related

danah boyd’s research on social networking sites

Questions about target audiences for newspaper websites (Guardian) – a more coherent and focused article than I managed here, where I raised several questions about the measurements and content for newspaper websites

Collection of podcasts and videos on the future of journalism (Guardian) – an excellent collection here. Kudos to the Guardian for the excellent quality of guests and debate.

Marketing wheel of misfortune (Armano) – a fantastic post of aspects to avoid/be wary of in social marketing

Photos are being taken from Flickr and sold on eBay (Guardian)

Colour psychology in marketing (Branding Strategy Insider)

Why USPs are still important (Branding Strategy Insider)

Traditional media not dead yet (New York Times)

How is the Internet changing literary style? (Steamthing)

Modelling the real value of social networks (Techcrunch)

The Petabyte age (Wired)

40% of viewing of the Mighty Boosh is done via the iPlayer (Guardian)

The power of consumer generated reviews (Amazon reviews of an overpriced product)

Is this the future of TV? (Mobayboy)

Dan Rather says American journalism is in crisis (Adbusters)

Will the Beatles be the next Guitar Her/Rock band expansion pack? (FT)

Random

Profile on Nelson Mandela (More Intelligent Life)

Graph Jam – excellent site where pop culture is displayed in graph format 

Will killswitches become standard features on technology? (Wired)

Rich people spend more time working (Washington Post)

10 breeds of inner boss (Any Wired)

The 20 most powerful celebrity makers (Observer)

Best desktop media players (Lifehacker)

Outcomes from all Mythbusters episodes

Photoessay of poverty in India (DeviantART)

Literature condensed to 3 lines or less (McSweeney’s)

Internet Movie Car DataBase

The life journey of a tick (Slate)

Custom receipt maker – for all those expenses needs

19 cinematic scene stealing cameos (AV Club)

I would particularly recommend

Blog-related: danah boyd’s research on social networking sites, Questions about target audiences for newspaper websites, Collection of podcasts and videos on the future of journalism and Marketing wheel of misfortune

Random: Graph Jam, Outcomes from all Mythbusters episodes and Literature condensed to 3 lines or less

sk

Thoughts on the Daily Sport relaunch

As has been reported, the Daily Sport is to undergo a phased relaunch. It certainly needs one, but the proprieters aren’t going far enough.

The quandary is something Seth Godin mentioned in a recent post – should one target those that currently buy the product or those that don’t? ABC figures give the Daily Sport an average circulation of 100,000 people across the last 12 months – not quite the 3,000,000 or so that The Sun gets, but a reasonable number to forecast revenues from. As was mentioned by Robin Wright in my previous post differentiated continuity is required to avoid alienating the present consumers. But given that 100,000 readers gives around a 1% market share, I think it should look towards the 99% (or 47% if you only count men) that don’t buy it.

For me, the Daily Sport’s image problems are too deep – it needs surgery. Quick, deep and precise surgery. The young men it will most likely be targeting won’t remember the 80’s heyday of the Sunday Sport, with the outlandish stories (sample headline: “Aliens turned my son into a fish finger”). They will associate upskirt photographs of soap “stars” and glamour models with the paper – editorial, and even sport, are secondary at best. A soft relaunch will make it more difficult to overcome these perceptions.

Sunday Sport

However I think the general conceit is a good one. Choice quotes of the Nuts/Zoo/Bravo/Sky Sports repositioning include:

“It is unashamedly for ‘the boys’, all boys, majoring on sport, girls and a bloke’s-eye view of the world … essentially what other tabloids used to be before they went mainstream and started trying to please everyone with a more feminine and gossipy stance.” – Barry McIlheney, Editor-In-Chief

“They are risqué not offensive, original, opinionated, quirky and unashamed of their adult content. And while at times they will also be politically incorrect, our research shows this is a breath of fresh air to our target readership.” – James Brown, Consultant Editor-In-Chief

Despite some sniffy commentary, I can see it working.  A significant minority of the population are still not online, and not everyone works in an office or somewhere where they have Internet access.  These people will be the core audience. Saying that, the Daily Sport must be one of the few media companies in the current age that doesn’t have a (working) website. That is something that needs to be rectified, no matter how basic it is.

There is also room for a more laddish editorial tone. Tabloids are more celebrity focused than ever, and despite The Sun’s rather weak changes to Bizarre this does tend to attract the female audience. Jokey editorial and plenty of sport and women can act as a communal social object that men can discuss in canteens or in the pub. By the looks of today’s cover (Lucy Pinder NUDE inside), the pictures aren’t going to be any less provocative, but that only makes it analagous to Nuts and Zoo.

But it will be a hard sell – both to the public and the city. That the NRS do not report on readership is no surprise – despite softer content, the Daily Sport is akin to pornography. Which is why I think a relaunch is a good idea, but a total rebranding would have been a better one.

sk