Paywalls have proven popular with online publishers, most certainly those once based on print publications. Highly touted has been the Piano Media paywall and distribution system that developed in Slovakia and spread to several national markets. Nearly four years after launch – and amble venture financing – Piano Media seems to have hit a bump in the road.
Last December Ecopress pulled the online version of Slovak business daily Hospodárske noviny from the Piano Media system and established its own paywall system. This past week publisher ETrend pulled Slovak media portal Medialne.sk because of “a very negative impact on traffic growth,” reported radiotv.cz (March 3), which also noted that Slovak publishers aligned with Piano Media “avoid any negative publicity or critical analysis…of Piano.” (See more about paywalls here)
Piano Media has often been criticized for holding subscriber figures close. Last year co-founder Tomas Bella left the company, returning to publisher SME as deputy editor. (JMH)
Widely reported in many countries is the story of RT America news anchor Liz Wahl signing off, literally and figuratively, this week with a flourish about” a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of (Russian president Vladimir) Putin.” RT, originally Russia Today, is the English-language television channel launched in 2008 with a flourish about correcting Western misinformation about the Russian invasion of Georgia. The day before Ms Wahl resigned on-air an RT talk-show host openly criticized – without resigning – the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Margarita Simonyan, RT’s editor-in-chief, called Ms Wahl’s on-air resignation "nothing more than a self-promotional stunt.”
Many countries over the last decades have skillfully employed media outlets to fight information wars. Russia Today’s veracity-challenged news and talk programs unapologetically follow the editorial line written by Russian government spin-masters. Available on YouTube and other video portals, it provides conspiracy theory click-bait. Because of its blatancy it is a throw-back to old-school propaganda outlets from the Cold War and beyond. Both Ms Wahl and talk-show host Abby Martin have been based in Washington DC. (See more on media in Russia here)
Inside Russia the glimpse of dissent at Russia Today attracted scant attention, mainstream television and newspapers towing the official line. Exceptions were TV Rain, which recently lost almost all cable and satellite distribution, radio station Ekho Moskvy, recently absorbed by Gazprom Media, and business newspaper Vedmosti, a joint venture of Dow Jones, the Financial Times and Finnish publisher Sanoma. In the Crimea, Ukrainian TV channels have been pulled from the airwaves, replaced by mainstream Russian TV channels.
The media sector has suffered measurably since the onset of the Great Recession. The effect on sector employment has been devastating. For some there has been a sliver lining, however small.
In Spain, one of hardest hit by recession and austerity, journalists have formed 358 new media outlets since 2008. Some have failed, most remain small, said a report of the Press Association of Madrid (APM - Asociación de la Prensa de Madrid), quoted by El Mundo (March 3). In 2013, 61 new media outlets were created.
The report identifies two primary reasons for this spurt in media entrepreneurship. Cost of entry is quite low aided, if you will, by the large number of out-of-work journalists. And, too, there is the “adventurous and enterprising spirit of journalists. Skills such as creativity, audacity, cunning or communication are greatly appreciated in business and are usually present in a journalist.”
An analysis of labor force statistics prepared by Europa Press for World Radio Day (February 13) showed 47% of employment in Spain’s radio broadcasting sector have been lost since 2008. Much of the job loss was attributed to significant declines in radio advertising through the period with 136 companies closing. (JMH)
It’s no surprise that attitudes toward advertising vary across cultures. Within Europe a well-known north-south bias is part cultural and part, it seems, experiential. A recent study in five countries by French creative and strategy agency Australie with Yahoo shows that a bit of risk-taking reduces ad fatigue.
“The French are in the middle, neither ad lovers nor ad haters,” said Australie CEO Vincent Leclabart, quoted by Les Echos (March 3). In the survey of internet users 16 years and older, 38% of French people surveyed find ads “unnecessary and unpleasant” and 55% “boring.” Moreover, 78% say advertising is “overall without interest.”
Even more Germans and British surveyed found ads “without interest;” 87% and 80% respectively. Italians and Spanish respondents were less critical; 72% and 67%, respectively. In a separate question, 38% of British respondents found advertising “intrusive,” compared with 66% of French people. “The French are particularly demanding,” said M. Leclabart. (See more on creative advertising here)
“Advertising in France is very politically correct,” he explained. “It’s different in Britain, where agencies sometimes surprise us with ads that seem to come from nowhere and you wonder how anyone could have such an idea.” Only 12% of British respondents referred to ads as “dangerous” compared with 20% of French.
Tensions remain extremely high in and around the Crimea, Russian troops looking like an occupying force. The information flow – a war by other means – is crackling. Foreign reporters are filing comprehensive stories based on their own observations. Local news media in the Crimea is under duress though Kyiv-based news outlets are covering as best they can. (See more on media in Ukraine here)
Major television channels in Ukraine adopted a common logo theme from Sunday (March 2), One Nation, Country United. “We have one country and its common values unite us,” said the joint press statement from Inter TV, 1+1 Media, Media Group Ukraine and Channel 5. The Ukrainian broadcasters appealed to Russian TV broadcasters “to be objective.”
Talk show host Savik Shuster speaking on a “marathon” broadcast invoked a version of the Hippocratic Oath directed toward media workers in Ukraine and Russia.
"I swear that defend the honor and the noble traditions of the profession of journalism, to my colleagues,” he began. “Even under threat, even under threat I repeat, I will not impart knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity. I promise it solemnly, freely and frankly. I swear.”
“I want also that all Russian colleagues join in this oath,” he concluded. Mr. Shuster is Ukraine’s best-known talk-show host and appears on Inter TV.
The Mohyla Graduate School of Journalism in Kyiv launched the website SpotFake.org to counter erroneous news reports. It was immediately targeted by a DDoS attack. The website aims to “expose examples of Russian propaganda disguised as news in Russian or international media.”
The Russian agency controlling the internet Roskomnadzora blocked access in Russia to several social media VKontakte communities associated with Ukrainian nationalists, reported Russian news portal lenta.ru (March 3).
Over the weekend an armed group identifying themselves as the Crimean Front seized offices of the Center for Investigative Journalism in Simeropol. The militia leader told those inside to go on about their business and “we will try to agree on the correct truthful coverage of events,” according to the center’s website. Workers at the Center managed to leave with “part” of the office equipment.
From Last Weeks ftm Tickle File
Turner Broadcasting will soon have a new regional service for news channel CNN. The company announced (February 28) a joint venture with PT Trans Media to operate CNN Indonesia, with appropriate website, in the Indonesian language. It will be headquartered in Jakarta. Other details, including launch dates, are left to the imagination.
Trans Media is part of Chairul Tanjung’s CT Corp conglomerate, which includes banks and retail. The company owns general interest TV channels Trans TV and Trans7 as well as a controlling majority of pay-TV, IPTV and cable provider TelkomVision.
Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific is part of Time Warner. While the CNN International English-language news channel is ubiquitous there are only a few language specific joint ventures outside of Latin America. CNN Turk launched in 1999 by Dogan Media Group. The cable-distributed Japanese service – CNNj – launched in 2008, followed by CNN Chile, which is separate from CNN in Spanish. Web-only CNN Arabic arrived in 2002. (See more on Time Warner and CNN here)
Indonesia has been one of the hottest of hot growth markets, with a population of 250 million and annual GDP growth rate in the 5% range, apart from sniffles in 2013.
The great digital dividend for television operators is the relative simplicity of offering new channels. Technology is a wonderful thing. By consequence more channels offer programmers endless opportunities, each seeking a new and bigger slice of the television audience.
Polsat News, part of Polsat Group, is lightening up its all-news format, replacing a daytime business news hour produced for the Polsat Biznez channel with “a lifestyle program with an international theme…presented in a light, sometimes a bit humorous way,” reported wirtualnemedia.pl (February 27). In addition a feature segment will be added presenting ”colorful, intriguing or surprising statements from politicians, experts and celebrities.” It replaces a world news review that moves to the soon to launch Polsat News Plus channel, which replaces Polsat Biznez. (See more on media in Poland here)
Polsat Group offers about two dozen television channels in Poland, making it the second biggest TV broadcaster. The company reported Q4 2013 profit 4% lower year on year at PLN 92 million with an increase in overall audience share and ad revenue. “Our aim is to maintain audience share above 23% in this fragmented television market and competitive advertising market,” said Polsat Group board spokesperson Maciej Stec, quoted by telix.pl (February 27). “We expect in 2014 a single-digit increase in due to projected current positive macroeconomic indicators.” Audience and revenue increases for the television group came largely from the TV4 and TV6 acquisitions last year.
Further lightness will soon arrive as the company prepares an all-disco music TV channel.
Digital radio is a broad palate. Big radio broadcasters in France have, unsurprisingly, their own view. Digital radio of the terrestrial kind – DAB and DAB+ - has largely been forsaken, web radio preferred.
The benefits of one platform over another and, more broadly, the whole of digital platforms to a broadcaster is one of those conference topics from consultants looking for clients. A study by the OJD, nominally the reporter of newspaper circulation, audited the live streams of more than 6,000 French web radio channels in January and discovered – voilà – web radio brand extensions certainly attract listeners or users or somebody. (See more on digital radio here)
The secret, also unsurprising, is having lots of those web radio brand extensions. NRJ Group, according to the data reported by Le Figaro (February 27), has an advantage with 233 web radio channels, 157 of which are direct NRJ brand extensions. NRJ claims 20% of listening attributed to web radio compared with a 9% average. Of course, this is all about advertising: more ad space available on web radio channels makes a great sales tool.
French measurement institute Médiamétrie does not currently gather listening data on all those web radio channels.
Because of TV everybody knows what’s happening
like it or not
Those following recent events in Ukraine no doubt recognize, without irony, the displeasure expressed by Russian Federation officials. Their man, caught between a rock and more rocks, did a runner, leaving the pet ostrich to fend for itself. It will come as no surprise that some of the displeasure is pointed at Ukrainian media.
“We are concerned about much of what is happening in (Ukraine’s) Parliament,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a joint news conference in Moscow with Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, reported Ukrainian Pravda (February 25), referring to an instant law change removing the Russian language as an official language. “What's happening around the media worries us too. We know what happened the other day on Inter TV channel.”
Inter is one of the most watched TV channels in Ukraine and, like the other big FTA channels, has come under criticism for avoiding news coverage of the Maidan demonstrations until the tipping point was reached then applying something of an on-air airbrush. That all came unglued last week as TV reporter Lydia Pankiv appeared on an Inter TV talk show, ostensibly to discuss reconciliation of factions in Ukraine. (See more on media in Ukraine here)
“I came here today only because I found out that this is a live broadcast,” she said as the show host became slack-jawed, reported Telekritika (February 22). “I want to say that I also despise Inter because for three months it deceived viewers and spread enmity among citizens of this country. And now you are calling for peace and unity. Yes, you have the right to try to clear your conscience, but I think you should run this program on your knees. I’ve brought these photos here for you, so that you see my dead friends in your dreams and understand that you also took part in that. And now, I’m sorry, I don’t have time. I’m going to Maidan. Glory to Ukraine.”