Friday, 20 September 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: What is the cost of good content?

Jim Edwards, it seems you were right.

Just one month on from the “The Sun” controversially hiding its online content behind a paywall the statistics have shown that whilst the Red Top may have been enjoying greater revenues, they have paid for it with deteriorating audience numbers.

The latest report by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (released yesterday) reveals that since the Sun introduced its pay wall, its numbers have dropped by as much as 60%.

And it doesn’t seem that this disgruntled 60% simply stopped consuming their rouge-news after August 1st… They simply tapped a different URL into their internet search engines and surfed off elsewhere. For example, last month enjoyed a boost of nearly 20% of daily browsers in the wake of the Sun’s pay wall crashing down.

There was a great deal of controversy when the Times implemented its “hard paywall” back in 2010. As Edwards has predicted for the Sun, The Times did suffer from depressed readership and became the least-read “quality” newspaper in the UK. However its paywall introduction wasn’t a total failure; they managed to accrue over 100,000 paying visitors and are still successfully operating from behind this subscription line. Three years into its pay wall era, CEO Mike Darcey says that although their reach was reduced, their number of “meaningful readers” has been maintained.

But should the Sun and the Times be punished for wanting to charge readers to their content?

With the new revenue produced from paywalls, news publishers can afford to spend more on their staff, resources and technology, thus producing even better content. In an age where print is dying and citizen journalism is under-mining the power and resources of accredited journalists, should we not be supporting our news publishers?

Do we, the ever demanding news-starved rabble, deserve free web-content that in years gone by we would have had to pay for in hard copy?

And where does this leave the world of corporation communications? Do we steer clear of feeding reports at paywalled publications simply because we see their numbers dwindling, or do we continue to provide them with stories, information and interviews that would help keep their (now costly) content engaging, useful and (above all) informative?

Perhaps the simplest solution would be for all news sites to operate from behind a pay wall. This would then remove the inorganic competitive edge and would ensure that all publications could be free to charge their users and thus re-invest back into producing good content and accurate reportage.

For now, however, perhaps the public should just take the bitter pill and pay for their news. The Sun shouldn’t be embarrassed by its resultant dwindling figures (it has since withdrawn itself from the ABC web traffic audit) and we should all accept that in this life you don’t get anything for free…

A busy week for all, attending some great events including Smith & Williamson’s wonderful Sunday Times Watercolour Exhibition 2013 with guest speaker Rt Hon Michael Portillo; Stephenson Harwood’s corporate finance team’s annual party, hosted by John Inverdale and Warren Gatland; and ‘A Late Night @ Bird & Bird’. We also hosted two market lunches, the Corporate and Financial Group Committee meeting and a day of clay shooting for our Northern region contacts.

As well as welcoming another new graduate, Abchaps also attended the Global Mining Finance Autumn Conference, a CIPR seminar on Social Media as Market Maker, and entertained some guests at the Chelsea vs Basel Champions League match…. Quite a week!

Law firms Brown Rudnick announced the appointment of new corporate partner Sophie McGrath, who joins from Morrison & Foerster, whilst Pinsent Masons appointed Peter Rosher, formerly of Clifford Chance, as partner in the Paris construction arbitration team. Accountancy firm Crowe Clark Whitehill appointed Andrew Manning from Deloitte as partner in their not for profit team.

'Tabloid': a newspaper with a compact page size smaller than a broadsheet. Commonly now it is popular to reflect a populist style of journalism and reporting.

Enjoy street food and live music tomorrow night at The Urban Food Fest on Shoreditch High, running every Saturday night for the next month.

If you can get to Camden Town for the iTunes festival this weekend, you’ll see Primal Scream, HAIM and Ellie Goulding.

Head down to Firth Street to see the latest in design from around the world at London Design Festival.

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Friday, 13 September 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: You’ve got Mail! IPOs are all the rage

With the heralding of technology and a multiplicity of competing networks, devices and systems in which to communicate letter-writing became all but defunct. Twitter, created in 2006, now boasting over 200 million active users, and has instigated revolutions, dwarfs the 497 year old postal service, both in size and usage. Considering how the growing popularity of Twitter and other digital platforms are directly impacting the decline of Royal Mail's popularity, it’s ironic that both are putting their shares up for sale on the public markets at the same time.

It was all the more ironic because Royal Mail’s privatisation is so long overdue. Just as Royal Mail was enjoying the limelight of announcing its plans, Twitter’s single '$10 billion tweet', set Royal Mail once again into the sidelines and stole its thunder. There have been so many missed opportunities for Royal Mail to go public, such as in 1987 when Margaret Thatcher ruled out the idea. The second opportunity came in 1993 when Michael Heseltine tried to revive the idea.

Had it have been privitised in the 1980s or 1990s it could have had the access to private capital that would have enabled it to expand dramatically and become a real global player in logistics and parcels as is enjoyed by Deutsche Post, privitised by the German government in 2000. This is a market position Royal Mail could once have enjoyed but now can only dream of. Even the figures speak for themselves. Royal Mail’s valuation of a £3billion market capitalisation pales in comparison to Twitter’s £6.3billion valuation. Despite Royal Mail’s big moment being stolen by Twitter the 497 year old organisation will still reap enough benefits from its float.

This week, Abchaps went to the 20/21 British Art Fair at the Royal College of Art in Kensington, sponsored by Faskin Martineau. The fair exhibited hundreds of art works, displaying the cream of the crop with what Great Britain has to offer the art world. Works included the likes of Banksy, Henry Moore and Bridget Riley. We also hosted two Market Lunches, one focusing on China and the other covering fracking and renewables.

Our lawyer friends over at Covington and Burling have welcomed Charlotte Hill as partner from Stephenson Harwood, to specialise in financial regulatory matters. Similarly, Reed Smith has appointed Jonathan Solomon of Denton’s as a partner in its energy and natural resources group. Pillsbury’s IP practice has gained two skilled lawyers, James Tumbridge and Paul Harris, who join from Gowling’s LLP, whilst broking house Panmure Gordon has hired Patric Johnson as head of securities from Investec.

'Spacefiller' – a heavily damaged stamp, often with multiple large faults.

Escape the rain and capture some colour and culture at the London Design Festival. Celebrating London as the deisgn capital of the world, visit one of the 300 exhibitions and events such as the world’s biggest lava lamp at the Southbank Centre or the Endless Stair at Tate Modern.

Great British Bake Off fans should head down to The Cake and Bake Show at Earls Court. Baking stars such as Baker Brother Tom Herbert and master patissier Eric Lanlard will be demonstrating their skills. Also, with offerings of a ‘cake catwalk’ and cake and bake marketplace, how can you refuse this sugary temptation?

Alternatively, head across to Ladbroke Grove for the launch of London’s first alcohol-free bar. With a big collection of tantalising mocktails, Redemption Bar opens to prove fun can be had without the booze!

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Friday, 6 September 2013

Weekly Wrap Up: Corporate Complaining Goes #Twiral

When BA flyer Hasan Syed decided to complain about his lost luggage he did not decide to do it in the conventional way but instead bought a sponsored tweet: “Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous”.

Although his tweet achieved 25,000 impressions, sending his complaint viral, it didn’t quite top the coverage achieved back in 2009 by musician Dave Carroll. When baggage handlers for United Airlines broke his guitar on a flight to Nebraska, Mr Carroll used a comical youtube video to complain.

Within one day the video had been viewed 150,000 times, and it has since accumulated over 13 million views. The story hit the headlines, and in May 2012 Mr Carroll published a book titled: United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media.

Both stories demonstrate the power of the #tweetcomplaint... Instead of Mr Syed’s and Mr Carroll’s greivances being hushed, hidden and dealt with discretely (as used to be the way) they were branded over the internet and the stories made famous.

These anecdotes act as a reminder to companies that they cannot just enjoy social media for the purpose of self-promotion, but must also monitor them for just such “rotten tweets” that could infect the rest of their corporate apple…

This new media power is a good a thing; it gives a voice to the people. Without wanting to sensationalize, it forces companies (and even countries) to be more accountable and democratic. At the macro scale, consider Malala Yousafzai and her 2009 blog promoting women’s rights under the Taliban ruling. Without social media and her connection to the BBC, the world might never have known about how limited female opportunities were in Pakistan. Similarly, without twitter BA might never have been forced to scrutinize its baggage handling policy to improve customer service…

So companies now have a new challenge to face: the challenge of social media. They must now manage their public profile, not simply control it as they used to. They must have their eyes open and their ears to the ground to ensure that whatever is being said about them is being noted, responded to and examined.

This challenge can be seen as nuisance to many companies, who have not the time nor the expertise to manage their twitter profiles as well as doing whatever it is they actually do. Social media is now an integral part of business, and if your business isn’t social, then you could be in trouble.

And even if you are able to monitor your own company’s profile, that isn’t enough. Just because your sales are up and revenue is looking good it doesn’t mean that you can’t also be hit by a negative comment going viral. Social media has meant that industry scandals are now contagious, and so if a competitor’s stocks are plummeting due to negative PR it is very likely that your stocks will quickly follow suit. The plunge of the Potash industry just this week is an example of how inter-connected and mutually vulnerable industry companies are…

So, take note of what is being said about you, your company and your industry. Consider how seemingly un-related news pieces could potentially spill over into your patch and destroy your reputation. Above all, make it easy for consumers to complain and manage your twitter account…

This week, Abchaps attended the Conservatives in Communications Young Professionals Committee meeting, whilst the market lunch programme continued its renaissance with focuses on social media and mining. The team also enjoyed the Edison Investment Summer Party at Skinner’s Hall.

Law firm Dentons has strengthened its technology, media and telecommunications division with the recruitment of Bavette Marzheuser-Wood from Field Fisher Waterhous, and Canaccord Genuity has been appointed as Financial Adviser and Broker for Tungsten’s acquisition of OB10 and resultant admission to trading on AIM.

'Twiral' - A tweet that goes viral either due to its scandalous nature or intriguing content.

Dust down the D-J for the Last Night of the Proms and Proms in the Park and celebrate as the BBC concludes its summer season. Get all classical with selection of mesmerising tunes from Elgar, Britten and Handel and Vaugn Williams; all led by the first female conductor Marin Alsop.

This Saturday London hosts a pub crawl with a twist: ‘Lit Crawl London’. The free literary festival is a raucous ramble through Convent Garden and Soho and gives attendees a chance to sample the local brew and also the words of up-and-coming writers, authors and poets.

Meat-lovers can rejoice as Meatopia returns to London’s Tobacco Dock tomorrow night. Feast on a cornucopia of barbecued and grilled meats from world-class chefs such as Hawksmoor’s Richard H Turner and BBQWhiskyBeers’s Sam Daffin and dance to diverse mix of live music from Groove Armada to Electro Blues.

This weekend you could be watching Back to the Future, Zoolander, or Grease on a rooftop in Shoreditch from the comfort of a hot tub, oh yes.

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