The UK newspaper sector must shift from being the only industry to separate its online success from its offline performance, CEO of News UK Mike Darcey has said, adding that the current method of performance measurement presents a misleading view of the state of newspapers.
Speaking at the Enders Analysis Media and Telecoms 2014 Conference in London, Darcey said that newspapers should project the image of one brand product, encompassing both print and online, instead of the current perception of separation. The comments come just days after the Audit Bureau of Circulations confirmed that it will combine print and digital circulation figures to give an overall result in its next magazines report.
“The relentless focus on print sales alone is misleading, myopic and, I think, causes some to make strategic mis-steps,” said Darcey.
“The digital revolution has certainly provided some major challenges for the news industry. But, rather than marking our demise, it is now heralding a new age for news, where we can deliver to our customers greater choice, functionality and convenience than ever before.”
Darcey revealed that the average tablet dwell times were 40 minutes for The Times and 55 minutes for The Sunday Times compared to print dwell time of 44 minutes for The Times and 92 minutes for The Sunday Times.
“The technology that was once viewed as causing the demise of newspapers is now providing that foundation for new growth and greater engagement than ever,” Darcey said. “So, let’s hear no more about the death of newspapers, let’s celebrate the future of news brands. Our industry is entering a new age, but it’s exciting, and not one we should be scared of.”
He went on to discuss revenue models for the newspaper industry and argued that advertisers took the value of an overall print and digital product into account. According to Darcey, print advertising revenue has declined at a slower rate than circulation signalling a continuing confidence from advertisers that there is value in sticking with print ads.
“Ultimately I believe the industry faces a choice between two different models for the future of professional journalism,” he said. “On the one hand, a free-to-digital model, which ultimately becomes a free, digital-only model. This is probably sustainable, but the amount of revenue available is modest, and so I believe the scale of the operation will also be modest.
“The alternative is a model based on deep engagement with customer,” he continued. “Providing them with a quality, distinctive content bundle, centred on news, delivered in a range of flexible formats, and is rooted in a paid-for proposition.”
The Times and Sunday Times have over 153,000 paying digital subscribers alongside 207,000 print subscribers. The Sun, which erected its paywall last summer, passed 100,000 subscribers in four months. In July last year, Darcey spoke about News UK’s commitment to building upon the paywall model.