Feb 26, 2009

Le Post : a successful and innovative news site that mixes pro and am content

If you're not French, or francophone, there is little chance that you have heard about the French news site : Le Post. The site has been launched a little bit more than 18 months ago, by le Monde interactif, publisher of lemonde.fr, the website of one of the most famous newspapers in France, le Monde, and the largest general news site in France.

According to Nielsen, Le Post had, already, an audience of 2 million in November 2008, more than 7 million visits according to the OJD (the equivalent in France of the audit bureau) for January 2009. Pretty impressive for a new site.

Le Post is a news website, covering national news. For many, it leans more towards the "tabloïd side". It is true that its content, its tone, its look and feel are very different than le Monde. But, its main difference comes from the way the content is produced. It is a mix of pro and am.

Benoît Raphaël, the editor in chief of Le Post, gives us some details about a site that I think is one of the most innovative news sites produced by a media company in 2008. It should break-even in 2010. Not bad at all.

The uniqueness of Le Post is that the content is produced by pro and am. How many professional journalists in the team?
BR: We have one editor that manages the newsroom of nine journalists :
- 4 specialized (crime and accidents, politics, media, internet),
- 2 at the desk (in charge of the HP, aggregating content, organizing the news in different formats in order to make things easy for the readers and animating the conversation),
- 1 video journalist in charge of non-stop "zapping", a video "collage" from different sources,
- 1 coach journalist in charge of the community. Among his work is to check the information sent by the citizen-journalists, look for witnesses, etc.

How many amateurs contribute to the site?
Our community has 25,000 members. 1% produces content and a 1,000 are very active. Among the active, you have what we call "guests". They are bloggers and columnists that are paid on a revenue sharing basis. Amateurs send 400 to 500 contributions and write 6,000 comments a day.

What is the rest of the team?
- One editor in chief (me),
- one product manager,
- one marketing director,
- one ad sales representative,
- two developers
- and we are sharing some other team members with lemonde.fr

On average, what is the percentage of content produced by pro versus am?
It is 10% pro, 90% am. In other words, we publish 400 am articles a day versus 40 from pro. But, it does not mean anything because in fact the newsroom really takes advantage of the community, reacts to what they are sending, checks and updates information. The majority of the articles that appear on the HP are a mix of pro and am. In fact, our goal is to co-produce the content, not to have on one side the pro and on the other side the am.

Do you double check am content?
We do double check the am content that we publish. Absolutely.

How do you proceed?
We have put together different processes. All the content is filtered, a posteriori, by a team of moderators. We want to make sure that there is no illegal content, that am follow our guidelines and that they are not propagating rumors. Then, the newsroom also looks at it. The coach goes first, then the specialized journalists. Each journalist manages a small community of am that he trusts. So each interesting content that we receive is checked according to our techniques of "fast fact checking" that we have developed.

What do you mean by "each journalist manages a small community of am"?
Active amateurs help us to collect and add value to information by proposing smart angles, aggregating, finding witnesses, etc. They are also "the eyes of the newsroom". They are following the news for us, on print, tv, radio, news sites, but also blogs. They are sending us valuable links with quotes.
And sometimes, they are helping us on fact checking. It is because of an amateur that we have been able to figure out that a video about Gaza was a fraud. France 2 (the French public television chanel) published the video without fact checking it.

What is the job of a journalist at Le Post?
He is, at the same time, a news producer, an aggregator and a community organizer. Because of the way he approaches information, he is first a network journalist. He checks first what has been said and published in other media. He aggregates the best content from different sources, including blogs, Twitter, You Tube, etc. and traditional medias. Then, on some of them, he brings complementary information, new elements, adds value and fact checks. Even the news published by other journalists.
The newsroom of Le Post looks like the one of a radio station. The information is a permanent conversation that is built step by step by the community of am and the journalists.
Each journalist is also in charge of a small group of active amateurs. He is their coach and teachs them the basics of the journalist job, tries to encourage them and even meets them in person. He understands that information is a conversation. He does not produce an article but more a process.

How much does a journalist make?
They are new and young journalists, so they are making the minimum salary for the job.

How about amateurs?
Only guests make some money. As I said, we have a revenue sharing system (50/50) and we guarantee a minimum of around US$500 (350 euros)/month.

Are you making money?
Not yet, but we should break-even next year.

(Disclosure: Benoit is a friend. I have worked with him right before he became the editor in chief of Le Post. We launched together (and with other talented persons) the very successful site for the French presidential election: quelcandidat.com. It was for the local newspaper Le Dauphiné Libéré. Mignon-Media also worked for the new formula of Le Monde, a few years ago, rethinking and reorganizing the informational graphics department)

Feb 7, 2009

Newspaper: Charging or not for online content? Numbers for 9 scenarios.

>> Direct access to our online spreadsheet.

UPDATE 2 (2/9/09):
We added a new tab to the online spreadsheet with other numbers.

UPDATE 1 (2/8/09):
Based on your feedback (thanks to all), we have updated the numbers and uploaded a new excel file.

The paid model scenario is back into the conversation. Is it a good idea for newspapers to go back to OR begin an online full or partial paid model? We have been thinking about different scenarios, and calculating the revenue outcome. We based our numbers on figures from different newspapers in North America.

Base assumptions:
  • 100,000 print subscribers
  • $14.75 / month for the print version (7-day)
  • Website with 500,000 UV and 10M PV
  • $10 CPM (3 impressions per page)
  • $.20 CPC with .5% CTR
Based on these figures, their actual online revenue is approximately $1.8 M.

Then we ran the numbers for the following scenarios:
  1. No more print version. All print subscribers are subscribing to the website that is 100% behind a paid wall. NOTE: It is very unlikely that 100% of existing print subscribers would sign up for the web version.We are just demonstrating what could be the potential maximum revenue if all 100% did.
    Revenue = $6.1 M

  2. Great direct marketing campaign resulting in 2% of current UV subscribing to the website. 100% behind a paid wall. They pay the same price as the print version. For all of the following scenarios, the print version still exists.
    Revenue = $1.8 M

  3. Same assumptions as scenario 2, except the subscription price is halved to $7.50 / month.
    Revenue = $943 K

  4. Same assumptions as scenario 2 and 3, except the subscription price is again halved to $4.75 / month.
    Revenue = $613 K

  5. Direct marketing campaign resulting in 1% of current UV subscribing to the website. 100% behind a paid wall. They pay the same price as the print version.
    Revenue = $907 K

  6. Same assumptions as scenario 5, except the subscription price is halved to $7.50 / month.
    Revenue = $472 K

  7. Same assumptions as scenario 5 and 6, except the subscription price is again halved to $4.75 / month.
    Revenue = $307 K

  8. Mix of free and paid models. 60% of the site's content is free. There still are 500K UV. 1% of these UV subscribe to the paid part of the website for $4.75 / month.
    Revenue = $1.6 M

  9. Mix of free and paid models. 80% of the site's content is free. There still are 500K UV. 1% of these UV subscribe to the paid part of the website for $4.75 / month.
    Revenue = $2.0 M
You can see these figures on my spreadsheet. You can also download the excel file to play around with the numbers.

We didn't take into account the cost side. However, none of these scenarios would cover the actual costs of newspaper operations. It would be interesting to have the acquisition cost / subscriber and advertiser. It will be another one of the critical factors on the end-decision of whether or not to go paid.

If you think something is missing or doesn't make sense, please share a comment. Update the file and send it back to me at nwang(at)mignon-media(dot)com.

Feb 3, 2009

Is the paid model back for online? NYT is thinking about it again.

Advertising (print and online) is down for the New York Times. 48% decline in fourth-quarter profit. After stopping its online-subscription service ($10 million/year in revenue), in 2007, the NYT is again considering to charge for its site or part of it (full Bloomberg story or AP).

PS: I know Emmanuel... I know.

Feb 2, 2009

Local newsroom organization (3): what is the basic news that local media needs to cover?

To summarize the first two posts about the organization of a local media, we have seen that:
  1. It is possible to do quality local coverage mixing pro and am (local correspondents + experts) content.
  2. Main form: digital. Print is also a possibility in some markets but probably not daily.
  3. Central piece of the online presence (not the only one): an aggregation of blogs (journalists + local correspondents + members of the community).
  4. Every journalist is in charge of a community mainly using existing tools like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Wiki, Google agenda... (see also Beatblogging experiment).

Also, all of these ideas are still in progress, I'd like to talk now about what to cover and with whom. Once again, it is not a definitive and unique organization. Just the first step of our thinking:
  1. Local news. Hard to put numbers here for the team because it depends on the size, the population density and the economic activity of the geographic zone covered. But, it is where we are going to use the network of local correspondents. It is necessary to divide the local content in different categories:

    1a- Accidents and crimes - Need some good reporters here. Possibility also to put together mash ups with the police departments and the firefighters (like Everyblock Chicago for example). Local correspondents can also contribute a lot to this "section".

    1b- Local government/politics - Maybe the most important piece of the local coverage to make sure we follow not only the public money, but also the actions of people paid and/or working for the different communities covered (watchdog journalism). It is where we will put the main effort in terms of coverage and the best journalists. Journalists that can be helped by local correspondents, local experts and citizens.

    1c- Practical information - Schedules for business, government offices, transportation, entertainment, sports events; agendas for associations, non profits, schools, etc.; firefighters, police, physician contact information, etc. In other words, all the practical information you need in your community. No need for journalists here. Local correspondents, citizens, businesses, etc. can fill up the local electronic agenda.

    1d- Local business - The size of the team necessary to cover the subject is clearly going to be very different according to where your local media company is located. Pro journalists can be helped by local experts. What is sure, local businesses deserve better and more "practical" coverage.

    1e- Local education - Like local businesses, local education deserves better coverage. It does not have to be huge. One journalist, with local correspondents and local experts should be enough to cover the issue in most of the cases (like what Gannett is doing with MomsLikeMe.com)

    1f- Special coverage - Local public health issues, local environmental issues, etc. It is always necessary to have a professional team (one or two?) to investigate and to follow important and complex issues for the community, in the long run. Here too, they can be helped by local correspondents, local experts (but not only local) and citizens.

    1g- Local sports - We focus only on local sports coverage. Of course, it can include national level teams. Hard to give a staff size here too because it depends on the number of A teams. But, what is sure is that a lot of content, outside big teams, can be covered by local correspondents and citizens (like: scores, agendas, photos and videos).

    1h- Local entertainment/cultural events - No national coverage on entertainment. There is plenty of content all over the web for that. We focus on local entertainment. Content can be a mix of pro and am (local correspondents + experts), here too. In most of the case, no needs for a large pro staff. One journalist should be enough.

  2. International news. Most of the content, to not say all of it, is commodity news. Why should a local organization invest in international reporting? I see one main reason: because the news affects directly or indirectly the local community and it needs a local "angle" approach, contextual information and/or detailed explanation. For the rest, deals with national and international media, blogs and aggregated links should be more than enough. So how many journalists : one... maybe two. Each journalist manages a community of experts on some key issues (the experts don't have to be local but it is nice if they are). Possible to tap into local bloggers too.

  3. National news. Same idea as international news. Deals with national, international media and blogs (yes! INTERNATIONAL too. It is good/smart to read what others are saying about you). Same team : one or two journalists (maybe three) + community of experts + local correspondents.
This above coverage is the basic level. Other types of coverage can be necessary based on the local specificity. More than one news brand can also be necessary to reach different types of audiences. You don't offer the same content to everybody. Even if part of your coverage can work for different audiences / brands, your hierarchy will be different. Mass market is over. Then, news will not be the only service offered to the communities covered by a local media company (see also Steve Yelvington -- The three primary roles your local website should play). We will talk about it in another post.

We are also not saying that it is an ideal situation. We are just trying to stay realistic in terms of newsroom staff / cost regarding potential revenue for local media.

Next posts:
- Sample of product and services that local media can offer besides news
- Revenue models for local media
and more... please comment, suggest, propose...