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Real World of Newspaper Guardian MM30 Dec 09

Real World of Newspaper Guardian MM30 Dec 09

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Published by Julie Thrasher
Real World of Newspaper Guardian MM30 Dec 09
Real World of Newspaper Guardian MM30 Dec 09

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Published by: Julie Thrasher on Mar 01, 2012
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MediaMagazine
| December 2009 |english and media centre
MM
Whichever spec you’re studying for,the newspaper industry can give youinvaluable insights into the waysnew technologies and e-media arechanging how we consume news,and the economics of global mediaproduction. And in this comprehensiveanalysis of
The Guardian 
,
NeilPaddison
offers you the essentialcase study.
Watching the revolution
If you’re following OCR’s AS Media Studiescourse this year, then you will have the optionof writing about newspapers in Section B of the exam (Unit G322: Key Media Concepts). Thisarticle looks at the exam’s requirements andpresents a case study of the online version of 
TheGuardian
. As the newspaper industry is changingrapidly, this should provide a starting point foryour own research, so that you can develop anindividual case study to wow your examiner. There’s no need to reproduce the specificationhere, but it’s worth highlighting some keypoints. You only get 45 minutes to answer aquestion that is general enough to cover not just newspapers but five other media areas. Youranswer can’t be vague though – you are expectedto write about a
‘specific online version of anational/local newspaper’
and be prepared todiscuss production, distribution, marketing andexchange, and audience consumption (includingyour own experiences). The context for your casestudy is
‘the contemporary newspaper marketin the UK and the ways in which technologyis helping to make newspapers more efficientand competitive despite dwindling audiences.
 That phrase
‘dwindling audiences’
may makenewspapers sound like yesterday’s Media Studies,but what is happening in the industry reflectsa
global revolution in the way informationis gathered, processed, then sold by mediainstitutions
to audiences all over the world.When Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising agency WPP says:
I don’t think newspapers will die becausethey are the best way, or one of the best waysalong with TV, of reaching large sections of the population
1
it’s clear that newspapers are not going todisappear overnight. However, WPP’s ‘pre-taxprofits plunged 47% to £179m in the first sixmonths of 2009’, so advertisers are facing toughtimes as well
2
. Whether our newspapers canadapt to the changing media landscape remainsto be seen; but there’s certainly never been abetter time to watch the newspaper industry…
a case study of the online version of The Guardian
The real world of thenewspaper industry:
 
Watching the revo
 
english and media centre| December 2009 |
MediaMagazine
 7 MM
Ownership and profits
We might expect newspapers to disappearfollowing the growth of the internet. As somuch information can be found for free, itbegs the question: Why would anyone pay fora newspaper nowadays?
The Guardian’s
mostcelebrated editor, C. P. Scott, provided onepossible answer
3
:
Comment is free, but facts are sacred…The voice of opponents no less than that of friends has a right to be heard.
He was writing in 1921, celebrating thecentenary of 
The Guardian
and affirming itsvalues as an independent newspaper.Let’s take a closer look at
The Guardian
. In2009, it is celebrating 50 years since it changedits name from
The Manchester Guardian
tobecome
The Guardian
, and 10 years since
TheGuardian Unlimited
network of websites waslaunched
4
. It is the only UK national newspaperwholly owned by a
trust
, which meansthat there are
no shareholders to satisfy,and profits are reinvested to secure thenewspaper’s future
.Does
The Guardian
make a profit then? Inshort, no, but it’s more complicated than that. The Scott Trust owns a multimedia business,
Guardian Media Group PLC (GMG PLC)
, whose‘portfolio includes national, regional and localnewspapers, radio stations, magazines, a raftof websites and B2B media
5
.
Guardian Newsand Media
(which publishes the
Observer 
and
Guardian
, and produces
The GuardianUnlimited
website) is just one part of GuardianMedia Group PLC, and it reported
a loss of £36.8m for 2008/09
. GMG PLC as a wholereported a loss before taxation of £89.8m. Butthe bigger picture is important – last year thegroup enjoyed a
profit of over £300m
, andeach year the figures are complicated by dealsinvolving joint ventures, restructuring, andlinks with subsidiary companies. If reading acompany’s annual report sounds off-putting, atleast download and skim through GMG’s 2009report – it’s surprisingly colourful, readable, andwill give plenty of ideas for further research.
6
The Guardian
might not have survived in itscurrent form were it not for the fact that TheScott Trust draws profits from other titles such as
 Auto Trader 
, which it partly owns through the
Trader Media Group
. To be fair, the Trust was setup to ensure the survival of the newspaper bycarefully investing its profits and that is exactlywhat it has done. So the
editorial freedomcontinues
even though the ‘profitability’ of thenewspaper might be questioned. As the chair of GMG, Amelia Fawcett, puts it:
While not immune to difficult marketconditions, Guardian Media Group is able toplace long-term security before short-termprofit.
7
Whilst the printed
Guardian
might not be‘profitable’ by itself,
Guardian Unlimited
madea profit of £1m in 2006, its first year ‘in the black’since it was launched in 1999 and after £20m of investment.
8
 It is important to recognise that
TheGuardian’s
status as a
globally respectedsource
of news is partly due to its
history of independent ownership
. But history aside,how important is the printed newspaper today,in relation to its online version? A closer look at production might help us to answer thatquestion.
The production process
The Guardian’s
headquarters is in the brandnew
Kings Place
building in Kings Cross, London.Kings Place is also home to two orchestrasincluding the London Sinfonietta, as well ashousing a concert hall and two art galleries.But music aficionados will not be disturbed bythe thunder of nearby printing presses, as
TheGuardian Print Centre
is seven miles away, inStratford. For a short but fascinating look insidethe print centre, check out YouTube. Incidentally,
 
8
 
MediaMagazine
| December 2009 |english and media centre
MM
recent redundancies at theprint centre made headlines asindustrial action was narrowly averted, showingus that the downturn in the newspaper industryis having a serious effect upon
The Guardian
.Kings Place has been home to
The Guardian
 since December 2008, and such a recentmove means that
The Guardian
now has anoffice space ideally suited to the new mediaenvironment.
Editor Alan Rusbridger
, writingat the time of the move, gave an insight into thechanges it had brought:
Print and digital operations are largelyintegrated, where previously they werephysically separate.
He also pointed out that as well as regulardesks with computers ‘there are seven state-of-the-art recording studios and 24 editing desks.’
The Guardian
is an online provider of news fora global audience and their new headquartersreflect
a new convergence of technology asstories are written simultaneously for printand the website
. Podcasts and video reportsare also produced for broadcast, and live feedcoverage of key events is now common. Theway the agenda is set is changing too: morningnews conferences can be attended via
video-conferencing
for
Guardian
employees notphysically present at Kings Place.
Innovation and integration
In terms of innovation,
The Guardian
hasbeen groundbreaking in many respects. It wasthe first UK national newspaper to use
bloggingsoftware
, the first to produce
podcasts
,and, perhaps more radically, the first Britishnewspaper to produce
web-first stories
(i.e.on the web before being seen in print). It hasa reputation for enthusiastically adopting newtechnologies, which was played upon in its 2009April Fool article:
Consolidating its position at the cuttingedge of new media technology, the
Guardian
today announces that it willbecome the first newspaper in the worldto be published exclusively via Twitter, thesensationally popular social networkingservice that has transformed onlinecommunication.
As production of 
The Guardian
websiteand print versions is seamlessly
integrated
, itbecomes difficult to establish where productionof one ends and the other begins. And giventhe wealth of extra content on the website, itis now hard not to see
the website as beingof primary importance
and the print versionas
a brand-strengthening advert
for onlineservices.
The impact of the recession
Finding up-to-date figures for the totalnumber of journalists and editors employedby
The Guardian
is difficult, though a recentreport suggested that this year the editorialstaff at Guardian News and Media is shrinkingfrom around 850 to 800 through redundancies.One fear consistently voiced by commentatorson the newspaper industry is that
the qualityof journalism will suffer
as production costsare cut and reader-generated content becomesmore popular.
The rise of citizen journalism
 has been well documented elsewhere (seepage 56), but we can’t ignore their impact on
The Guardian
and the ambivalent relationshipwhich must now exist between professional journalists and accidental eyewitness reporters.A key story one might explore in this respectis
The Guardian’s
campaigning investigativecoverage of 2009’s G20 protests in London andthe death of Ian Tomlinson. The quality of news produced by
Guardian
  journalists has been examined in Nick Davies’
Flat Earth News
. He employed specialistresearchers from Cardiff University to analysestories printed in
The Guardian
and three othernational dailies during two one-week periods. The result? A staggering
60% of these quality-print stories consistedwholly or mainly of wire copy and/or PRmaterial.
In other words, press releases or uncheckedstories from agency journalists were formingthe bulk of the domestic ‘news’ in print. Of thefour papers analysed,
The Guardian
had thelowest percentage, but it was still more than50%.
9
Davies refers to this ‘copy and paste’reporting style as
churnalism
. Is there anywonder that many readers would trust Joe orJoanna Public’s account of an event, over a‘report’ filed by an overworked and underpaid‘churnalist’? By the way, there are no hardfeelings at
The Guardian
over Davies’ analysis
The Guardian
news desk helped with theresearch, and Davies continues to be employedas a journalist by
The Guardian
.

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