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Asociación Técnica de Diarios Latinoamericanos
Boletín Semanal Febrero 14, 2019

Incremento de las actividades sindicales está afectando la lucha de los editores con el negocio digital

There’s less money than ever to go around at digital publishers — and more unions popping up to fight to make sure employees get a fair share.

This past week alone, employees at Ziff Davis and New York Magazine both voted to unionize; Slate staffers voted almost unanimously to authorize a strike over management’s refusal to remove a right-to-work clause from a contract currently being negotiated; and in meeting rooms across town, representatives for Gizmodo Media Group, Vice and the Dodo are all busy negotiating either their first or second union contracts with management.

“It’s been an enormous period of growth,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East. “At some point, and we’re getting pretty close, we’ll have sufficient density in the market where, simply to compete for employees, non-union companies will have to improve.”

But those gains are set against a grim background. Thanks to a brutally competitive advertising market, many union employees have gone years without raises, according to CWA president Bernie Lunzer, and unions have little power to protect a newsroom from layoffs.

And while managers at many publishers claim to be supportive of these moves, many complain privately that unions make it harder for them to reward top-performing employees; create distractions among staffers that slow productivity and make it harder for publishers to respond to changes in the business, and cultivate antagonism that corrodes the company culture.

“If you look at the theory of unionization, there’s sort of a surplus to be negotiated over,” said one source who served in management in an organized newsroom. “The reality is, in many newsrooms, there is not that surplus. It just doesn’t exist.”

The overall share of reporters who are unionized remains small, but it is growing. While data on reporters is hard to find, the percentage of unionized workers in arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations grew slightly, from 6.0 to 6.8 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “From a labor point of view, this is kind of a success story,” said Joshua Freeman, a distinguished professor of history at the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. “The number of workers involved is small, but it’s influential. It’s hard to think of many other industries where you’ve seen that.”

And the momentum that’s popped up in headlines has been building for years, starting with a crop of digital-native publishers including Gawker, Vice and ThinkProgress. “It’s sort of reaching a breaking point now, but those are negotiations that have been going on literally for years,” said Hamilton Nolan, a senior writer at Splinter News who was part of the effort to organize Gawker. “The more places that unionize, the more people look around and see that it’s a good idea.”

Quibi will be on iPhones and Google Pixels. But it might also show up on Apple TV, Roku, Xbox and other streaming TV platforms.

Management is usually not happy with what’s going on. An organized workforce is a more expensive workforce, and while most union contracts wind up negotiating raises for workers, some managers see that structure being unfair. “It helped raise the floor, but it flattens the compensation structure,” said an executive inside a publisher. “For the star performers, there’s less money to reward them for doing well.”

It is also, in the eyes of some, a milestone that makes a publisher less attractive in the market and less capable of participating in mergers and acquisitions. “A unionized workforce almost always makes a company less attractive as an acquisition candidate,” said Reed Phillips, a managing partner at the investment banking firm Oaklins Desilva + Phillips.

Those business decisions have played a role in this swell of organizing, too. While better pay and benefits play a major role in most publishers’ organizing fights, sources in several organized newsrooms point to a lack of transparency around changes their bosses made as reasons they unionized, even if management sources contend that giving the newsroom a full view of their problems just amounts to a distraction.

“Whenever workers’ fates do not feel linked to the company’s, like pivoting to video, an organization is going to spring up,” one current Thrillist employee said. “In general the tension shops face, and even more acutely in the lifestyle space like us, between being seen as journalists and just general all-purpose content/traffic creators is a real one that’s not going away overnight.”

Those conversations are typically not ones where unions have gotten involved. But as they continue to make inroads in media, they may wind up taking on a more prominent role, as publishers continue to search for ways to diversify their business models.

“There were days when groups like Poynter and SPJ [Society of Professional Journalists] would turn up their nose at the Guild,” Bernie Lunzer said. “Those days are pretty much gone. We think we can work on these problems together.”

Los editores digitales pronostican que no habrá crecimiento de la inversión publicitaria en 2019

Digital publishing revenues increased by 5.3%, with combined totals rising to £452.8 million over the last year, according to the latest Digital Publishers Revenue Index (DPRI), a quarterly report on UK publishing from the Association for Online Publishing (AOP) and Deloitte.

Richard Reeves: "The continued increase in digital publishing revenues is extremely encouraging."

According to the latest DPRI report, display formats and subscriptions continued to drive digital publishing growth, up 9.1% and 7.2% respectively on a 12-month rolling basis from October 2017 to September 2018. Online video revenues grew by 21.4% in Q3 2018 compared to the same period last year, with the format experiencing 7% growth across the full 12-month period.

In the 12 months to September 2018, B2C digital publishers saw growth of 6.9%. In contrast, B2B publisher revenues declined by 1.6% over the same period. However, B2B publishers experienced an uplift in display formats and subscriptions, which increased by 2% and 4% respectively.

Desktop only revenues were down 33% in Q3 2018 compared to Q3 2017, due to the growing number of multi-platform campaigns, from which revenues increased by 42% from £47.1m to £66.8 million. This was largely driven by a 176% increase in digital display revenue, which rose from £10.3 million to £28.5 million.

In terms of future revenue growth, 83% of AOP Board Members reported they will make non-advertising revenues a high priority for their business over the next 12-months, with the same number wanting to diversify their revenue streams by expansion, or the introduction of new products and services.

Despite positive revenue growth, the DPRI report highlighted a decrease in confidence from both company and industry perspectives, down 27% and 44% respectively in Q3 2018 compared with the previous quarter. The cross-industry Deloitte CFO survey similarly identified falling levels of confidence over the quarter.

Richard Reeves, Managing Director, AOP, commented: “The continued increase in digital publishing revenues is extremely encouraging, as display advertising and subscription revenue lead the way to drive growth for the industry. And with many publishers actively focussed on growing non-advertising revenue streams, the industry has many interesting areas of innovation.

“However, in the last quarter we have seen a slight slowdown in revenue growth. The implementation of GDPR earlier this year and anxieties around Brexit have no doubt generated feelings of uncertainty, resulting in a drop in confidence throughout the industry. This is something that will need to be carefully monitored in 2019, as the digital publishing industry looks to increase revenues further and build a sustainable future for all.”

Dan Ison, lead partner for media and entertainment at Deloitte, commented: “Display and subscriptions continue to provide an uplift to digital publishing revenues, and there is certainly a lot for the industry to feel positive about.

“Our research shows that 88% of adults in the UK own or have access to a smartphone, and there are now more ways than ever to consume content on the go. Social media, instant messaging and apps provide people with a platform to consume content easily and elegantly on their smartphone, and more than a third of smartphone owners read the news on their smartphone daily.

“Plans for new products and services will only continue to fuel this consumption and, coupled with a focus on non-advertising revenues, we hope to see online publishers’ confidence recover.”

Modelos digitales de ganancias se expanden a través de Europa y Norte América

As income from advertising has dwindled, more publishers are increasing their efforts to boost revenues from readers. The past year saw several high-profile publications putting content behind paywalls: Wired, The New Statesman, Vanity Fair, New York magazine and Bloomberg all announced paid-content initiatives, and BuzzFeed started a quasi-membership programme for readers at $5/month.

Steffen Damborg, a digital transformation specialist, talks about the status and outlook of how paid content is moving forward, primarily in Europe and North America.

Elsewher The Financial Times has approximately 750,000 paid digital subscribers, while The New York Times already boasts more than 3 million, and The Guardian, is determined to break even this year based on an ongoing campaign for reader revenue that has thus far seen more than 1 million people supporting their journalism through contributions, memberships or subscriptions.

Speaking at the Digital Media India 2018 Conference, Damborg shed light on revenue streams for publishers and how reader revenue has seen a slight growth, while ad spend has plummeted.

Reader revenue in the USA and Europe has grown while ad spend has declined.

“The total growth rate of the publishing industry in the past five years, is at a -2 percent, whereas Facebook and Google are earning market shares. They take 89 percent of new ad spend in the digital space,” Damborg said.

This pattern differs from Asia, which still sees growing circulation.

Paywalls becoming the norm

By 2012, there were more publishers with a digital paywall than ones without one in the USA. Publishers in the European market too are increasingly putting content behind a paywall.

Implementation of a paywall is more dominant in small publishing houses than the big ones. “One does not have to be a big publisher to implement a digital paywall,” Damborg said.

In the USA the metered model dominates, while the majority of European publishers are using the freemium model. The trending paywall model, however, is a hybrid combining metered and freemium.

“Publishers need to rethink their business models. The most intrusive ads are ones that bring in the most money,” Damborg said.

In the aftermath of Facebook’s "show less content from publishers and brands" policy, publishers started noticing a decline in traffic from the social media giant, whereas clicks through Google increased. To combat the lack of traffic, media houses then increasingly began using push notifications.

“We have seen a huge traffic drop from Facebook. Most people have experienced a 30 percent reach drop ever since the social media giant implemented its ‘less content from publishers and brands’ policy, which is not bad because it forces publishers to work with their own brand and platform,” he said.

Facebook is looking to build a local section, which will give publishers an opportunity to be close with resident readers and get new possibilities on Facebook.

Facebook began testing its local news aggregator, ‘Today In’, in 400 small to medium sized cities in the USA in January 2018. With the help of Today In, iOS and Android users opt in to getting their local digests in their feed.

The section officially launched in the USA in November 2018 and also began testing in Australia.

“During Hurricane Florence, 17 first responder pages posted 73 local alerts, providing critical updates to people living in the path of the storm. The City of Charlotte Government is one of our first partners to test local alerts,” Anthea Watson Strong, the Product Manager for Local News and Community Information, said in a press release.