Times may be changing in the media business, but is The Times changing the business of media?
Will Lewis, the man who brought down scores of politicians by uncovering the expenses scandal with the Telegraph in 2009 and famously broke the Exxon merger with Mobil at the Financial Times in 1999 addressed the Cardiff Business Club. at St. David’s Hotel and Spa in Cardiff Bay last night.
The former Editor-in-Chief at Telegraph Media and current Group General Manager at News International, which owns The Times newspaper, outlined some of the fast-moving changes taking place in the newspaper industry, sharing some of his experiences with the Cardiff business community. He said:
The last five years has seen the digital ecosystem evolve. It offers a real opportunity.
News International, the publishing arm of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire, has been in the spotlight recently as being one of the few news organisations to introduce a paywall for its Times newspaper. According to News Corp the paper has sold 105,000 digital products since they were launched five months ago, although around half of these are monthly subscriptions.
But in his speech last night, Mr Lewis defended the paywall saying there were many changes facing his industry.
He said the rise of search facilities, broadband, iphones, ipads, quality websites and applications have changed the way we consume news encouraging a shift towards digital platforms, a trend accelerated by the rising cost of paper.
There is a change imperative for newspapers.
Mr Lewis said there needs to be more customer contact while branding will play an important role in determining where people choose to consume their news, even on an international basis. “Let’s not restrict content to our shores,” he said.
He hinted many newspapers were not adapting to change quick enough, saying the news industry needs to move away from a strategy of damage limitation.
More of the same is not a recipe for growth.
At a tough time for newspapers Mr Lewis challenged the news industry: “We need to back ourselves to bet on ourselves.”
The paywall issue has been raging over the past few months, with many of the major newspaper outlets holding different opinions about online business models. The Guardian, for example, secures its online revenue base from advertising.
But as the pawyall concept is relatively new it is still unclear whether The Times’ “charge ahead” will pay off or not.
The Cardiff Business Club is a business membership group, which invites with guests of international standing in business, law, politics and other areas to speak on a monthly basis.