Digital journalists: We need to build a digital ‘lifeboat’ for the burning platform

As Twitter users, we all find ourselves occasionally saying: This is a > 140 character discussion and, over Friday night, I found myself in one with Dan Pacheco, a fellow digital journalist in the US whom I know by reputation but have never met. I know of Dan through some of the great work that he did at Bakersfield California developing a very excellent social media platform, Bakomatic, and the online-to-print service, Printcasting now Bookbrewer.

We got into a discussion on Twitter about the recently announced cuts at the Times-Picayune  newspaper in New Orleans. Its parent company, Newhouse Newspapers, is cutting the print run from daily to three times a week and reportedly slashing up to one third of staff. Newhouse is reportedly rolling out a model that it tested in Ann Arbor, Michigan, (in part using a regional news site that I worked on for a year from 1997-98,

Dan asked on Twitter:

To which I responded:

First off, I want to clearly lay out where I’m coming from because I got the impression that Dan assumed I was coming from a print-focused position. I wasn’t. My working assumptions:

  • The present of content is digital, but most newspapers in the West squandered early opportunities to make a painless transition to digital.
  • Many, if not a majority, of newspapers won’t make it. Digital distribution erodes the advantage of geography, and digital economics simply won’t support the volume of newspapers we have now.
  • That said, we still know very little about what a purely digital local news business looks like. We only have a few examples and many are very small and focus on specific niche coverage.
  • There is a lot of work to be done to develop digital products and related revenue streams to support a local digital news offering at scale. It’s a worthy challenge, but we digital journalists, editors and sales teams have a lot of work to do.

I wasn’t trying to say that newspapers should cling to print, rather that while print is a burning platform, there isn’t yet a digital lifeboat to take news organisations to safety. While digital advertising has boomed over the past decade, taking only a brief pause during the financial crisis to decline slightly, US newspapers have only  managed to grow their digital ad revenues slightly. Digital ad sales grew from $7.3bn to a staggering $31.7bn in the US between 2003 to 2011. But newspapers there have only grown their digital ad revenues from $1.2bn to $3.2bn, according to Alan Mutter. Newspapers actually capture a lower percentage of digital ads now than they did in 2003. Many US newspapers in the unenviable position of having a radically deteriorating print business and a still nascent digital business.

As I said on Twitter, I had just read news business analyst Ken Doctor’s assessment of the News Orleans strategy. He described it as “shock therapy” and a “forced march to digital”. As Ken points out, the hope is that the paper in New Orleans can retain the vast majority of their print revenue while also cutting some of their print related costs, although he is sceptical. They might retain 80 to 90% of their print advertisers but not 80 to 90% of their print advertising revenue by going to three days a week.

The newspaper will also most likely be consolidating some administrative costs so hopefully the operation will be more efficient in other ways as well. Printing three days instead of one makes some amount of business sense, but if you cut the print run to one day, would the loss of revenue wipe out some, or all, of the advantage of the print cost savings? Are any US newspapers actually in the position digitally to shift to one-day-a-week print without cutting staff not by a third but something even more drastic, maybe 70 to 80%?

Just like Ken, I wasn’t making a pro-print argument, I was making the observation that the paper and its parent company’s digital business isn’t well positioned for this transition. Ideally, they would have laid this groundwork years ago, but they, along with most newspapers, haven’t. Ken writes:

I’d call it a forced march because it doesn’t look like the Times-Picayune, or its new successor, the NOLA Media Group, is yet ready for the digital transformation. It has been making a digital transition, and there’s a big difference between the two. It doesn’t have a digital circulation strategy yet in place; though about a fifth of U.S. dailies do. Digital circulation is key to making this work, so that core print readers become more likely to transition with the enterprise — and keep paying their monthly subscription bills.

Like many newspaper groups, there are few good, easy answers for Newhouse Newspapers. Dan believes that the time for half moves is over, and I can understand that line of thinking. He said:

Yes, the culture of newspapers needs to be shaken up. It needed to be shaken up a decade ago but the industry thought it dodged a bullet with the crash, which it viewed as a fad that it was lucky not to have invested too much money in, and sat on its laurels. I agree that newspapers need to stop talking and move purposefully in the direction of digital, but I also agree with Ken Doctor that Advance’s approach looks like shock therapy than a strategic embrace of the future.

My big fear is that by cutting print runs from seven days a week to one would necessitate traumatic cuts to editorial staffing, leaving such a small editorial staff that it would have difficulty attracting sufficient digital revenue to sustain it, even in its leaner, digitally focused form. Everyone points to the pure digital Seattle Post-Intelligencer which went from a newsroom of 150 to 20. When you make cuts that deep, you lose good people and you lose capacity. Twenty people just can’t do the work of 150, no matter the efficiencies possible with digital tools.

Digital may be the future, but the vast majority of revenue still comes from print, and we need to see more innovation in both print and digital products that will reinvigorate income streams. It can’t be all about the shiny; it also has to be about financial sustainability. For example, mobile is a huge opportunity to reach audiences, but if Facebook’s revenue is threatened by the shift to mobile because it haemorrhages ad dollars, how will news organisations make  money from it?

All journalists, whether print or digital, should understand the news business and be constantly thinking of ways that they can add value, not just for their audiences but for the business. We need more innovation, more experimentation, and smarter thinking about how we fund news. This isn’t about the culture wars anymore, it’s about making the difficult transition to a digitally-focused, multi-platform future.

Here is the entire conversation that Dan and I had on Twitter for context:

Social media: One-to-some communication that needs amplifiers

Ethan Zuckerman had a great insight yesterday at the Knight Foundation event looking at the information needs of communities.

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Ethan pointed to the coverage of Tunisia and how the video of Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation was uploaded to Facebook, one of the few such sites still accessible in Tunisia. Exiled Tunisian Sami ben Garbia covered the early stages of the revolution on her personal blog and also, but Ethan noted at the time that there was precious little coverage, especially in the US. The video and story of Bouazizi’s self-immoltion was then picked up by Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera became the amplifier.

In the early days of social media, social media an traditional media were portrayed in conflict. In the US, the mainstream media became referred to as the lame-stream media by some bloggers, usually by bloggers on both the right and left that were frustrated that traditional journalists didn’t present the world as viewed through the bloggers’ partisan prism.

However, as both social media and traditional media have evolved, a complex, symbiotic relationship of filtering and amplification has developed. It’s a great insight, and I think one of the biggest challenges for all of us as Ethan has been pointing out for years is to seek views outside of our own circles. That’s a fascinating challenge for journalists. How do we open up echo chambers rather than amplify them?

Journalism: It’s about people

It’s not often when in the flood of social media about journalism a new theme comes out so clearly, but today, the theme I’m hearing is about people. Steve Yelvington, of Morris Publishing in the US, flagged up this post by his colleague, Derek May, an executive vide president at the group. Like John Paton‘s Journal Register Company, Morris is embracing a digital first strategy, but May quoted Billy Morris at length of the challenge facing his company, well known challenges. Morris said that “digital first” was a good first step, but he announced a new strategy: “Audience First”.

What does “Audience First” mean? It means the people come first. What the people want in digital form, we provide in digital form. What they want in print, we give them in print. And what it takes for businesses to reach the people, we provide – both print and digital.

They are setting ambitious audience growth targets, to double their news audience and quintuple their “total audience”. They believe that:

In the digital era, doing a good job on news gets you only a very small slice of the digital audience.

This is really interesting, and as a journalist, it’s something that I’m going to have to digest. On one level, I understand perfectly what he means. The newspaper has always been a bundle that included a lot more than what I might call public service journalism. I guess it begs the question: In a digital era, what is the bundle of information, products and services that creates a sustainable business to support itself, including public service journalism? It’s a fascinating, platform agnostic way to frame a solution to the problems facing news organisations right now.

I’ll tell you another reason why I like the idea of Audience First. In the near term, the next five years, at newspapers, print and digital will still have to co-exist. As much of a digital journalist as I am, I know that simply shutting off the presses would require most newspapers to gut their existing news operations. You only have to look at what happened at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that went digital only and went from 165 journalists to 20. (Note, I’m not suggesting that digital first advocates, especially as I count myself as one, are advocating shutting off the presses.) A counterpoint to the Seattle PI is The Atlantic magazine, which sharpened both its print and digital offerings. In 2010, it turned its first profit and a decade, and in October of last year, The Atlantic announced that its advertising profits were up by 19%.

It takes a village

The next story of people-focused journalism comes from a former college classmate of mine, Cory Faklaris, who works for Indianapolis Star.

In the US, the newspapers that really have really taken an economic beating in the last seven years are the big city metros, and the papers in Philadelphia are a good case in point. The Philadelphia Inquirer, part of the Philadelphia Media Network, is up for sale for the fourth time in six years.

Chris Satullo at Philly public radio station WHYY worked at the Inquirer for 20 years. Satullo notes that another former ‘Inky’ reporter, Buzz Bissinger (name straight out of central casting) asked in the New York Times, “Who will tell Philadelphia’s story“. Satullo responds: The rest of us.

But, please, don’t waste too much breath asking the wrong question: What will happen to the ink-on-paper artifact called a newspaper? That one’s settled: Newspapers will shrink into a graying niche.

Your real worry should not be whether newspapers survive. What you should worry about is the future of newsrooms, those buzzing, resourceful dens of collaboration that make everyone who works in them better than they could be alone.

Satullo points out a truism, as true in the glory days of newspapers as it is now: Great journalism is collaborative. Amen.

Put the audience first regardless the medium, and win more of their precious time by not only giving them great journalism but engage them in doing it. This sounds like a winning strategy.


NewsRewired: Tom Standage of Economist ‘Digital is not a zero-sum game’

I’m at NewsRewired again doing a bit of live(-ish) blogging about some of the talks that I find interesting.

Everyone wants to be The Economist because it has managed to increase both its print and digital subs over the last few years, and unlike most publishers, it has see its readership and revenue grow through the recession. Speaking at’s NewsRewired conference*, he gave some insights into its success.

In the current environment, for any publication that acts like a filter the noisier the media environment gets the better you do.

Standage also sees The Economist brand this way that if someone was stranded on a desert island and had to choose one publication so that they believe they are informed that they would choose The Economist. That’s a great statement of how The Economist sees itself.

Their attitude to digital is that it is not a zero-sum game. About a third of their print readers are also using their digital apps. From their own market research, they realised that they needed to cater to their readers who wanted a digital experience for two reasons.

  1. Readers see digital as more convenient. The biggest reason that readers give when they cancel their print subscription to The Economist is that they don’t have enough time to read it.
  2. In their own market research, currently, readers prefer print to digital by a ratio of 80% to 20%, but asking them what they will prefer in two years.

Standage says:

We sell this content bundle, this feeling of being informed when you get to the end of it. That is what we sell. That is essentially the proposition. You can still sell this in a mobile environment.

Some observations: How many other publications have the clarity about what they provide? How many other publications have the clarity of the value proposition they offer?

Standage also gives us this nugget of golden insight. In the past, The Economist’s archive was hidden behind a paywall. The result:

Before 98% of our content was invisible to Google.

They have shifted to metered paywall similar to the Financial Times and the replicated by the New York Times. Any reader on the web gets 5 stories a week free to read. The Economist’s traffic actually went up. Some pay for a digital only subscription, but print subscribers get access to the digital content.

The metered paywall plus all access to print subs is a great model. You get users used to paying for digital.

He added this caveat. “This will not work for everyone. You need to know who your readers are.” He said that such a model would be difficult for The Guardian that sells most of their print copies through newsstands, and he said that The Guardian  doesn’t know about its readers. The Telegraph is starting to build a database of reader information, but he sees The Guardian as behind in this effort. (Any Guardian folk want to take issue with that?)

He closed by saying that there is not one new model but many new models. However, we’re beginning to find some ideas that work. They might require a change to your publishing business – especially in getting to know your readers much more – but we have some elements of a working model.

UPDATE: Adam Tinworth has live blogged this session and adds other details, especially with respect to the media app economy.

* Disclosure: I conduct data journalism courses for

Digital has changed reporting

Jay Rosen has an interview with Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton, who said in a recent column that the Post might be guilty of innovating too quickly, and as Jay highlights, Pexton says:

I am not a person who thinks the fundamentals of journalism have changed that much, despite social media. Of course it’s more conversational, engaging. And the online world has changed reporting somewhat, but not fundamentally.

I couldn’t disagree more. Certainly, there are reporting formats that haven’t changed much since the rise of digital. However, in saying ‘online’, Pexton is merely thinking of digital as the internet and thinking of the internet as nothing more than a publishing platform. I also think that he doesn’t see any change in reporting because he sees reporting as a fundamentally text-based project. Furthermore, reporting is part of the journalistic process, a very important part of it. It’s the raw material of story-telling, but digital has fundamentally changed how we tell stories. In short, he’s not thinking of digital as mobile or multimedia devices or services.

I’ve spent most of my career as a field journalist. I continued to report from the field as an editor at The Guardian, and I’ve seen a revolution in reporting in that time. Casting back to my first job at a local newspaper in the US, digital was already changing my job. I had a mobile phone then, although it was what we called in the US a bag phone. It had a simple modem, and we were testing how to use it to file. Our sports reporters used TRS-80 Model 100 portables to file stories from remote locations. Explain to me how that didn’t change reporting? This allowed reporters to remain in the field, report the story and file without having to read a story down the phone.

When I covered the 2000 US presidential elections for the BBC, we used satellite equipment and an small, inexpensive digital video camera to conduct live webcasts where we took questions from our readers around the world. Two years later, I covered the one-year anniversary of the 11 September 2001 attacks with colleagues. I shot video and edited it on my laptop, compressing it so I could file it over a modem to London. During the same assignment, I had an early mobile modem capable of a then blistering 128kbps, and I worked with my colleagues to cover the concert in Central Park. We took pictures with digital cameras, wrote the text and filed all from park before Billy Joel finished New York State of Mind. My colleagues told me that someday all journalists would work like this.

Then in 2008, my main reporting tool was my mobile phone. I used Twitter to bring readers along with me as I journeyed across the US with a Guardian Film team in the lead up to the election. I filed updates and pictures via Twitter. I could report and file pictures as people celebrated outside of the White House in the wee hours of the morning. It was a watershed moment for me. I didn’t have to leave the scene of story to keep reporting. Explain to me how that hasn’t changed reporting.

Beginning in November 2010, I began working with Al Jazeera, training hundreds of producers, correspondents and staff on how to use social, mobile and digital tools. Their work stands on its own as proof that digital has changed reporting.

Since 1996, I have worked as a digital journalist. I have never pushed change just for the sake of it but because that is where I knew my audience was going. They were going online. They were getting their news via social media and engaging directly with journalists and sources.

Many journalists have have been working to adapt to this change for a long time now. We’ve been fighting for a long time, and only recently, did I feel like the conversation was starting to move again. After a lot of innovation in the 1990s, we lost a lot of great young digital journalists to the crash. After rebuilding in the last decade, we sadly lost a lot of excellent digital veterans to the integration wars.

As former Sacramento Bee editor Melanie Sill said recently:

Most newspapers are stuck in the late 20th century formulas, scarcely varied across the country, for section concepts (even names) and types of coverage. These conventions, moreover, carry over into digital forms, and only in the past couple of years have we begun to see new forms made only for digital channels.

I can see green shoots again. Leaders are rising to meet the change rather than to rehash the tired arguments of the last 15 years. It’s heartening, and I’m starting to get the itch to get back into a newsroom after being independent.

I’ll agree with Pexton that we don’t pursue innovation just for the sake of change. As journalists, we pursue it because it can serve our audiences better, engage them more deeply and, with innovation on the business side too, generate revenue to support our journalism. In 2012, I’m looking for the next big challenge and for like minds to meet that challenge with.

Newspaper innovation: Not too much but too little

If you’re a newspaper editor, and you want some much needed inspiration, you’ll want to add the blogs of Melanie Sill and John Robinson to RSS feeds or daily reading, and follow both John and Melanie on Twitter. John recently stepped down as the editor of the Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina, and Melanie recently made a similar move, leaving the top job at the Sacramento Bee in California. John wrote an excellent post about rebuilding a newspaper’s relationship with its community last week, and in her most recent post, Melanie looks at newspaper innovation. It comes after the ombudsman at the Washington Post, Patrick Pexton, agreed with some readers who thought the Post was innovating too quickly. (As someone who lived in Washington for seven years and considered the Post my local paper, it was always a schizophrenic place with a lot of digital innovation under Jim Brady while the print offices in Washington tried to change as little as possible.)

Melanie’s thoughts on the pace of innovation?

Most newspapers are stuck in the late 20th century formulas, scarcely varied across the country, for section concepts (even names) and types of coverage. These conventions, moreover, carry over into digital forms, and only in the past couple of years have we begun to see new forms made only for digital channels.Amid legitimate struggle in newsrooms to make this outdated formula work with vastly reduced staffs and greatly increased production demands, there’s not enough attention on creative breakthroughs — the kind of conceptual innovation needed today. What should a print edition do in a 24/7 news world? How is it differentiated from other platforms in content, format and organization?

Yes! Digital is different. It’s something digital folk have been saying since the 1990s. It’s not enough to shovel print content onto the web just because both print and the web are largely text-based. Just as reading a newspaper out on TV would seem silly (although there is some value in the newspaper reviews common on European television), simply copying text to the web was always an approach lacking imagination.

  • How is digital different?
  • What is possible in digital, on the web and via mobile, that isn’t possible in print?
  • How does this change audience expectations about news and information?
  • How do we meet those expectations?
  • How can use those differences to come up with new opportunities for revenue to support the work we do?

This is what I’ve been thinking about since I first became an ‘internet news editor’ in 1996. We’re at a pivotal time, and it’s great to see leadership from veterans like John and Melanie. I look forward to working with leaders like them in the future.

CNN and Zite: What other tech companies have been bought by Big Media?

With the news that CNN has bought iPad news app Zite, I started thinking about what tech companies have been bought by media organisations. I could think of a couple off the top of my head including Newsvine and Everyblock by MSNBC, Reddit by Condé Nast and Blogrunner by the New York Times. If you think of any others, feel free to pop them in the form below. I’ll publish the list as soon as we get it into some shape.

Tottenham riots: Data journalists and social scientists should join forces

In the wake of some of the worst riots in London in more than a decade, Ben Goldacre has said on Twitter:

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Yes, we’re now going to have to suffer through lots of ill-informed speculation from columnists. Brace yourself yet again as they take out their favourite axe from the kitchen cupboard and grind away on it just a bit more until the head is gone and they’re whittling the handle into a toothpick. It will enrage more than enlighten.

I have a better suggestion. With the current interest in data journalism, this would be a great time to revisit one of the seminal moments of data journalism carried out by Philip Meyer in the wake of the 1967 riots in Detroit. As a Nieman fellow at Harvard, Meyer studied not only how social science could be applied to journalism, but he also explored how main frame computers could be used to quickly analyse data. (For data journalists, if you don´t already own it, you should buy a copy of  Meyer´s book, Precision Journalism, first published in 1973 and since updated.) As a national correspondent for Knight-Ridder newspapers, Meyer was sent to Detroit to help cover the riots.

The 1967 Detroit riots stand as the third worst in the history of the US, only eclipsed by the 1992 riots in the wake of the acquittal of police officers in the beating of Rodney King and draft riots in New York during the US Civil War. As the Institute of Social Research at the University of Michigan said:

The Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News threw every resource they had into covering the uprising. And as the disturbance died down, journalists and commentators, most of them white, struggled to understand who the rioters were and why they had taken to the streets. One theory was that those who looted and burned buildings were on the bottom rung of society—riff raff with no money and no education. A second theory speculated that rioters were recent arrivals from the South who had failed to assimilate and were venting their frustrations on the city.

But for many, those theories rang false.

A survey had been done following the 1965 Watts riots. Meyer approached Nathan Caplan, a friend from graduate school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. They both had a similar idea to see if a survey similar to the one done after Watts could be done in Detroit. One challenge was that the Watts study took two years, but Meyer wanted it done in three weeks. The ISR has an article that looks at the process in great depth, and what is clear is that the study of the 1967 Detroit riots and the journalism that followed had a lot of support not only from the newspapers but from the university, government and local foundations. They recruited and trained 30 teachers to conduct the surveys, drew up a random sample and interviewed 437 black residents.

The survey debunked a number of theories put forward to explain the violence.

  • One theory was that the rioters were poor and uneducated. No, the survey found otherwise. ¨There was no correlation between economic status and participation in the disturbance. College-educated residents were as likely as high school dropouts to have taken part.¨
  • Another theory laid the blame at recent arrivals from the south who had little connections to the community. That theory was also wrong. ¨Recent immigrants from the South had not played a major role; in fact, Northerners were three times as likely to have rioted.¨

Like Ben, I´m sure that we´ll see hours of speculation on television and acres of newsprint positing theories. However, theories need to be tested. The Detroit riots showed that a partnership amongst social scientists, foundations, the local community and journalists can prove or disprove these theories and hopefully provide solutions rather than recriminations.

The Guardian needs an intervention

The Guardian and its Sunday title, The Observer have just announced a “digital-first” strategy. However, this is not a triumphant announcement. This is a burning platform admission.

Guardian News & Media, the parent company for both newspapers, lost £33m on a cash basis for the year ending 31 March, only slightly less than it’s £34.4m loss for the previous year. Guardian Media Group chief executive Andrew Miller warned that the group could run out of money in 3-5 years if things don’t change. I heard sobering burn rate figures when I was at The Guardian. I covered the boom and heard start-ups talk cash on hand, but I never expected to hear this from a major media company.

Some things leapt out at me: They reported £47m in digital revenues out of a total of £198m revenues. Digital made just shy of 24% of total revenue. That’s good going, and most newspapers would kill for that percentage of digital revenues. (Apart from the FT, which is making a killing from digital: 30% or revenue from digital now and projected to reach 50% of revenue by 2013.)

This came out from the presentation to Guardian staff:

Unaudited results for the year ending 31 March showed that revenues at Guardian News & Media, the immediate parent of the newspapers and, fell to £198m last year compared with £221m the year before, a fall in revenues that reflected a sharp fall in classified advertising. Recruitment advertising has fallen by £41m in the past four years.

The Guardian is seen as one of the most innovative newspapers in the world. It was why I enthusiastically joined them in 2006. They announced they were going web-first in June 2006, but that didn’t and doesn’t change the fact that the newspaper is burning through cash. To future of journalism folks, The Guardian is indicative of challenges facing the industry, but so far it’s not showing the way forward in solving those challenges.

Feel free to give The Guardian credit for being innovative, but everyone in the journalism community has to be more honest and realistic about its business challenges. It’s in the same sinking boat as a lot of other newspapers.

Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger is saying that not only will they publish first to the web but that they will do less in print. The Guardian’s article says there will be no job cuts, though they have to find £25m in savings. Yet Mathew Ingram at GigaOm quotes Alan as saying there will be editorial job cuts.

Mathew also quotes Alan as saying that they have identified at least ten different revenue streams. That’s comforting. But it speaks volumes that The Guardian’s own article doesn’t mention new revenue, and Alan only mentioned existing digital revenue streams to Mathew.

The Guardian needs an intervention. Digital first will not be enough to save it. It needs to remember that although they are supported by a trust, that is not a licence to completely ignore business realities. Here is my bit of tough love:

1. Building a sustainable business is not evil

The Guardian needs to realise that making money to support journalism is no sin. There is a lot of moral space between being a sustainable journalism enterprise and being a voracious media mogul like Rupert Murdoch. I’d love to see The Guardian demonstrate how to create a financially sustainable journalism business, but it will have to challenge its own anti-commercial culture.

2. Editorial innovation alone is not enough

The Guardian is innovative, but it also shows that technical and editorial innovation are not enough on their own to guarantee a sustainable journalism business. Digital first without a business focus will still leave it in dire straits. If The Guardian is going to devote 80% of its resources to digital, as is implied by Dan Sabagh’s article, it has got to develop new revenue streams to support its digital first strategy.

3. ‘Open’ without a business model is an empty ideology

I love the open web. I think The Times hard paywall is foolish. However, the ideology of open from The Guardian lacks pragmatism. The Rupert v Rusbridger battle makes a good media ding-bong, but neither positions are proving able to solve the problems that face newspapers. (Yes, I’ve seen Guardian digital strategist Matt McAlister’s presentation on generative media networks. Hopefully, some of that strategy will be part of these 10 revenue streams. At the moment, I remain unconvinced.)

4. You’ve got a golden brand. Capitalise on it.

At the risk of sounding critical, I joke with people that The Guardian has the brand of Apple but the business focus of Twitter. Guardian readers are some of the most loyal in the world. When The Guardian recently cut short its well regarded local project, readers offered money to help it continue. Most newspapers would love to have that affection and loyalty. If The Guardian can’t capitalise on its loyal audience, incompetence will be the only explanation.

A friend of mine, who had taken a buyout from a US newspaper, said to me after visiting The Guardian a few years ago:

The Guardian seems like a great place to work when the times are good, but it doesn’t seem capable of making the tough decisions when the times are tough.

The Guardian has time to make some relatively easy decisions to ensure its future, but it needs to get serious, not just about digital but about its business. The Guardian’s often lauded as the future of journalism, but without a sound business model, it doesn’t have a future.