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Australian Reseller News, Computer Reseller News, New Zealand Reseller News and The Channel serve readers at the sharp end of the information technology industry.

While many of the stories they cover are similar to those in other technology publications, their specialist audience means  journalists have a filter. They look at the trade side of the computer business.

Mostly this means asking “what does this mean for the channel” and sticking the answer at the top of the story.

People who sell or distribute technology read these titles, they are ahead of market trends. That’s because companies need to speak to resellers and distributors before speaking to the public.

When channel publications work well, there’s a flinty realism to their approach. They deal with the nuts and bolts of the business and not airy-fairy possibilities.

New Zealand’s The Channel is mainly advertorial – that is companies pay the publisher for stories written about their offerings. And all three other titles run sign-posted advertising supplements – they also pad local coverage with overseas news stories of variable worth.

Otherwise the publications are news-oriented.

You need to show the publishers of these titles you are a bone-fide computer industry person to get a subscription to the print publications, but all four run free access web sites.

Australian Reseller News

Computer Reseller News (Australia)

New Zealand Reseller News

The Channel (New Zealand)

Liam Tung wasn’t the only Australian journalist providing coverage of the trial between Perth-based ISP iiNet and the Australian Federation against Copyright Theft (AFACT, now the Australian Screen Association). See: When Twitter is great journalism.

Until Monday Andrew Colley from The Australian was also tweeting regular reports in addition to his regular reporting duties.

Colley ran into technical problems. But he was ultimately ordered to stop by managers at the News Corporation newspaper.

Although it may have got him into hot water, Colley deserves praise for pioneering what is already proving a viable alternative news channel.

Twitter isn’t going to replace conventional journalism – 140 character tweets are not enough to convey complex ideas – but it complements traditional news reporting.

Hidebound, timid, sensible?

Some commentators see The Australian as hidebound or out of touch with modern technology for banning tweeted reports. They have good reason.

The newspaper’s representatives have a point when they say there are legal risks associated with a high-profile publication sending unfiltered messages directly from the scene of a breaking news story.

On the other hand, this doesn’t bother the BBC, which allows tweets and even provided Twitter coverage of The Ashes cricket series earlier this year. And it clearly doesn’t bother ZDNet.

Where’s the money

Don’t forget journalism is a trade and newspapers, web sites and other media outlets are businesses.  News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch, the founder and owner of The Australian newspaper has already voiced his concern online news sites don’t pay their way.

But at least web sites can display advertising and earn some revenue. There’s no obvious way to make money from offering a Twitter news feed.

ZDNet is experimenting. It also publishes Liam Tung’s tweets on a conventional web page with online advertising. There’s some value and traffic coming from the feed – but on its own probably not enough to pay Tung’s salary.

The Australian has higher overheads than ZDNet. There’s a danger a Twitter feed could not only fail to generate revenue. It may replace revenue-generating news reports.

This is an issue that goes beyond the current paid content argument and something likely to stifle Twitter’s growth as a new channel.

Advertising sales revenue is the money publishers make from selling space in their titles.

Most publishers set aside printed pages or parts of printed pages for advertisers. The number of pages compared to the total number of pages in a publication is known in the business as the advertising ratio. Paid-for publications have a lower advertising ratio than free publications. Some free publications are nothing but advertising.

Advertisements fall into two categories:

  • Display advertisements are larger and more colourful – they can have highly creative text and images.
  • Classified advertisements are smaller and usually only text with a minimum of graphics.

Magazines typically sell display advertising by the page, although they offer double-page spreads, half pages and other formats.

Newspapers sell pages, but they also sell column centimetres (or column inches). Classifieds sell as column centimetres, as lines of text or in some cases by the word.

The more you buy the cheaper advertising gets

The more advertising an advertiser buys, the cheaper the rate per column centimetre (or page if they are buying magazine ads). So a full-page is cheaper than two half pages and so on.

Publishers offer advertisers discounts if they commit to buying a series of advertisements over a period such as a year or six months. So, booking a year’s worth of advertisements in a monthly magazine is cheaper than buying 12 single advertisements.

Some advertising positions attract a premium rate. On newspapers, this would be the front page and maybe the front pages of the internal sections. Magazines typically charge extra for the back cover and possibly the inside front cover. Successful titles can also get away with charging a premium for early right-hand pages or other attractive sites.

Agencies and commission

Advertising is often placed by specialist media buying companies who develop strategies for their clients and negotiate with publishers. These companies earn a commission. Typically this is between 10 to 20 percent of the booking’s value.

In return for a commission, media buying agencies contract to pay their invoices by a set date after publication – typically a month or so after the advertisements appear.

Advertisers who buy their own space are known as direct clients. They can haggle over prices, but unless they are large-scale buyers of advertising, they have less clout than agencies who can buy in bulk. It is often harder to collect money from direct clients than from agencies.

Rate cards

Publishers issue rate cards which show the prices or rates for each type of advertisement. Historically they were cards, but now they are usually available online, try Googling the term to see some. Rate cards prices are often, but not always negotiable. They also describe available advertising formats. Depending on circumstances rates shown on rate cards are negotiable.

When an advertiser or a buying agency buys advertising they are usually buying reach that is a publication’s ability to reach so many potential customers.

Advertorial

People in the business use the term advertorial when publishers offer advertising linked to editorial features, or in some cases when a publication’s editorial integrity itself is up for sale.

Advertorial deals come in many flavours. Many publications are more or less entirely made up of advertorial material – if an advertiser pays for space they are given a degree of say over what appears in the publication’s editorial content.

More credible titles wall off areas of content for advertorial projects. These might be clearly marked with terms like “advertising supplement” or “special advertising feature”, but it isn’t transparent to the reader.

Some publishers run editorial-style material provided by advertisers and charge for it. Others allow advertisers to send the copy for inclusion alongside paid advertisements.

Publishers may or may not allow advertisers to sign off on their advertorial content. Some publishers will have journalists write advertiser-friendly copy for these sections, others keep up a strict demarcation between editorial and advertising.

The advertising business model

As a rule, free publications are more likely to run advertorial and compromise editorial integrity for commercial consideration than paid-for titles. Paid titles are less likely to take this approach. Some paid titles have little in the way of advertising and charge a hefty premium for quality editorial content. This works best if they can manage a high circulation.

This is a look at the print publishing business model. It is a simplified description, but understand the big picture is more important than the details.

Revenue

Historically print publishers earned revenue from copy sales and advertising. Some publishers, mainly in the trade press, rely solely on advertising.

Others, such as book publishers, rely solely on copy sales. Most newspapers and magazines make money from a mix of the two. Historically newspapers published in the UK would make almost all their monty from copy sales. In the rest of the world advertising is more important.

The balance between advertising and copy sales revenue usually determines a title’s editorial strategy. One important part of this is that when the money comes mainly from readers, then serving their interests is unquestionable. When money mainly comes from advertisers there is always a temptation to pander to their needs over reader needs.

The revenue part of a publication’s business model is simple:

Revenue = copy sales + advertising sales

Publishers who rely mainly on copy sales for their income typically spend more on producing quality editorial to attract readers.

Advertising-focused publishers put less emphasis on editorial. In extreme cases, they do away with editorial all together producing publications which closely resemble catalogues.